In 1947 SMU’s law school became one of the first in the country to sponsor a clinic offering free legal services for members of the public. Following in that tradition, the Dedman School of Law’s Small Business Clinic provides free legal assistance to small businesses and nonprofit organizations that can’t afford legal fees.
Last spring, AT&T joined the effort. Under an initiative spearheaded by Wayne Watts ’80, senior executive vice president and general counsel of AT&T, volunteer attorneys from the company’s new world eadquarters in Dallas supervise all cases and serve as mentors to the third-year Dedman Law students who staff the clinic.
“My own experience working in a clinic when I was a law student at SMU was rewarding and memorable,” says Watts. “Clinic work really teaches you the value of being a lawyer and gives you hands-on experience that complements what you’re learning in class. I am proud of all our attorneys who volunteered to participate in the program. I know it’s a great experience for both them and the students.”
In addition to assisting with the small business clinic, Watts serves as a co-chair of The Second Century Campaign Steering Committee for Dedman School of Law, as well as a member of the school’s Executive Board.
By early September, AT&T attorneys had contributed more than 100 hours of legal service. The clinic, which opened in 2005, provides assistance with contract negotiations, business plans, licensing and copyright issues and other legal matters. It also counsels new businesses and organizations on the range of issues faced by start-ups.
“We actually help people realize their dreams, which is just about the most satisfying thing I can think of,” says AT&T attorney Darrell Guy ’95.
“The initiative of AT&T’s mentor attorneys has allowed us to increase the caseload in the clinic,” adds clinic director Larry Jones. “Now we are able to help a lot more nonprofits and small businesses with much-needed legal assistance.”
In addition to the Small Business Clinic, Dedman Law operates the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Child Advocacy Clinic, Civil Clinic, Consumer Fraud Project, Criminal Defense Clinic, Death Penalty Project, Criminal Prosecution Clinic and the Federal Taxpayers Clinic. The school is seeking permanent funding to ensure that students have an opportunity to help community members unable to afford legal representation.
To learn more about supporting Dedman School of Law, please contact Lynn Bozalis at 214-768-4527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.