EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso County Commissioners this week endorsed a bid to bring a law school to El Paso, which would be the first on the Texas-Mexico border.
Proponents say the law school will address the flight of top students to law schools in the Houston, Austin and Dallas area, and have a substantial impact on the economy and on social justice issues in the region.
El Paso is one of the principal border crossings for migrants – both legal and unauthorized – and refugees who often lack affordable legal care. It’s also rife with complicated binational legal issues, such as custody battles when one parent is here and the other in Mexico, or business and real-estate deals threading two very different legal systems.
“(It) will be an economic driver,” said Janet Monteros, president of the Board of Directors of the El Paso Bar Association. “With a law school, we can establish (community) clinics on criminal law, immigration law, a clinic for entrepreneurs and small businesses. There’s a lot of positives that the law school would bring to the area.”
El Paso has one lawyer for every 656 residents, compared to Austin with one per 170.
Grassroots efforts have been ongoing for 20 years and bills to establish the law school stalled in the Texas Legislature in 2017 and 2019. Supporters believe they have a better chance this time around with an ally in House Speaker Pro Tem Joe Moody, D-El Paso.
“We have medical school, a dental school, a pharmacy school and yet we don’t have a law school,” said businessman Ray Mancera, who’s been spearheading the project for several years. “We have a good, compelling argument why El Paso should have a law school, and we have broad support.”
Mancera is the founder of the El Paso Law School Initiative and national parliamentarian for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which is pushing for more legal representation for Hispanics and for Latinos to go into law school.
The law school would be part of the University of Texas System or the Texas A&M University System.