“Our motto is: ‘we meet people where they are,’” said Dana Sisitsky, executive director of the Community Law Project (CLP) at the 10th anniversary celebration of the program on December 1.
Indeed the CLP’s five free legal clinics do meet people where they are, with two clinics in City Heights, and three others in downtown San Diego, Lemon Grove, and Solana Beach.
“We have grown exponentially,” Sisitsky said. “We’ve gone from one site with a handful of volunteer lawyers and students, to five separate clinics with 30-plus volunteer attorneys and 10 law students, serving more than 850 clients alone in 2015.”
The clinics serve low-income individuals—many of them with no place else to turn for their legal issues. And California Western’s students get hands-on legal experience with real clients, which helps them develop profession-ready skills.
“We’re a law school that prides itself on community service,” Dean Niels B. Schaumann told everyone who attended the celebration. “The last 10 years have been a fantastic success story for the Community Law Project that in so many ways exemplifies California Western and its values.”
Two students who are part of the program spoke at the event, Robert Prine and Summer Main.
“When you start at the CLP you really step into the practical aspect of the law,” said Prine. “You gain the ability to talk to the clients and understand their issues.”
“And we give them the dignity and respect that is often not afforded them,” said Main.
"There are a lot of people out there in the community who don’t know which way to turn when things happen,” said a former client of one of CLP’s free legal clinics who spoke. A single dad of five, he thanked the program for helping to build “confidence, faith and trust—and doing it from your hearts.”
“The spirit that all of you lent to this program has made us the success that we are,” said Associate Dean Linda Morton, who is a founder of the Community Law Project. “I can’t thank you enough for your dedication, your compassion and your attention to the issues we have to focus on to help our clients.”