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 education. Clinical work enables law students to make a real-world difference in the life 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 important impact on the clients they served in the San Diego community. Please join us in celebrating their hard work by learning more about some of the case wins USD law students helped facilitate in 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, but this year's process was unique due to the talent of the students and COVID-19.  

Remarkably, one case was accepted on the written brief alone, meaning oral argument and a court appearance was unnecessary. The second case, delayed due to COVID-19, was presented live on YouTube in June when the courts reopened. Hear more about this case, watch the arguments and learn the history of the Appellate Clinic below. 

Virtual Hearing & 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 argument of the case was so successful, it negated the need to proceed to oral argument
  • Due to COVID-19, the second 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 was 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 will now receive from around $150 to more than $3,000
    • While the result was successful once the clinic took on the case, the students continue to research if he is eligible for backpay 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 
    • They were able to successfully vacate 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. They were also able to secure a confidential monetary recovery with 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 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 has offered 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 enable them to expand their learning outside of the classroom.

 

Remote Advocacy

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, USD's legal clinics are finding 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 learning. Under the tutelage of their professors, they are able to advocate real cases and help real people who might otherwise not have adequate court representation. This experience allows our students to no only learn, but give back to the San Diego community through practicing 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 also assessing how the pandemic is changing the law and 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 changes in 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 law experience, they are also legally innovating to tackle the effects of what comes next.