The highest priority outside of the classroom at Thomas Jefferson School of Law is serving the many diverse communities around us. Public service is part of our mission and volunteering benefits the under-represented and often invisible members of our society. We established on-site volunteer opportunities for our students and our alumni to practice what law school preaches every day.
Students and alumni can staff our free legal self-help clinics. Self-help clinics provide limited legal assistance to veterans and others in a variety of areas including small claims, family law and employment law. We encourage our students to participate in our Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic and the Small Business Law Center, which encompasses clinics focusing on patents, trademark, arts and entertainment and community development legal issues. We also offer a lawyer incubator for alums interested in becoming solo practitioners. All of the programs provide valuable legal training and career contacts.
Students volunteer in our pro bono honors program, working with a variety of underserved communities. Dozens of student organizations are involved in a myriad of public service projects. Becoming a member of a student organization is a good way to develop career relationships that last a lifetime.
Public service is also a core value for our world-class faculty who frequently serve on boards of various community organizations. They volunteer throughout the year for speaking engagements locally, nationally and internationally. Our faculty is involved in stimulating and informative programming on campus every semester and invites the public to learn about the latest legal topics and trends from them and other experts in the professional and academic worlds.
LIVE CLIENT CLINICS
The Small Business Law Center (SBLC) supports small businesses and non-profits while providing skills development for law students. Thomas Jefferson School of Law students, under the direct supervision of California licensed attorneys, provide legal assistance to micro-entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profits that do not have the means to hire an attorney to advise them. The SBLC live-client clinics are:
- The Art & Entertainment Law Project (AELP) provides free legal services for artists, actors, dancers, writers, musicians, filmmakers and related non-profit organizations.
- The Community Economic Development (CED) clinic provides legal assistance to eligible nonprofit organizations and small businesses that stimulate economic growth in communities of need.
- The Patent Clinic provides free legal services for lower-income individuals and organizations who want to protect a patentable idea with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
- The Trademark Clinic provides free legal services for low-income individuals and organizations who want trademarks from the USPTO.
The Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic is operated by students under the guidance of licensed practicing attorney and provides limited legal assistance and full-service legal representation, to the residents and alumni of Veterans Village of San Diego, a program that provides housing, substance abuse, mental health, and job training services to formerly homeless veterans.
SELF-HELP LEGAL CLINICS
- The Veterans Self-Help Clinic helps former military service members with legal needs. Thomas Jefferson School of Law students work side-by-side with volunteer lawyers from the community to counsel veterans.
- The Employee Rights Self-Help Clinic provides information to individuals representing themselves in work-related problems including discrimination, harassment, wages and leave. Students work under the guidance of employment labor law lawyers who are alumni of Thomas Jefferson.
- The Small Claims Clinic provides limited legal assistance for low to moderate income individuals and businesses with small claim issues. Thomas Jefferson School of Law alumni attorneys and law students provide half-hour consultations to litigants who need assistance when being sued, suing another party, or help recovering money for a small claims judgment.
- The Family Law Self-Help Clinic provides limited legal assistance to individuals with family law issues. Thomas Jefferson School of Law alumni attorneys and law students provide half-hour consultations to individuals who need assistance with issues such as marriage, divorce, or child custody.
VOLUNTEER INCOME TAX ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is operated each spring by the law school’s Tax Law Society, a student organization, under the supervision of a faculty tax expert. The VITA program is an IRS program that provides a valuable community service in the form of free income tax return preparation. Student volunteers receive IRS training and certification.
THE MEDIATION PROGRAM
Our Mediation Program is a great opportunity for students to work with clients in a courtroom setting. Mediation is a growing industry within the legal community and our law school is a community leader in using this clinical program to immerse students in the art of conflict resolution. Our students represent real clients to resolve disputes for San Diego's Small Claims Courts. Alumni often participate in our Probate Court Program, which provides free mediator services for individuals, typically in connection with a Conservatorship or Guardianship before the Probate Court.
CENTER FOR SOLO PRACTITIONERS
The new Center for Solo Practitioners is a lawyer incubator and was one of the first in a growing trend that is sweeping through law schools in the U.S. The program assists up to ten Thomas Jefferson School of Law graduates (“New Solos”) as they establish solo practitioner law firms. The incubator program encourages community leadership by developing ways to reach traditionally underserved populations with much-needed legal services. These New Solos gain valuable experience and build a client base for when they leave the program.
A number of TJSL’s student organizations are deeply committed to community service and are often at the forefront volunteering at underserved community assistance programs, running food, clothing or blood drives, or in raising funds for natural disasters in the United States and around the world. Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s Diversity Committee has established the CLIMB (Crawford Legal Institute & Mentorship Bond) program, a student-run mentoring program for local high school students interested in the law. Our students often come from underserved communities and know the value of giving back.
THE EXTERNSHIP PROGRAM
Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s highly ranked Externship Program offers great opportunities for hands-on legal experience in public interest, government and private sector law. Placement opportunities range from the United States Attorney’s Office to local biotech corporations to law firms to nonprofit organizations. Students who participate in the Judicial Externship Program have a unique opportunity to work for a Federal or California State Judge in their chambers. Students gain experience in the field and earn academic credit.
THE PRO BONO HONORS PROGRAM
Through the Pro Bono Honors Program, our students can volunteer to work with underserved populations in traditional and non-traditional legal settings. Working with national, regional and community-based projects enables our law students to gain valuable legal experience, build practical legal skills and serve a vital function in that community sector. Students can earn certificates and special honor cords to be worn at graduation.
CONFERENCES, PANELS, & SPEAKERS
At Thomas Jefferson School of Law, we offer a rich intellectual environment throughout the academic year. The faculty, the school’s four Centers for Academic Excellence, Alumni Association and various student organizations host an impressive slate of conferences, panels and individual speaker presentations that address a wide spectrum of legal interests and issues while featuring highly-regarded experts, practitioners and jurists. Minimum Continuing Legal Education credit is frequently available for California attorneys who attend these events.
For a look at some of these events, please visit:
The law school also hosts several community-based events during the year, such as the monthly meetings of the East Village Association, a 2012 mayoral candidates forum and a special public forum co-hosted with Soroptimists International of San Diego in recognition of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.