UC Hastings Students Provide Free Legal Assistance Through Public Benefit Programs and Pro Bono Programs | Hastings University Law
UC Hastings law students worked approximately 55,000 unpaid hours in the past year, providing more than $7 million in free legal assistance to nonprofits, public agencies and clients individual.
About 540 students volunteered their time and expertise to help low-income employees fight over unpaid wages, help workers file taxes, and help refugees apply for asylum, among other service jobs.
“We want to highlight how incredibly proud we are of all the students here at UC Hastings for what they’ve accomplished,” said Gail Silverstein, associate dean for experiential learning. “It’s such important work that they do, but it’s very difficult because they often help people in crisis on top of the normal complexity of legal representation.”
UC Hastings offers multiple opportunities for students to practice community service. Students can earn academic credit through in-house clinics, field internship clinics, and external internships, allowing them to work directly with clients, nonprofit organizations, and government offices. Alternatively, the school’s Pro Bono program supports student organizations and individual students performing public service work in the community.
Through in-house clinics alone in the past year, 116 students have logged over 18,000 hours serving over 240 clients. At a modest billing rate of $130 per hour, that would amount to $2.3 million in free legal services. Another 150 students completed more than 30,000 hours in field placement clinics and internships, providing some $3.9 million in legal aid. An additional 264 students reported working 7,900 pro bono hours, contributing more than $1 million to public interest legal work.
“That totals over $7 million in student-provided legal services this year, and that’s not counting the 35 students who were forensic externs who logged over 16,000 hours,” Silverstein said.
Students who engaged in various types of service work were celebrated at a public service celebration at the end of May. Silverstein said the event was meant to honor law students who are doing “vital work” in service of the greater good.
“I think law school really values grades and academic achievement, but commitment to pro bono work or social justice is so important,” Silverstein said. “It’s the moral fabric of our society to help others in need and seek justice, so we really need a separate moment to recognize and celebrate the students who do this work.”
One of the students recognized was Nikayla Johnson ’22, who also earned a concentration in social justice law, which prepares students for careers in public service. She has helped parents facing child custody issues, advocated for prisoners to get reduced sentences and conducted parole consultations for people serving life sentences, through her work with many UC Hastings programs and clinics.
Johnson urged his classmates to continue helping those on the margins of society: “I stand before all of you today to issue a call to action. I implore you to do all you can for our forgotten and left behind peers.
For those not pursuing a career in public service, these programs instill values that future lawyers can take with them into the business world, said UC Hastings professor Alina Ball, “It’s nice to see students committed to social justice earn their way into corporations and large law firms while doing pro bono work.Ball founded the Social Enterprise and Economic Empowerment Clinic at UC Hastings, which works with corporations and non-profit organizations on social and environmental missions.
Rosamaria Cavalho ’22, who won a graduate scholarship to work with the East Bay Community Law Center, predicted her classmates will draw on their public interest experiences and use their law degrees to make a positive difference, “I’m so proud of each and every one of us and we can’t wait to see all the amazing change we’re facilitating and creating in this world now armed with a law degree.
Find the full list of 2022 Public Service Celebration winners here.