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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

A Message from the Director

A headshot of Dean Chalak Richards taken outdoors

A message from Jeffrey R. Baker, Assistant Dean of Clinical Education and Global Programs

In Fall 2021, our faculty, students, and clients continue to grapple with the pandemic and its far-reaching effects. With innovative flexibility, we continue to pursue our missions of fruitful education, professional formation, and access to justice. Law practice is never static; we are never immune from disruption. In this age of crisis and transition, our clinical faculty approaches every challenge, detour, mistake, and experiment as an opportunity to teach and learn. Our students and faculty serve clients from Skid Row to the Ninth Circuit, from state courts to the IRS, from the US to four other continents, through litigation, mediation, transactions and every step of client-centered advice, counsel, and advocacy. Emerging from the pandemic, we have learned lessons that will serve our students and clients for years to come.

And we continue to grow. In Spring 2022, the Caruso School of Law is launching the new Religious Liberty Clinic with a creative civil rights practice under the direction of Eric Rassbach and in collaboration with Jones Day. It will be the tenth clinic at the School of Law, adding important new dimensions to our mission and practice, with outstanding collaborations and a national practice.

Michael Martinez joined our team as Clinical Program Manager in the summer. His work has been indispensable as we navigate emerging challenges and evolution of the programs and practice.

I invite you to read stories from the Legal Aid Clinic, Mediation Clinic, Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic, Community Justice Clinic, Restoration and Justice Clinic, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, Disaster Relief Clinic, Faith and Family Mediation Clinic, and Startup Law Clinic. You can also learn more about our Practicum Program: the Public Interest Law Practicum with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, the Veterans Law Practicum with the Ventura County Public Defender, and our expansive Externship Program with hundreds of field placements each year at home and around the world.

Each of our clinics offers a unique scope and style of practice, affording students incomparable experience to develop as professionals and serve clients and communities in great need. Through our clinics, practicums, and expansive externship program, we ensure students thrive in practice during law school and advance access to justice locally, nationally, and globally.


Updates from the Clinics

  Religious Liberty Clinic

This spring, we are delighted to be launching the Religious Liberty Clinic at Pepperdine Caruso Law. This new opportunity will allow interested second and third-year students to get practical, hands-on experience working on religious liberty cases under the supervision of expert attorneys from Jones Day.

The Pepperdine Law Religious Liberty Clinic will enroll 6-8 students in a seminar-style class that will include active, supervised practice in cases protecting religious liberty rights. Clinic students will participate in amicus briefs, appeals, and advocacy to advance religious liberty. The clinic will explore enduring questions relating to how civil governments treat the religious beliefs, expressions, and institutions of their citizens and residents.

Visiting professor Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, will serve as the inaugural faculty director of the clinic. The course will be co-taught by Professor Rassbach and Caruso Law Professor Michael Helfand.

  Legal Aid Clinic

This year has invited increased ingenuity as Pepperdine Legal Aid Clinic (PLAC) has sought to reach clients despite the complications of periodic Covid-19 shutdowns. We have employed a hybrid model, meeting with clients both in person and virtually. PLAC students have reached out to residents of our two host agencies, the Union Rescue Mission on skid row and Covenant House in Hollywood, as well as clients living over the city to ensure that they have access to legal assistance despite the disruption.

PLAC continues to respond to a wide variety of clients' civil legal needs. This year, in addition to our general re-entry practice, students helped a client file the newly approved AB 2147 petition, designed to allow those who were trained by the California Conservation Camp program while incarcerated to pursue work with a fire department upon release. We have continued our valuable partnership with the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney's Homeless Engagement and Response Team (HEART) to provide access to Homeless Court, which allows participants to resolve infraction citations for minor violations. Students have handled several family law matters, which were complicated by Covid-19 concerns regarding custody and visitation. Additionally, we have filed several petitions on behalf of clients facing complicated immigration issues.

Professor Brittany Stringfellow-Otey has directed the clinic and overseen student work for nearly 20 years.

For more information, visit: https://law.pepperdine.edu/experiential-learning/clinical-education/clinics/legal-aid-clinic/

  Community Justice Clinic

This year the Community Justice Clinic continued its service to nonprofits, NGOs, and community organizations devoted to human rights, economic development, and social justice in the US and abroad. The Clinic's mission is to empower its clients for creative, resilient, useful work as they promote human dignity and just, loving communities.

This semester CJC students counseled a new, nonprofit publishing house that amplifies diverse voices from the social and economic margins of Los Angeles. They have counseled a community organization providing sustenance and resources to people who are homeless in Malibu. Students have secured tax-exempt status for a nonprofit providing after-school opportunities and leadership development for students in the San Fernando Valley. A clinic student worked on a trademark application for a foundation that serves children in poverty in Orange County, and another student advised an international NGO on its potential liability and insurance needs to continue compliant, sustainable work in east Africa, building capacity for women's healthcare. For a client and partners in India, students have conducted comparative surveys of anti-money-trafficking laws to help combat systemic human trafficking and bonded labor. The clinic has represented churches, synagogues, farms, peacemakers, gardeners, social workers, teachers, physicians, and organizers devoted to their neighbors and neighborhoods.

Students and clients in the Community Justice Clinic have adapted to disrupted work and practice with professionalism, creativity, and a passion for justice.

Professor Jeff Baker directs the Community Justice Clinic and supervises students' work.

For more information, visit: https://law.pepperdine.edu/experiential-learning/clinical-education/clinics/community-justice-clinic/.

   Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic
In 2021, the Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic continued its successful representation of clients asserting civil rights claims against state prison officials. In May, graduating 3Ls Kelly Shea Delvac and Gage Eller appeared (virtually) before the Ninth Circuit, challenging the district court's dismissal of claims by a prisoner against the Arizona prison officials who failed to protect him from a brutal assault by fellow inmates. After a spirited argument, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of our client in a 2-1 decision.

Clinic students Jared Antman and Tanner Hendershot represented a client who was wrongly detained by a California prison for a month after a court had ordered the prisoner's immediate release. Our clinic argued that the prison warden's actions violated the Eighth Amendment and that the district court erred by ruling that the warden was immune from suit. After reading our opening and reply briefs, the California Attorney General's office offered our client a settlement, which he accepted. As a result, Jared and Tanner did not get to appear before the Ninth Circuit for oral argument, but they did participate in a series of moot courts, including a session with Pepperdine faculty acting as judges.

Professors Curt Cutting and Mark Kressel direct the Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic and supervise students' work.

For more information, visit: https://law.pepperdine.edu/experiential-learning/clinical-education/clinics/ninth-circuit-appellate-advocacy/

   Restoration and Justice Clinic
 Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence and human trafficking has continued to surge in L.A. Since March 2020, the Restoration and Justice Clinic adapted to help survivors remotely. Clinic students met with clients and potential clients by phone and Zoom, helped clients complete court forms and paperwork, and counseled clients on how to stay safe during the pandemic.

This past summer and fall, the clinic focused on help sex trafficking survivors quash warrants and dismiss open cases from across the country, as well as vacate arrests and convictions from their past victimizations in California. Students filed petitions remotely and electronically, and learned how to adapt the clinic's practice to meet current needs.

The clinic continues to partner with Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, and The People Concern. The clinic is also exploring another collaboration with Journey Out and the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office to provide legal services to sex trafficking survivors as part of a prostitution diversion program.

Professor Tanya Cooper directs the Restoration and Justice Clinic. For more information, please visit https://law.pepperdine.edu/experiential-learning/clinical-education/clinics/restoration-and-justice-clinic/

   Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic

 Twenty months into remote services, the Pepperdine Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (PLITC) students continue to provide excellent care for clients despite all the difficulties raised by a pandemic. Unsurprisingly, pandemic has hit our low-income clients the hardest, but the students have risen to the challenge to assure our clients are getting the help they need.

Over the past year and a half, PLITC students have litigated cases, represented clients before various IRS agents, handled audits and exams, helped clients with collection issues and helped clients get tax compliant. A group of our students worked with a widow who sold the home she bought with her husband before he passed. The IRS assessed her over $200,000 and the case was already in the United States Tax Court by the time she came to our clinic. Our students stepped in and provided the IRS with evidence and argumentation as to why the IRS's assessment was incorrect. The IRS agreed and the $200,000 tax debt was minimized to $5,108. We did it virtually and efficiently, providing a meaningful learning experience for our students and a wonderful relief for our client. In addition, in response to the pandemic, our students have helped many clients get the stimulus and child tax credit money they are entitled to, which in turn helps our clients provide for their families. At the PLITC the students learn advocacy while helping their community. That is the magic of the Pepperdine Clinics.

Professor Isai Cortez directs the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic and supervises students' work.

For more information, visit: https://law.pepperdine.edu/experiential-learning/clinical-education/clinics/low-income-taxpayer-clinic/

  Faith and Family Mediation Clinic

Since the pandemic hit, the clinic's caseload has tripled. Each student under my supervision is handling a diverse client load and working in several active meditations. Because of the uptick in cases, we have been relying on our exceptional students to handle intakes, conduct screenings, prepare for mediations, complete family law petitions, responses, financial disclosure and prepare final judgments more independently. The students have risen to the occasion, and with their help, we are currently servicing 8 couples.

For more information, visit: https://law.pepperdine.edu/experiential-learning/clinical-education/clinics/jewish-divorce-mediation/

  Mediation Law Clinic

The Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law through the Mediation Clinic has continued its ongoing collaboration with the City of Santa Monica to provide mediation for landlords and tenants who are navigating payment through eviction moratoriums.

While the courts were closed to volunteer mediators in the Spring 2021 semester, the Straus Institute hosted its first-ever Mediation Competition, bringing together 15 competitors, and 75 alumni, and top commercial mediators as judges to evaluate and mentor students. The competition featured COVID19-themed disputes as simulations, which were designed by current mediation practitioners.

Student competitors were scored on their ability to effectively mediate by distinguished leaders in the ADR community. Once the judges had evaluated the competitors, they offered concrete feedback on the student's performance, improving their skills and knowledge for future practice. Students competed over three rounds.

The fall 2021 semester brought the students back into the Los Angeles Superior Court to provide mediation services.

Professor Stephanie Blondell directs the Mediation Clinic and supervises students' work.

For more information, visit: https://law.pepperdine.edu/straus/academic-programs/mediation-clinic/

  Disaster Relief Clinic

The Pepperdine Disaster Relief Clinic provides disaster relief and recovery legal services for disaster victims. The Clinic is prepared and able to help individuals impacted by disaster in our local area, our state, and throughout the United States. Most recently, the Clinic has helped clients impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Ida, the Woolsey Fire, and the Bobcat and Lake Fires in Los Angeles County. It has also collaborated with other California legal aid providers to produce training materials for pro bono attorneys so they can prepare to provide legal services in the aftermath of future disasters.

Through the hard work and dedication of its students, the Clinic seeks to support those affected by disasters by providing a swift and sustained response as legal needs arise in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, prompting requests for assistance with applications and appeals to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Small Business Association (SBA), as well as assistance with insurance issues. Further along the road to recovery, the Clinic's work transitions to providing the legal support needed for recovery and rebuilding. The broad array of matters the Clinic can help with includes, but is not limited to, FEMA and SBA assistance, including advocacy regarding additional individual assistance (IA) benefits; insurance law; housing law, including moratorium, nonpayment of rent, and harassment by landlords; and small business law, including employment, insurance, and small business loans.

Professor Sophia Hamilton directs the Clinic. Professor David DeJute and Professor Hamilton co-teach the Clinic class and oversee student work.

For more information, visit: https://law.pepperdine.edu/experiential-learning/clinical-education/clinics/disaster-relief-clinic/

  Startup Law Clinic

The students at the Startup Law Clinic (SLC) continue to serve and represent entrepreneurs of technology startups with corporate formation, founders' stock issuances and capitalization, corporate governance, tech transactions, early stage angel investor financings and venture capital transactions. Each semester, the students are divided into teams advising a group of startups involved in various technology sectors.

This semester, the SLC students served as legal counsel to the following startups:

Overseas Air Inc. A startup in the health technology space delivering subscription-based inhalers on a more cost-effective basis. This startup was led by one of our youngest founders who is an undergraduate at Seaver College here at Pepperdine University.

Peacefulli Inc. Another SLC team represented a startup that is currently building their MVP (minimum viable product) to create an interactive community providing easily accessible information about human rights protests and social justice rallies across the country. This startup has a passionate vision to encourage and enable civic engagement for users interested in social justice.

Brainchanger Box Inc. Our SLC students represented this startup in the EdTech space with a unique platform to provide sensory phonics learning. The two founders driving this startup have a demonstrated ability to combine innovation with learning. This startup is further along in the lifecycle with their product already fully built and affirmed by early adopters. An added bonus for our SLC students was the opportunity to work with the founders of this startup who previously built successful companies.

The teams of students worked with the Delaware Secretary of State to successfully incorporate their clients. They also advised their clients and drafted the necessary documents to adopt bylaws, complete the board consent in lieu of initial meeting, and execute restricted stock purchase agreements. The students took the lead on conference calls with clients answering questions relating to the state of incorporation, issuance and sale of stock, composition of board of directors and executive officers, and establishing an advisory board. As part of the corporate formation, the students subsequently qualified their clients in various states in order to conduct business pursuant to state law. In addition, the students conducted blue sky state securities law research in each of those states to make the necessary state filings to obtain an exemption from securities registration. Finally, our SLC students provided guidance to the clients regarding early stage financing structure and strategy discussing (i) debt versus equity financings, (ii) convertible bridge note structures and (iii) startup valuation.

This amazing group of students carry on the tradition of students in previous semesters that have represented numerous startups involved in various sectors including power beaming (space-based solar power), legal aid software, artificial intelligence, drone technology analyzing soil samples, employee recognition and reward platform, and health care technology. Some of the startups the students represented have obtained funding and closed deals from some of the top venture capital firms in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley with multimillion-dollar valuations.

For our students, the Startup Law Clinic exists to bridge the gap from law student to a practicing transactional attorney in a law firm. As these students graduate to attorneys, they will have to learn very quickly how to convert their head knowledge of legal concepts to the practical execution of representing technology clients, drafting documents, redlining agreements and closing transactions. The aim of the Startup Law Clinic is to give them the competitive advantage so that they can hit the ground running.

Professor Sam Wu directs the Startup Law Clinic and supervises students' work.
For more information, visit: https://law.pepperdine.edu/palmer-center/startuplawclinic.htm



Malibu Pier

While our campus reopened in the Fall of 2021, students and the Externship Program staff have continued to adapt in navigating through challenging COVID-19 times. Though a number of placements have returned to in-office work, the majority of placements have transitioned to hybrid work models or remained remote even as COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. Students have continued to find diverse placements in government, judicial, private firms, pro bono legal organizations, and in-house counsel. Externship enrollment has remained consistent with previous years. The hybrid and online work environment has allowed our students greater flexibility and access to good work opportunities in other states and other areas of California. We have also continued to provide one online externship workshop to further accommodate our students' schedules and facilitate learning.

Professor Sophia Hamilton directs the Externship Program.

For more information, visit: https://law.pepperdine.edu/experiential-learning/clinical-education/externships/


London bridge

The Pepperdine CSOL London Program is up and running again in Fall 2021 and students are studying abroad again at Pepperdine's London House, engaging in world-class externships in law practice in the United Kingdom. This year, students are working with London offices of large global firms, smaller London based organizations, and barristers representing clients in court. Assistant Dean Baker visited London in October 2021 and addressed a group of students and lawyers at Middle Temple, one of the Inns of Court, the professional association for qualified barristers as well as students working towards qualification. Middle Temple is our partner in British and US moot court exchanges.

For more information, visit: https://law.pepperdine.edu/experiential-learning/global-programs/london/courses-and-events.htm

Washington D.C.

Washington DC capitol

Students in Pepperdine Caruso School of Law's Washington Semester work in full-time externships in our nation's capital and engage in rigorous coursework designed to complement their externships. Washington-Semester students work across the three branches of government and in the private sector, including lobbying firms, law firms, and nonprofits.

In 2021, most of our students lived in Washington even though the vast majority of externships remained virtual and our classes were online for the spring semester. Our students were privileged to work on critical legal issues arising out of the pandemic—from work on compassionate-release cases to issues at ports of entry—as well as issues arising out of the breach of the Capitol in January 2021. Although many of our usual Washington Semester activities were curtailed because of the pandemic, we pivoted to online activities, including virtual receptions with our local alumni. Our exceptional Washington Semester students contributed great value to the work of their offices and engaged in their coursework with energy and enthusiasm.

the Caruso school of law building entrance