Work Study Program at JFK University College of Law

Experiential learning is a proven way to reinforce academic learning and to prepare for the practice of law. At JFKU College of Law we provide access to experiential learning through our Internship Program and our clinical programs.

John F. Kennedy University’s clinical program has the two-fold mission of providing an in depth education to our students while offering essential legal help to underserved members of the community. The on-campus Elder Law Clinic and Housing Advocacy Clinic seek to provide practical training through hands-on experience to the law school students under the direct supervision of clinical professors Angelo Lagorio and Ora Prochovnick. The students take responsibility for all aspects of the cases, under the State Bar “practical training of law student” rules1, including interviewing clients, conducting factual investigations and legal research, drafting pleadings and motions, conducting discovery and also appearing and arguing in court.

JFKU’s first clinical program was the Elder Law Clinic which originally opened in 2005 and was subsequently re-envisioned in 2010. The clinic focuses on transactional legal issues affecting low-income clients age 60 and older, who are referred from many community sources. The majority of the clinical work is one-on-one representation of clients in a variety of legal matters, which include the preparation of Durable Powers of Attorney, Advance Health Care Directives, simple Wills, (in some instances Revocable Trusts), complicated Medi-Cal and or public benefits issues, probate matters, conservatorships, and special needs trusts.

JFKU’s Housing Advocacy Clinic (“HAC”) has been operating since 2008. Each participating student staffs a telephone shift, providing advice and counseling, information and referrals to low-income tenants throughout the Bay Area, helping preserve safe and affordable housing when this basic human necessity has been threatened. Working in close collaboration with Bay Area Legal Aid, as well as other area organizations, the HAC provides assistance to tenants living in uninhabitable premises, facing eviction, defending against unlawful retention of their security deposits, loss of government housing subsidies, foreclosure and discrimination. In addition to this advice and counseling service, Housing Advocacy Clinic students also provide full-scope representation to clients in rent board proceedings, housing authority hearings and defending Superior Court unlawful detainer actions.

The JFKU Housing Clinic even has a case now pending before the California Court of Appeal. It is a matter involving complicated rent control issues. The HAC initially won a rent board hearing, the landlord appealed to the full rent board which upheld that favorable decision, and the landlord then sought to have that decision overturned by the court via a Writ of Administrative Mandate, and HAC again won. The landlord has now appealed to the First District Court of Appeal.The HAC’s client, a school teacher in San Francisco who otherwise would not be able to afford to live there, has been very grateful and this certainly has been and will continue to be an excellent learning experience for the students.

Through the off-campus JFKU Internship Program, students have an opportunity to engage in legal work under the supervision of a qualifying attorney, judge, government agency or public interest organization. Students are responsible for finding and securing their own placement, with the assistance and advice of the Director of Clinical and Public Interest Law Programs. As with our on-campus clinics, through this work, students gain insight into the law and legal processes and see the practical application of doctrine and skills taught in the classroom. By exposing themselves to a variety of internship options students can explore different subject areas and work arenas as they prepare for their future careers.

Once a placement is found, approval is obtained through the students submitting the requisite forms and they may then register. During the course of the semester, the student is required to maintain signed time logs on a weekly basis. At the conclusion of the semester the student must submit at least two writing samples, which may include research memoranda, motions, correspondence (such as opinion/demand letters) or such other writing samples as demonstrate work performed during the placement. Additionally, supervisor submits a completed and signed Supervisor’s Final Intern Evaluation Form. Finally, students seeking to fulfill the service-learning requirement will also submit a concluding reflective paper illustrating the significance of their service-learning, its link to their development as an attorney, and how it presents an opportunity for reciprocity in the community.

JFKU students are required to complete a minimum of one unit (60 hours of legal work) in a public interest internship, performed in an office or agency whose primary function is to provide legal services to underserved populations, to address significant issues of social justice, or otherwise to improve the administration of justice, and are encouraged to participate in additional internship opportunities. No more than eight units of off-campus internship can be applied to the degree. Students enrolled in our Public Interest Law Program must earn at least six units (360 hours) of public interest internship work as part of the program.

Recently student off-campus internships have included the following placements: Prisoner Legal Services, Contra Costa County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, Santa Clara County Superior Court, California Department of Insurance, Solano County Public Defender, Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, East Bay Community Law Center, Solano County District Attorney, Oakland Rent Assistance Program, Homeless Court, Merced County Public Defender, Alameda County Superior Court, and Contra Costa County Veterans Services, along with private firms doing the following areas of work: juvenile dependency, nonprofit legal assistance, workers compensation, wrongful termination, immigration, and family law.

Just in the most recent academic year, JFKU law students have completed over 5,760 hours of work to provide legal services in high need areas to underserved low income populations. JFKU’s clinical and public interest law programs look forward to many more years of educating our law students to become excellent attorneys while providing vital legal services to elderly, low income and other disadvantaged members of our community.

[1] California Rules of Court, Rule 9.42