Workers' Rights Clinic Links Law School with Legal Aid

315 Views
Participating law schools include Boalt Hall, Hastings Law School, and Santa Clara University School of Law, all located in the San Francisco Bay area of California. LAS-ELS partners with the law schools to train students to be "front-line counselors," says Gaitley. Immediate benefits are twofold, he says. The program trains students in practical legal skills, and it also broadens the reach of LAS-ELS to serve more people. One attorney at Legal Aid could talk with five people per night, says Gaitley; with the law students involved through their schools' clinics, they can serve 25 people per night.

Workers' rights was the spark that ignited clinical education at Santa Clara Law in 1993, when members of the schools' La Raza Law Students Association started the East San Jose Community Law Center to help low-income people in the area in a wage dispute. The law school's clinical program is now the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center, and includes workers' compensation, immigration and consumer law services. The field of workers' rights was the "impetus for starting clinical work at the university," says Margarita Alvarez, Supervising Attorney in Workers' Rights at the law center.



The Bay Area Workers' Rights Clinics program runs in different locations during the week - in San Francisco at Hastings Law School on Mondays, in San Jose with the Santa Clara clinic on Tuesdays, over the phone via a 1-800 number on Wednesdays, and at Boalt Hall on Thursdays. Both Santa Clara and Hastings law schools include the clinic in their programs for course credits; the Boalt Hall clinic is staffed by student volunteers. There are designated attorney-teachers for each site; Gaitley is the attorney for the Hastings Law clinic, and Alvarez is the one for Santa Clara Law.

At the start of the summer or the semester, law students receive training from LAS-ELS and their law schools, including role-playing and a mock intake interview video - "so they can approach the first interview with less trepidation," says Gaitley. Students also receive training on basic issues in employment law, such as discrimination, workers' compensation, and wage-per-hour issues.

During each clinic night, eight to twelve law students do intake interviews with people seeking aid with workplace problems. After talking with a person for about half an hour, the student will describe the situation with an attorney. The student then returns for a follow-up talk with the person and passes on the conclusions reached in the discussion. The student-attorney sessions are "very instructive," says Gaitley. The "students do the work, the attorney is there to guide them in thinking the whole thing through….to supervise and act as a safety net for the student."

Sometimes the relationship continues after the initial interview, with the clinic taking the person on as a client.

The primary concern brought to the clinic is when a worker is not paid his or her final paycheck upon termination, says Alvarez. Often, law students and attorneys will find that these same clients have not been getting overtime pay as well. Second-most common are people who feel they have been wrongly terminated - because of discrimination, or because of one mistake after years of work. The majority of the workers' rights clinic clients come from urban Santa Clara County, and work as laborers, landscapers, or in restaurants, says Alvarez.

At Santa Clara Law, the workers' rights and workers' compensation clinical services often overlap, says Alvarez. People will come to the clinic seeking help receiving workers' compensation benefits, but will also need help for the workers' rights section if their employers are making it difficult for the worker to return after recovery.

There are over 100 lawyers who volunteer to supervise law students in the clinics on a pro bono basis every year. About 100 law students participate, and between 2,000 and 3,000 low-income people receive help through the clinics every year, says Gaitley.

Santa Clara and Hastings pay LAS-ELS an annual stipend to teach the clinical course at the law schools. The rest of the funding comes from Legal Aid fundraising. "We have an incredible board of directors," says Gaitley. LAS sees contributions from foundations and cy pres awards, as well as law firms. Firms funding LAS work are "so generous," he says, adding that, among Bay-area firms, there is "a universal willingness to chip in."



Santa Clara University

    


Featured Testimonials

I was looking for a job, and LawCrossing was the one that helped me. The paralegal article on the site was wonderful.
Yolonda


Facts

LawCrossing Fact #236: Our site takes your job search seriously. You won’t find any cartoon monsters here; we’re sleek, cool, and stylish.


Location
Cambridge, MA
Description
Privacy Initiative Fellow Duties: Working collaboratively with faculty and senior research staff fr...
Apply now  
Location
Northville, MI
Description
Corporate Customs Manager Responsibilities : The candidate will manage customs processes which ensu...
Apply now  
Location
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Description
Business Transition Strategist The candidate supports the entire region (not tied to a specific off...
Apply now  
Location
Marietta, GA
Description
Business Transition Strategist The candidate supports the entire region (not tied to a specific off...
Apply now  
Location
Fort Lee, VA
Description
Supervisory Attorney-Adviser (General) – GS-0905-13/13 The candidate provides personal legal serv...
Apply now  
Location
New York City, NY
Description
Civil Practice Paralegal I The candidate will support the Civil Practice in the Water Street and Li...
Apply now  
 

NOW TRENDING ON BCG ATTORNEY SEARCH

MOST POPULAR ARTICLES

Testimonial of the Week

LawCrossing has the most listings of any job board I have used. It's actually a great site. The website had a lot of detail. It’s nice that you don't have to go through a recruiter if you don't want to. You can actually contact the law firm directly for the positions listed. LawCrossing had a ton of great features.
  • Brian McMillan San Francisco, CA
Job of the Day

Patent Attorney - Prestigious National IP Law Firm - Palo Alto

Palo Alto, CA

My client, a prestigious national IP law firm, is seeking a Patent Associate with a degree in EE or Computer Science/Eng...

Employer: A Match Recruiting LLC

Job Search Tip

Current information is the best information. Annual reports are fine, but the real lowdown on a company is found in newspapers, business magazines, trade publications.