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Community Law Project Students Provide Legal Education in the Community

Jan 25 2024
Jamie Weissmann
Community Law Project and California Western School of Law logos
Community Law Project and California Western School of Law logos

California Western’s Community Law Project (CLP) gives students hands-on experience helping the most vulnerable members of our local San Diego population. Throughout each trimester, students participate in clinics where, under supervision from California Western faculty, they provide low-income, homeless, and otherwise disadvantaged individuals with free legal advice, assistance navigating through complex social systems, and referrals to resources to build self-sufficiency and economic opportunity.

Students in CLP are also given the opportunity each term to develop legal education presentations for non-profit organizations or under-resourced schools throughout San Diego. As the trimester progresses, students will meet with community liaisons, identify areas of the law that would be helpful for community members to learn, and develop an in-depth and interactive presentation, deepening their own understanding of the law along the way. 

CLP Director, Professor Dana Sisitsky, notes that “community legal education is a large part of the CLP program. Each term, I am impressed with the creativity, energy, and effort that each pair of students puts into this assignment. They know that they are getting a grade for the project, but more than that, I know that they take the responsibility of educating their audiences very seriously.”

This term, students presented at six different locations on a variety of topics: 

At Serving Seniors, a low-income senior center in downtown San Diego, students helped community members learn how to identify and avoid consumer scams. 

At Canyon Hills High School, CWSL students presented a lesson on defamation, guiding the high school students through an interactive exercise related to a social media post. One of the presenters, Lauryn Flores said, “What I found was that going through the process of breaking down the concepts into their simplest terms actually helped me to understand them myself. This is something that I want to always remember, not only throughout the rest of my time in law school, but also as I prepare to enter my own practice in a few years.”

For members of Dads Corps, part of Say San Diego – an organization that provides education and social services for low-income families – CLP students reviewed the laws around expunging one’s criminal record, helping attendees understand how cleaning up one’s record can have a positive impact on employment and housing opportunities. CLP intern, Garret Arrieta observed, “This experience has not only enriched my legal understanding but has also illuminated the critical importance of community engagement and educational outreach in the field of law.”

At Casa de Amistad, a tutoring program in Solana Beach, bilingual students presented in Spanish for low-income families on tenant rights, rent increases, and eviction notices. Monica Miguel, one of the student presenters, commented, “It felt great to be able to explain the process to the client with confidence, because I had spent so much time learning about the issue and learning how to explain it in an easy-to-understand way.”

For parents of low-income and immigrant families at Rosa Parks Elementary School and Valencia Elementary School, students also provided education on tenants’ rights, which is one of the primary issues individuals need help with when they come to CLP.  

California Western School of Law is committed to giving students the kind of hands-on experience they need to become influential leaders in the field and to develop a commitment to public service that they will carry with them throughout their careers.