What Can I Do? community, inclusiveness, fairness

January 19, 2017

What Can I Do?

In recent months, many people have asked “What Can I Do?” to help promote justice and the rule of law, and to foster a sense of community, inclusiveness, and fairness. At Southwestern Law School, we have some answers to those questions. Below you will find opportunities designed specifically for students, alumni, attorneys, and everyone else. Find the section that applies best to you to see how you can be a part of Southwestern’s efforts to make the world (or at least our corner of it) a better place.

Student Volunteer Opportunities

Southwestern students have numerous opportunities to donate their time to benefit the community through various programs at the law school. They can become involved in the Public Service Program, which includes many of the opportunities linked below and already boasts hundreds of students volunteering over 20,000 hours of pro bono service a year. Students can learn more by signing up for the “Southwestern Public Service Program” on TWEN, or by stopping by the Legal Clinic office on the 4th floor of the Westmoreland Building. To donate money to the Public Service Program, students can click here and designate the specific program in the “Other” field under Gift Designation.

Students can also connect to the community through specific student groups such as the Immigration Law Students Association, the National Lawyers Guild, the American Constitution Society or the Federalist Society. And they can enroll in externships or participate in Legal Clinics for academic credit. Below are a few examples of opportunities to serve our immediate community.

  • Justice Bus by OneJustice – The Justice Bus Project takes teams of attorney and law student volunteers from urban areas to set up free legal clinics for low-income Californians living in rural and isolated communities. Training is provided to volunteers in advance of the trips. A series of trips has been scheduled already for the Spring semester. Contact Professor Laura Cohen to sign up at publicservice@swlaw.edu. Donate money directly to OneJustice here.
  • Student-group-related volunteer opportunities also abound. Each student group organizes its own activities each semester. Many student groups at Southwestern have community projects including the Public Interest Law Committee, the Homelessness Prevention Law Project, the National Lawyers Guild, Teen Court, and the Tax Law Society, which administers the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that provides free income tax return preparation assistance for the elderly and low-income taxpayers. Contact the individual student groups to volunteer or donate money.
  • Hoover Elementary School- During the school year, volunteers are needed for several projects at our neighborhood partner, including the Mock Trial Program. The Latino Law Students Association (LLSA) also operates an annual Toy Drive that collects and distributes gifts for some 1,000 students during the holiday season. Students can contact the Student Affairs Office at studentaffairs@swlaw.edu for more information on volunteering.
  • Small Claims Workshop and Clinic – The is a collaborative project with Southwestern Law School, the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) and Bet Tzedek Legal Services to help Small Claims litigants from our surrounding community who wouldn’t otherwise have the resources to find their way through the legal system. It also involve pro bono services from the law firms of Greenberg Glusker LLP and Reed Smith LLP.
  • Externships – Southwestern’s Externship Office connects students with organizations like the ACLU of Southern California, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Disability Rights Legal Center, the LA LGBT Center, and the Los Angeles County Bar Association, Immigration Legal Assistance Project.
  • Legal Clinics – Southwestern’s Clinical Program is a great way for students to help members of the community on critical legal matters while also gaining valuable practical legal experience for academic credit. Clinics include the Immigration Law Clinic and the Appellate Litigation Clinic where students work with professors to litigate pro bono appeals in the Ninth Circuit. We also have a Children’s Rights Clinic, a Street Law Clinic, and a Youth Offender Parole Hearing Clinic.

 Alumni & Friends Volunteer Opportunities

Southwestern alumni and friends of the law school are a dedicated group, full of generosity. They have devised many ways to give back to our school and to prepare the next generation of diverse and compassionate Southwestern attorneys. If you belong to this group, below are some ways to plug into our community and to provide mentorship and supervision to students who wish to promote justice and who are involved in public service.

  • The Alumni Resource Network – Join a contingent of more than 400 Southwestern alumni who offer individualized advice to students on particular areas of practice.
  • The Nickel Club – If you graduated from Southwestern five or fewer years ago, you can join a special division of the Alumni Association created to hone legal skills, promote connections with current students, and perform community-service projects.
  • Donald L. Stone’s Inn of St. Ives – This monthly program is based on the Inns of Court model where senior attorneys and judges meet with small groups of law students to discuss issues of law and practice over dinner at Southwestern. When a dinner is planned, a topic is identified and six practitioners and six students are invited to engage in a discussion about the topic. Contact the Institutional Advancement Office at advancement@swlaw.edu to volunteer to attend these dinners.
  • Moot Court – A large contingent of alumni, attorneys, and judges are recruited each year to serve as judges for the annual Intramural Moot Court Competition. They are also called upon to preside over SCALE appellate arguments, mock trial and trial advocacy practice rounds and finals, and occasionally to serve as advisors to Moot Court Honors Program teams competing in interscholastic competitions. For more information, please contact the Student Affairs Office.
  • Speaking Engagements – Alumni, attorneys, and judges are often invited to serve as panelists or lecturers for a variety of seminars, workshops and roundtable discussions sponsored by the faculty, the Career Services Office and/or student organizations. If you are interested in serving as a guest speaker, please contact the Institutional Advancement Office at advancement@swlaw.edu and/or the Career Services Office at careerservices@swlaw.edu.
  • Externship Placements – Southwestern’s Externship Office connects students with organizations like the City Attorney’s Office, the United States Bankruptcy Court, AARP, and Levitt & Quinn Family Law Center. Law firms or legal organizations willing to offer an externship to a Southwestern student should contact the Externship Office at externoffice@swlaw.edu.
  • Los Angeles Incubator Consortium – You can support this program providing selected new Southwestern attorneys with office space, mentorships, and training geared toward effective solo practice management, with a pro-bono component for representing modest-means clients. If you are interested in helping, please contact Professor Laura Cohen at lcohen@swlaw.edu.

Opportunities for Everyone

Monetary giving is also critical to Southwestern’s deep commitment to helping create lawyers dedicated to doing good and serving the under-represented in our communities. Southwestern students perform 20,000 pro-bono hours of community service each year and in the past five years have served over 1400 Legal Clinic clients. These programs and the students need your generous support. To learn more about donating, click here. Donate online here.

  • Give To Scholarship Funds – Southwestern has many established scholarship funds designed to support students of color and LGBTI students. Consider establishing a new scholarship fund or donating to an existing one such as:
  1. the Gerry Abbenhuys Memorial Scholarship Fund for minority students with financial need
  2. the Daniel Aragon Alumni Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund for active members of OUTLaw, Southwestern’s LGBTI student association
  3. the Vincent & Kylo Blanco Book Scholarship Fund for Native American law students
  4. the Black Law Students Association Scholarship Fund
  5. the Bernard Burch Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund for minority students who are working parents enrolled in the Evening program
  6. the Hon. Robert and Gloria Devich Scholarship Fund for continuing Mexican American students.
  • Support Programs – Many programs at Southwestern are designed to assist the less fortunate in and around Los Angeles. The Public Interest Law Summer Grant Program, for instance, provides monetary awards to students who seek a summer law clerkship with a nonprofit organization that provides free or low-cost legal assistance to low income or marginalized individuals or underserved communities. The Legal Clinics enable students to provide pro bono legal assistance to those who cannot afford a lawyer. To donate money to a specific program, click here and designate the program in the “Other” field under Gift Designation.
  • Donate to the Los Angeles Incubator Consortium – You can support this program providing selected new Southwestern attorneys with office space, mentorships, and training geared toward effective solo practice management, with a pro-bono component representing modest-means clients. Visit http://www.laincubatorconsortium.com for more information.