The Corporation for National and Community Service recently honored California Western School of Law with the highest federal recognition an institute of higher education can receive for its commitment to civic engagement, naming the law school to the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This is the fourth consecutive year in which California Western’s community work was recognized with this national award.
The Honor Roll award recognizes the law school’s signature community outreach programs including the California Innocence Project, which recently earned national recognition for their work to exonerate Brian Banks, the aspiring football player wrongly convicted for the rape of a classmate who later admitted she fabricated her story. Banks and his attorney, California Western professor Justin Brooks, appeared on numerous national news programs in April when Banks signed a contract with the NFL Atlanta Falcons as the team’s newest linebacker.
Lawyers from the California Innocence Project who worked on the Banks case ― Professors Justin Brooks and Jan Stiglitz, along with Alissa L. Bjerkhoel ’08 and Michael A. Semanchik ’10 ― were named “California Attorneys of the Year” for 2013 by California Lawyer magazine for their work on the case.
Other outreach projects recognized by the Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll include the Community Law Projects serving City Heights, Downtown, and Lemon Grove; Street Law San Diego, mentoring young people and educating them about the ways in which the law affects their lives; the Advanced Mediation Project, placing trained law students in juvenile detention facilities to mediate conflicts and teach problem-solving skills; and the Clinical Internship Program, through which third-year law students work side-by-side with legal professionals to gain marketable skills while serving clients and the community.
"California Western is committed to giving back to our community, and encouraging our graduates to provide valuable pro bono service during their legal careers," said California Western Dean Niels B. Schaumann. "We are honored to be named to the Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the fourth consecutive year."
More than 350 students participated in pro bono and service learning projects, contributing more than 52,000 hours of academic, internship, and community service work. Additionally, more than 50 members of California Western’s faculty contributed more than 5,000 service hours during the 2011-2012 academic year.
The pro bono and internship work performed by students in their second and third year builds upon the foundational understanding of law gained in the first year and help students develop skills and experience they will carry with them into practice. California Western graduates are not just ready for practice, but ready to make a difference in their communities.