At Thomas Jefferson School of Law, we place high importance on serving the community in which we live and work. Public service, especially that which benefits under-represented members of our community, is an integral part of the TJSL mission. We encourage our students and alumni to participate through the numerous opportunities available, such as our live client clinics, lawyer incubator and other interesting programs, that provide valuable legal training and networking at the same time. Our students also participate in public service projects through the many student organizations on campus.
Members of our world-class faculty frequently volunteer throughout the year for speaking engagements locally, nationally and internationally and there is a tremendous amount of stimulating and informative programming on campus every semester to which the public is invited to learn about the latest hot legal topics and trends from experts in the professional and academic worlds.
LIVE CLIENT CLINICS
The Small Business Law Center (SBLC) on campus supports small businesses and non-profits while providing skills development for law students. TJSL 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 has several live-client clinics under its umbrella:
- The Art & Entertainment Law Project (AELP) in the Small Business Law Center (SBLC) provides free legal services for artists, actors, dancers, writers, musicians, filmmakers and related non-profit organizations. Our students, under the supervision of California licensed attorneys, are able to provide legal assistance to creative people and organizations that do not have the means to hire an attorney to advise them.
- 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 CED Clinic works with individuals and organizations throughout San Diego County to help strengthen individual and community infrastructure and prioritizes assisting those who are unemployed, under-employed or are based in low-income communities.
- The Patent Clinic at TJSL provides free legal services for lower-income individuals and organizations having a patentable idea and desiring to obtain patent protection for that idea. TJSL is the only California law school approved in 2012 to participate in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Patent Law School Clinic Certification Pilot Program. Under the supervision of California licensed patent attorneys, our students are authorized to provide patent legal assistance to individuals and organizations that do not have the means to hire a patent attorney to advise them. While the clinic’s legal services are free, the individuals and organizations receiving Patent Clinic assistance must pay all USPTO administrative fees.
- The Trademark Clinic provides free legal services for low-income individuals and organizations desiring to obtain Federal trademarks or service marks from the USPTO. Our students, under the supervision of California licensed attorneys, are able to provide legal assistance to people and organizations that can afford the administrative filing fees, but do not have the means to hire an attorney to advise them. Our Trademark Clinic is an official part of the USPTO’s Trademark Law School Clinic Certification Pilot Program.
The Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic operated by TJSL provides limited legal assistance, as well as full service legal representation, to the residents and alumni of Veterans Village of San Diego. Veterans Village is a highly successful, residential program that provides housing, substance abuse, mental health, and job training services to formerly homeless veterans who are struggling to regain full participation in society. The clinic’s areas of concentration include family, consumer and administrative law.
The Veterans Self-Help Legal Clinic helps former military service members with their legal needs. The veterans are assisted by volunteer lawyers from the community working side-by-side with TJSL law students. The self-help clinic sees clients by appointment-only and operates the third Wednesday of every month in the evening. This clinic is designed to provide as much help as possible to these struggling veterans to represent themselves successfully in their legal matters.
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 Employee Rights Self-Help Clinic provides information about rights and options to individuals with work-related legal issues who are representing themselves. The clinics are held every second Saturday of the month, by appointment only. This program offers a brief, one-time consultation for a host of labor and employment law problems, including issues related to wage and hour law, family or medical leave, discrimination and harassment. Consultations are provided by TJSL alumni lawyers who practice employment law who are paired with TJSL law students.
The Small Claims Clinic provides free limited legal assistance for low to moderate income individuals and businesses with small claim issues. TJSL 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 small claims issues must involve monetary claims for $10,000 or less. The type of claims the Small Claims Clinic provides assistance with includes, but is not limited to, landlord tenant, consumer, personal injury, and breach of contract claims. The clinic does not provide assistance for non-claims issues, including evictions, restraining orders, divorce, child support, injunctions, and traffic tickets.
The Family Law Self-Help Clinic provides free limited legal assistance to individuals with family law issues. TJSL alumni attorneys and law students provide half-hour consultations to individuals who need assistance with family law issues, such as marriage, divorce, or child custody. The assistance also includes helping individuals prepare and complete the legal forms before submission to the court.
THE MEDIATION PROGRAM
Our Mediation Program is a great opportunity for students to get experience working with real clients and real cases in an actual 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.
CENTER FOR SOLO PRACTITIONERS
The new Center for Solo Practitioners is a lawyer incubator and is one of the few such programs established by law schools in the U.S. It’s a program that mentors and assists recent TJSL graduates (“New Solos”) as they establish their own law firms as solo practitioners. The incubator program encourages the new solo practitioners to become leaders in their community 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. For instance, Phi Alpha Delta students volunteer to serve Christmas dinner each year at Father Joe’s Village, a homeless shelter near the campus. Other organizations are involved in Toys for Tots as well as clothing, food and blood drives. TJSL’s Diversity Committee has established the CLIMB (Crawford Legal Institute & Mentorship Bond) program, a TJSL student-run mentoring program for local high school students interested in the law. Our students also have conducted fundraising drives to help victims of Hurricane Katrina as well as the Haiti earthquake and Japan tsunami.
THE EXTERNSHIP PROGRAM
Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s highly ranked Externship Program offers great opportunities for hands-on legal experience in public interest law as well as government and private sector legal settings. Placement opportunities range from traditional settings such as the United States Attorney’s Office to local biotech corporations. We have externship placement opportunities in law firms of all sizes and practice areas and a number of opportunities at nonprofit, issue-focused 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 not only can gain great experience in the field, but also can earn academic credit as well.
THE PRO BONO HONORS PROGRAM
Through the Pro Bono Honors Program, our students have the opportunity to volunteer to work with underserved populations both in traditional and non-traditional legal settings. Projects and non-profit organizations are in need of law students to help meet their missions. These national, regional and community-based projects enable our law students to gain valuable legal experience, build practical legal skills and serve a vital function at the same time. Students can earn certificates and special honor cords to be worn at graduation.
CONFERENCES & SPEAKERS
At Thomas Jefferson School of Law, we offer an amazingly rich intellectual environment throughout the academic year. The faculty, the school’s four Centers for Academic Excellence, the Alumni Association and the various student organizations organize and host an impressive slate of conferences, panels and individual speaker presentations that address a wide spectrum of legal interests and issues and often feature highly regarded experts, practitioners and jurists. The public and members of the various legal organizations in San Diego are usually invited to these events at little or no cost. 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.