The Mithoff Pro Bono Program’s spring semester reached a fever pitch in early March, with the Program hosting seven clinics over a three-day period. “It was a crazy weekend, but we helped so many people,” said Mithoff Program staff attorney Meg Clifford. “Little did we know that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we would soon close up shop for our in-person clinics for the semester.”
The three-day extravaganza involved law students in helping community members with a range of legal issues across central Texas. Events included a Citizenship Drive at Dobie Middle School in east Austin; a Driver’s License Recovery Clinic and Expunction Intake at the First United Methodist Church in Bastrop; a Gender Affirmation Clinic on campus at the UT Austin Gender and Sexuality Center; a trip to assist detained immigrants at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center near Taylor; a Psychiatric Advance Directives Clinic at the Judge Guy Herman Center for Mental Health Crisis in south central Austin; and a Wills Clinic at Akins High School in south Austin.
The weekend was also notable because several of the pro bono projects involved new partnerships. The Mithoff Program worked on the Bastrop clinics with Just-us Participatory Defense, a grassroots community center. The UT Austin Gender and Sexuality Center hosted the Gender Affirmation Clinic. The Texas Aggie Law Society and Akins Eagle Aid helped organize the Wills Clinic for Austin Independent School District employees. Last year, the Texas Law Aggie Society helped organize a similar clinic for the Del Valle Independent School District. Ongoing partner Casa Marianella hosted the Citizenship Drive and the Texas Fair Defense Project, a long-time collaborator, partnered with the Mithoff Program on the Bastrop clinics.
The Mithoff Program is now shifting gears. “Per university guidelines on in-person gatherings, we have cancelled the remaining in-person clinics this semester. But the Mithoff Program is not closed for business,” said Clifford. “We plan to deliver services remotely to fulfill our obligations to community members we’d already started assisting through the Expunction, Parole, and Special Education projects. And we are exploring new opportunities for law students to volunteer remotely.”