California Western’s Community Law Project (CLP) has received a $5,000 grant from the American College of Bankruptcy Foundation to support the free legal services CLP provides to individuals seeking counsel on bankruptcy related issues.
“We are delighted to be the recipients of a generous grant from the American College of Bankruptcy,” said Dana Sisitsky, director of the Community Law Project. “Individuals across San Diego continue to struggle financially as they attempt to find their ways out from debilitating debt situations. The support of the American College of Bankruptcy will help the Community Law Project assist many of these individuals as they start down the road to financial stability.”
This year, CLP celebrates its 10th anniversary of providing free legal services to low-income and vulnerable individuals in San Diego, helping them understand and successfully navigate their bankruptcy or other legal issues.
The majority of CLP’s services are provided one-on-one at weekly clinics held at five partnering schools and churches in four high-need communities of San Diego County: Downtown, City Heights, Solana Beach, and Lemon Grove. These clinics are staffed by pro bono attorneys, volunteer law students, and experienced supervising attorneys, who work together to assess clients’ issues and give them personalized advice and general information about the legal system. When general legal advice is not enough, clients are scheduled for a follow-up consultation with an attorney who is an expert in the relevant legal field. Because many clients speak little to no English, a Spanish-English interpreter is available at all sites to help facilitate the process.
In addition to providing direct legal services, CLP trains California Western law students as lawyers who in the future may volunteer to represent indigent debtors without charge. Many of its students stay as volunteers for up to one year and receive hands-on experience in the practice of law, learning what paperwork is needed, how to open a file, take an assessment, research an issue, and more. Furthermore, the student volunteers gain an understanding of the legal and social needs of the community, giving them a desire to pursue pro bono work throughout their careers. Many of California Western’s most committed pro bono attorneys—including bankruptcy lawyers—are CLP alumni. In this way, CLP is creating a new generation of lawyers who donate their time, services, and legal expertise in support of the community’s most vulnerable families.