The Texas Tech School of Law officially announced a new graduation requirement during a Monday event at the school.

Starting with newly enrolled students for the Fall 2015 Semester, new law students must complete at least 30 public service hours before graduation. According to the School of Law 15 of the public service hours must be earned through pro bono legal services and half through pro bono legal service or non-legal community service. The students are required to give at least 10 hours each year until the requirement is fulfilled.

“We know there is tremendous unmet legal need around the state,” School of Law Darby Dickerson said. “We hope to help with that issue while allowing our students to see the true impact their skills and talents can have on the lives of individuals and to gain hands-on learning from practicing lawyers and judges.”

“Texas Tech Law has taken a critical, commendable step by instilling public service in our future lawyers,” Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman said. “As a civilized society based on the rule of law, all our citizens must have access to justice, and lawyers have a professional responsibility to uphold this promise. By helping to increase access to the courts, Texas Tech students help ensure the poor experience the benefits of our exceptional legal system.”

Justice Guzman also discussed the importance of serving and adapting in a changing legal world at Monday's event.

Nick Goettsche, a third-year law student who serves as Student Bar Association president and chief justice of the Texas Tech University Supreme Court, said, “I am proud to support this student-backed initiative. Texas Tech Law prides itself on grooming practice-ready graduates, and this public service requirement is an opportunity to do just that while improving the public’s image of our profession.”

Praise also came from Betty Balli Torres, the executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation in Austin.

“We applaud Texas Tech University School of Law and their leadership in making a commitment to equal justice for all,” Torres said. “The individuals and communities that will benefit from pro bono service will be changed for the better, as will the lives of the students.”

According to the School of Law, Texas Tech is the 42nd of 205 American Bar Association-approved law schools to launch a similar graduation requirement.

Texas Tech School of Law is home to the Caprock Regional Public Defender Office, the only combined full-time, in-house public defender’s office and law school clinic in the country.

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