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Community Justice Clinic: How 17 Law Students Impacted Thousands by Serving Their Nonprofits

Pepperdine Law's Nationally Recognized Clinical Program Celebrates New Clinic's Inaugural Year

May 8, 2015  | 2 min read

Professor Jeff BakerProfessor Baker

In fall 2015, seventeen students in Pepperdine School of Law's nationally recognized clinical education program participated in the school's new Community Justice Clinic. The new clinic provides legal services to nonprofits, non-governmental organizations, religious, and community groups who are devoted to justice and development work in poor and vulnerable communities. In its inaugural year, the students provided ten client organizations from Southern California and overseas with hundreds of hours of pro bono legal services. 

Prof. Jeffrey R. Baker, Director of Clinical Education, explains that the clinic provides a new area of practice for students in Pepperdine’s clinical programs. Students work on corporate matters like formation, governance, and compliance so that the clients can build sustainable and ethical organizations. Students also provide policy research and advocacy to advance the clients' causes. Finally, students engage with executive directors, boards of directors, employees, and volunteers, navigating critical ethical and legal issues that can complicate a client's work. Clinic clients work in widely diverse communities and structures, so students must assess and analyze problems with close attention to the clients' contexts and specific, customized needs.

"Our existing clinics provide excellent service to individual clients," says Baker. "But the Community Justice Clinic provides students with an opportunity to work with corporate and organizational clients, which creates new dynamics and issues they are likely to encounter in practice." 

In its first year, the Clinic began serving clients in downtown Los Angeles, rural Ventura County, Malibu, East Africa, and South Asia. The Clinic's domestic clients are committed to justice and development work, including housing and services to the homeless, education and job training for farm worker families, humane employment for day-laborers, sustainable agricultural practices, and comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence. International clients are developing sustainable economic models in impoverished communities, providing clean water, sanitation, and women's empowerment in Africa, and representing victims of sex crimes and leading law reform efforts in South Asia. The Clinic collaborates with these clients to ensure that their work is sustainable and effective.

"In all of our clinics, students learn to practice law and apply their theoretical lessons to the service of real clients," Baker explains. "We aim to educate and prepare students by engaging in excellent law practice to promote justice and reconciliation in our Southern California community and around the world."

Read more about experiential education at Pepperdine Law.

About Pepperdine School of Law

Pepperdine School of Law, founded in 1964 and located in Malibu, California, is committed to serving students by preparing them for lives of purpose, service, and leadership in a rapidly changing legal environment. Pepperdine Law provides highly qualified students with a superior legal education through a combination of rigorous academic programs, meaningful interaction with faculty, and extensive clinical and experiential opportunities. The school prepares students for positions as counselors, advocates, and judges; as business persons; and as researchers, teachers, and philosophers of the law. On the web: http://law.pepperdine.edu

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