Law Week is an ideal time to reflect on the many benefits a law school can bring to a community. At Thomas Jefferson School of Law in the revitalized East Village district of downtown San Diego, we continue to expand our academic programming to serve the needs of our more than 1,000 students from across the nation, as well as the needs of underserved members of the San Diego community.
Our students are encouraged to experience the “real world” of legal practice by participating in one or more of our clinical programs, all designed to train students to be attorneys while working with live clients under the supervision of licensed attorneys.
In addition to several in-house clinical programs, students also are placed at the courts, law firms, government agencies, corporations and public interest organizations. Students work side-by-side with judges in their chambers, help small business entrepreneurs and new artists get started, mediate cases for real clients in small claims court, provide legal assistance to formerly homeless veterans, complete tax returns for seniors, low income individuals and others in need of tax assistance, provide pro bono work for nonprofit organizations, and participate in one of the top law school externship programs in the country. These career-enhancing opportunities enrich the professional and personal lives of our students while benefitting members of the greater community, some of whom have little or no access to legal services.
Clinical education, judicial externship and pro bono programs
Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s Clinical Education (Externship) Program allows students to earn academic credit while gaining practical legal experience in a wide variety of legal settings. Overall, our externship program is ranked fifth in the nation based on the ratio of externships the school has placed and the number of full-time students. For total enrollment based on full-time and part-time students, Thomas Jefferson School of Law is 15th in the nation.
Our students contribute an agreed-upon number of hours at approved public agencies, corporations, nonprofit organizations and select private law firms. Supervising attorneys agree to provide fundamental legal training, such as increasingly sophisticated research, writing and oral presentation projects in exchange for receiving competent legal assistance. Students conduct research and draft legal documents, have client contact and, if certified, may have the opportunity to appear in court.
Students participating in the Judicial Externship Program have a unique opportunity to work in a judge’s chambers during their law school careers. Students participate in judicial seminars, receive individual mentoring, have the opportunity to research, write and advise the court on a wide variety of legal issues, and observe courtroom proceedings.
Our Pro Bono Honors Program gives students the opportunity to work with underserved populations, both in traditional and non-traditional legal settings. Projects and nonprofit organizations need law students to help meet their missions. These projects within the community enable our students to gain valuable experience and serve a vital function.