Many California Western students plan to enter solo or small firm practice after graduation. In 2012, we became the first law school on the west coast to launch an “incubator program” to help graduates who want to follow that career path. It is a key element in the path of many of our students toward attaining a satisfying career.
The Access to Law Initiative (ALI) not only helps those graduates, but it brings affordable and pro bono assistance to people who lack access to legal services.
Since 2012 the program has grown to more than twice its original size and has become a national model. ALI includes lawyers who practice in a wide range of areas of law, so it serves a diverse group of our alumni and also can meet the needs of clients with a variety of kinds of legal issues.
ALI attorneys provide affordable and pro bono legal services in many areas of law including:
- Bankruptcy and Business Transactions
- Civil Litigation
- Consumer Law
- Criminal Defense
- Elder Law and Veterans Benefits
- Employment and Labor
- Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts
- Family Law
- Homelessness and Housing
- Nonprofit and Small Business
- Personal Injury
- Real Estate
- Increase access to legal services for low and moderate income people and entities.
- Support California Western alumni in solo and small firm practices or in nonprofit entities who wish to establish economically viable practices and also provide legal services to underserved segments of the community.
ALI is basically a group of lawyers who share space, receive guidance and training, and help each other to become successful in the practice of law and in delivering affordable legal services.
The model for this is common in business and technology where “incubators” are an important part of launching and establishing new ventures. The ALI incubator has two main offices downtown, each with between six and 12 participating lawyers. We are also developing a presence in other areas of San Diego County to make legal services more accessible to residents. It is an implementation of the adage of “doing well by doing good,” as the expectation is that the lawyers who serve the underserved will get experience and make contacts that will lead to an economically viable practice.
The incubator law offices provide space where solo practitioners and small firms can be together and support each other like lawyers in a firm might do. Participating lawyers have about 18 months to get their practices developed to the point where they can become independent. The participants may be lawyers who have worked for some time for someone else and want to transition to solo or small firm practice, or they may be recent graduates who have been admitted to practice and have a desire to operate their own practice or a nonprofit.
ALI provides training to the participants about the development and management of cases, billing and collecting fees, ethical issues related to solo and small firm practice, substantive areas of law, accounting, taxes, and related topics. Lawyers who leave the incubator after developing their practices continue to mentor new entrants to the incubator.
Each ALI attorney agrees to provide 100 hours of pro bono, low bono and public service work, for which ALI helps obtain referrals from various community organizations, the courts, and government agencies. Incubator lawyers work with our Community Law Projects and may work with students who participate in those programs.
ALI also delivers community education programs in which lawyers make brief presentations with information about legal topics that people commonly may encounter, such as family law, immigration, housing, employment, criminal justice, and health care. These programs are generally sponsored by community organizations and are designed to help people understand their legal rights and how legal systems like the courts work.
The Access to Law Initiative can be reached at 619-752-4443.
The director of the ALI is Bob Seibel, formerly a visiting professor at California Western School of Law. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Advisory Board for the program is chaired by Chris Walton, Esq.