2019-2020 Student Clinical Education Accomplishments

Since 1971, the Clinical Education Program at USD School of Law has provided students with practical law experience as part of a well-rounded legal education. Clinical work enables law students to make a real-world difference in the lives of clients by putting their newly learned legal skills into practice while still in school.

This year's class experienced new hurdles due to the COVID-19 pandemic but were still able to have an impact on the clients they served in the San Diego community. Please join us in celebrating their hard work by learning about featured case wins that USD law students helped facilitate through the clinics during the 2019-2020 school year.  

 

Appellate Clinic Success

Under the guidance of professors, the Appellate Clinic enables students to prepare and argue cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. During the fall semester, students prepare and file case briefs, while in the spring they draft government rebuttals and appear in court. However, this year's process, full of talented students, took a different turn due to COVID-19.  

Remarkably, one of the clinic's cases was accepted on the written brief alone, making oral arguments in court unnecessary. The second case, delayed due to the pandemic, was presented live on YouTube in June when the courts reopened. Hear more about the uniqueness of this virtual case, watch the arguments, and learn the history of the Appellate Clinic below. 

Virtual Hearing Story & Appellate History

  • Highlighting the strength of the brief written by clinical students, one Appellate Clinic immigration case was accepted on the written submission alone. Their written argument was so successful, it negated the need to proceed to oral argument
  • Due to COVID-19, the other appellate immigration case was heard virtually. Click here to learn more and watch the complete hearing, including arguments presented by student Alexandria Heins, '20 (JD) 

Appellate Clinic Impact

  • Number of hours logged by student interns from fall 2019 to summer 2020: 1,559 hours
  • Estimated monetary value of free legal services provided to low-income clients by student interns from fall 2019 to summer 2020: $272,825
  • The Immigration Clinic completed three DACA renewal applications in two weeks
    • Two of the applications have already been approved
    • One of the applications was approved within a week

Immigration Clinic Impact

  • Number of hours logged by student interns from fall 2019 to summer 2020: 1,866 hours
  • Estimated monetary value of free legal services provided to low-income clients by student interns from fall 2019 to summer 2020: $326,550
  • The Veterans Clinic helped increase a client's disability rating from 10% to 100%, in a long-standing case he had been battling with the VA since 2009 without a successful result
    • This case win increased the monthly amount of tax-free assistance the veteran receives from around $150 to more than $3,000
    • While the result was successful after the clinic took on the case, students continue to research if their ongoing client is eligible for back pay for the years he was under-compensated for his mental health disability

Veterans Clinic Impact

  • Number of hours logged by student interns from fall 2019 to summer 2020: 2,360 hours
  • Estimated monetary value of free legal services provided to low-income clients by student interns from fall 2019 to summer 2020: $413,000
  • This year, the Civil Clinic represented an identity theft victim who had a judgment wrongfully obtained against her
    • USD School of Law students sued companies where the identity thief had opened fraudulent accounts for their refusal to provide records to the client, thus obtaining the account records necessary to move the case forward 
    • Students successfully vacated the judgment, which removed the false public record and cleared the client's otherwise good credit status, something the client had fought for years to clear. Additionally, they secured multiple confidential monetary recoveries from the companies involved in the fraudulent accounts

Civil Clinic Impact

  • Number of hours logged by student interns from fall 2019 to summer 2020: 1,826 hours
  • Estimated monetary value of free legal services provided to low-income clients by student interns from fall 2019 to summer 2020: $319,550
  • The Tax Clinic helped a low-income, single, disabled retiree living on social security with a tax liability issue connected to a condominium sale in the finalization of his 2015 divorce. This was after an offer in compromise of $1,000 to settle the debt was rejected by the IRS in February 2018 due to equity from the condominium sale
    • In July 2018, the clinic escalated his denial to the Office of Appeals and provided medical documentation of the client’s disability to impact his future income
    • The clinic advocated that his offer should be accepted due to the exceptional circumstances and the agreement was accepted in November 2018 as an Effective Tax Administration offer (“ETA”), reducing the client's liability to the IRS by approximately $21,000

Tax Clinic Impact

  • Number of hours logged by student interns from fall 2019 to summer 2020: 1,362 hours
  • Estimated monetary value of free legal services provided to low-income clients by student interns from fall 2019 to summer 2020: $238,350

USD School of Law began offering diverse clinical opportunities since the first volunteer clinic opened in 1971. Please click here to learn about the different types of clinical opportunities available to law students that allow them to expand their learning outside of the classroom.

 

Remote Advocacy

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, USD's legal clinics have found innovative ways to help the vulnerable populations they serve. Since meeting with clients in person became challenging, students from the Veterans Clinic made a series of FAQ videos to explain legal process steps and provide client instruction in filing legal documentation.

Click Here to View Student Work


 

Student Court Visits

Each year, USD law students have an opportunity to visit or appear in court as part of their clinical cases, something not many law students get to experience while still in school. Under the tutelage of their professors, they advocate real cases and help real people who otherwise might not have adequate court representation. This experience allows our students not only to learn, but give back to the San Diego community by polishing their new legal skills.

COVID-19 and the Future of the Law

While all students are adjusting to masks and virtual classes, clinical students are additionally assessing how the pandemic is changing our earth. Due to the large number of disposable personal protection equipment now being used, the Energy Law and Policy Clinic (EPIC) is studying how the increase of single-use items in our daily lives will impact the environment in the future. While the clinics offer students the ability to gain real-world legal experience, it also allows them to innovate and tackle the effects of what comes next.