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California Western pro bono tradition recognized with state, national honors

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At California Western School of Law, pro bono work is more than just a requirement of the legal profession, it’s a proud tradition.

Each year the California Western community volunteers with more than 30 groups and agencies across San Diego, including Affordable Housing Advocates, Center for Community Solutions, San Diego Coastkeeper, Voices for Children, and others.

The law school also administers programs and clinics that provide students the opportunity to learn through community service, such as the California Innocence Project, Street Law San Diego and the Community Law Project.

In the previous year alone, more than 500 students participated in pro bono and service learning projects, providing more than 100,000 hours of academic, internship and community service work.

The contributions of faculty, staff, students and alumni have been recognized nationally and regionally for their impact through national, statewide and local awards.

This year, California Western was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction for the second consecutive year -- one of only 14 California schools named to the list and the only independent law school in the nation.

The award is one of the federal government's highest community service honors for institutions of higher education and recognizes pro bono, volunteer and academic service learning hours.

In January of this year, the Association of American Law Schools recognized Professor Linda H. Morton with the national Father Robert Drinan Award. The influential organization that guides law schools recognized Morton’s deep commitment to pro bono work and leadership in promoting a culture of pro bono service.

Morton worked with colleagues at California Western and the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program to implement the Pro Bono Honors Program. With Professor Floralynn Einesman, Morton established the Advanced Mediation Program. It is the only mediation program of its kind in the nation, sending specially-trained law students into juvenile detention facilities to work with residents to develop mediation and problem solving skills.

She also helped found the Community Law Project at California Western, a program co-sponsored by the University of California, San Diego that offers pro bono legal and medical services to homeless and financially disadvantaged community members.

The contributions of the California Western community were also acknowledged by the State Bar of California. The law school was a recipient of the 2010 President's Pro Bono Service Award. The award is the State Bar's top recognition for pro bono service and the first award ever given to a law school.

Locally, Hoover High School recently recognized California Western for its continuing efforts to promote legal education to its students through the Street Law San Diego program. Street Law introduces legal concepts to at-risk youth and tailors legal education to the issues facing Hoover students. The program exposes young people to careers in law and is one of many programs at California Western aimed at expanding diversity in legal education and the profession.

"The numerous honors awarded to the school and faculty reflects our deep commitment to pro bono work," said Dean Steven R. Smith. "I thank our faculty, staff, students and alumni for their tremendous contributions."

Submitted by California Western School of Law

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