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Sophia Gallardo Named CLEA Outstanding Externship Student

Sophia Gallardo

California Western has honored Sophia Gallardo ’21 with the 2021 Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) Outstanding Externship Student Award.

Each year, CLEA invites schools to name students for their Outstanding Clinic Student or Outstanding Clinic Team Award. For 2021, CLEA introduced a new award— the CLEA Outstanding Externship Student Award.

The addition of the externship-focused award recognizes the valuable work for justice that law students do through externships and provides schools the opportunity to nominate an outstanding and self-reflective externship student for CLEA’s recognition. The awards are given annually at the completion of the academic year and are limited to one award per school.

Gallardo externed with Attorney Mark Ignacio ‘10 at his law practice in La Mesa, where he specializes in estate planning, probate, and trust administration.

“This was one of the highlights of my law school education,” says Gallardo. “Mark Ignacio challenged me in many ways and allowed me to learn so much about myself not only as a future attorney but an individual. I learned that we could make deeper connections if we listen to our client’s stories through a personal and empathetic lens. These are the type of values and characteristics I hope to carry on in my legal profession.”

Gallardo chose to pursue a law degree to help others and volunteered at Cal Western’s Community Law Project (CLP) for two semesters prior to her externship.

“Interning at CLP was one of my greatest pleasures during law school,” says Gallardo. “I valued the one-on-one mentorship and guidance from [CLP Executive Director] Dana Sisitsky and [CLP Supervising Attorney] Ted Janowsky. My time at CLP allowed me to build my confidence and further my interest in working with indigent communities in San Diego.”

Gallardo says she is humbled to receive the CLEA Award and feels she owes it to Mark Ignacio and Tim Casey, her clinical externship professor.

“Professor Casey provided my class with a time to debrief the week and be able to share our externship experience with our peers,” says Gallardo. “It was a pivotal part of my externship experience as it allowed us to come together and remind ourselves that we are not alone.”

In presenting the award to Gallardo, Professor Casey praised her outstanding performance during her externship as well as her work with the Community Law Project.

“Sophia demonstrated qualities of leadership, determination, and grace under pressure,” said Professor Casey. “She led our series of class presentations with a timely and very personal examination of perseverance, a perfect topic in light of the myriad challenges of a global pandemic. In addition, she received outstanding reviews from her field placement and accolades for her work at the Community Law Project. We are fortunate to have Sophia as a member of our profession and our community.”

Gallardo acknowledges that California Western has opened up many excellent opportunities to her and regards winning this award as a fitting end to her law school education.

“I am honored to be representing California Western as I accept this prestigious award,” she says. “This award is a reminder that I did not do this alone, and I am grateful to the wonderful family, friends, and faculty who helped me get to where I am today.”