UC Hastings continues to expand its Lawyers for America program, which has been called a model that revolutionizes legal education while providing trained counsel to underserved communities, nonprofits, and government organizations.
New partners include the Solano County Public Defender’s Office and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. Each organization will offer a third-year student a full-year academic externship, followed by a one-year paid fellowship, with benefits.
Lawyers for America allows third-year law students to earn academic credit in a faculty-supported externship for working full-time in a nonprofit or government law office, while taking a reduced, complementary course load designed to enhance their learning from experience. After graduating and taking the bar exam, fellows return to the same office to work as a paid Fellow for a full year.
UC Hastings’ Lawyers for America now partners with the following legal offices: the Center for Biological Diversity, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, the Berkeley City Attorney’s Office, the Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, the Contra Costa County Superior Court, the Solano County Public Defender, and the First District Appellate project.
In Solano County, the third-year student will work on felony cases, and when they return as a post-graduate fellow will have their own misdemeanor caseload.
“We have found that by working with law students and new lawyers, we are able to train people in the style of representation we like to see in our lawyers," said Elena D’Agustino, Chief Deputy Public Defender. “It helps us identify students who do quality work, have a passion for our clients and defending their constitutional rights, and are a good overall fit for the office.”
D’Agustino said the county chose to fund a fellow because “at a time when the county’s budget is still tight, this allows us to have a trained advocate for two years for the price of one.”
“We are excited to see the program continue to expand,” said founder and Executive Director Professor Marsha Cohen. “We are in talks with other law schools, discussing how they can find partners and join us in implementing this legal education model.”
The program is open to other law schools, and government and nonprofit partners around the country. Lawyers for America provides lawyers where they are needed most, and superlative, cost-effective, on-the-job training, Cohen said.
“The Lawyers for America model provides for a lengthy learning arc during which trainees can participate fully in multiple legal matters. Participating work sites have the best of incentives to invest their time and effort in their new trainees: they are paying the cost of the trainees’ fellowship and the Fellows will be their colleagues for more than enough time to return, with interest, the investment their supervising attorneys make in them,” Cohen said.
Based in San Francisco, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children works to advance the rights of the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, in four key areas: public policy, legal advocacy, grassroots organizing, and public education.
"We look forward to receiving applications from UC Hastings students interested in entering a two-year partnership to advance our policy reform work for the civil rights of formerly incarcerated Californians," said Jesse Stout ’12, LSPC Policy Director.
Interested UC Hastings students should apply by Jan. 31, 2014. See this link for details.