UC Hastings is expanding its Lawyers for America program, which has been called a model that revolutionizes legal education while providing trained counsel to underserved communities, nonprofits, and government organizations.
The college will partner with the Center for Biological Diversity, based in San Francisco. The Center works through science and law to protect endangered species and habitat. In one of its most well-known cases, the Center successfully sued the Bush Administration to force officials to list the polar bear as threatened due to climate change under the Endangered Species Act.
Lawyers for America allows law students to complete their formal legal studies in two years. They then matriculate into a two-year fellowship with a law office, serving one year as a student, with a classroom component, and one year as a practicing attorney.
“Our new Lawyers for America partner, the Center for Biological Diversity, will attract and train students with an interest in careers involving policy, civil litigation, and appellate practice,” said co-founder Marsha Cohen. “These are great additions to our first partnerships in criminal litigation.”
Saving wolves and whales
Miyoko Sakashita, senior attorney with the Center in its San Francisco office, said the fellowship will allow students and young lawyers to litigate environmental issues. “We have had UC Hastings students as summer clerks and interns. We are drawn to the school’s strong environmental program and its commitment to public interest,” she said. “We look forward to giving students hands-on experience using their legal skills to save wolves and whales and exposing them to the rewarding world of environmental law.”
Students have been very enthusiastic about Lawyers for America.
“This has been absolutely the best way to spend my third year,” says 3L Tamara Bartlett, who works in the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office. “I really came to law school to be a district attorney, to help victims. And this provided the perfect opportunity to get two years of experience and training in the courtroom.”
Peter Chau, a 3L, works with Bartlett. “I am living my dream job right now. I learn from top-notch litigators. I am working for a cause greater than myself,” Chau said.
In addition to the Center for Biological Diversity, UC Hastings’ partners now include the Berkeley City Attorney’s Office, the Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office, the Contra Costa Superior Court, and the First District Appellate project.
The program is open to other law schools, and government and nonprofit partners around the country.