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Stanford Students Learn Real Law In The Real World

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Stanford Law School runs 10 clinics to give their students experience in all types of law. Only one of them, though, is located off the campus. And that is no accident. (Published Friday, May 2, 2014)

    As anyone who has taken the University Avenue exit off of 101 on the Peninsula likely knows, there is more than just a highway that separates Palo Alto from East Palo Alto.

    The green lawns of Stanford University to the west can seem a world, not just a few miles, away from the working-class streets to the east.

    Except, that is, for the building at 2117 University Avenue in East Palo Alto. That is where you will find the home of the Stanford Community Law Clinic.

    "The students spend all day, every day, out here," says Stanford Law professor and clinic director, Juliet Brodie.

     

    The Stanford Community Law Clinic is the only one of Stanford Law's 12 clinics located off-campus.

    Each term, a team of law students come to work for her. They work at the clinic full-time, taking no other classes.

    In the 10 years since its founding SCLC has represented more than 1,500 low-income residents of East Palo Alto, never asking for a penny in payment.

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    "The clients of the clinic are like lottery winners," Juliet says, only half-jokingly.

    The students represent people primarily in eviction, back pay, and criminal record expungement cases. Because these are civil, and not criminal cases, the people that SCLC represent have no right to an attorney and likely would not be able afford one.

     

    Each term a team of law students work full-time at SCLC, taking no other courses.

    Under Juliet's close supervision the students handle all aspects of their clients cases: doing research, writing motions, and arguing their cases before a judge.

    It is all real-world experience that is critical for her students' legal education, Juliet believes.

    But she hopes they take away so much more.

    The clinic is located in East Palo Alto, and not on the Stanford campus, for a reason. Juliet believes her students cannot truly represent the interests of members of the community without understanding that community.

     

    Students reprsent, free of charge, low-income residents of East Palo Alto in eviction, back wages, and criminal record expungement cases.

    With that in mind, before they take on any cases, Juliet has her students work together to create a realistic, household budget for someone living in East Palo Alto. The students will hit the streets for a few days, pricing apartments, groceries, and day care.

    "I want them to remember that law is a real thing that effects people in real lives, in real jobs, and real apartments."

    Juliet knows that most of her students will not choose legal air or public defender work for their career. A majority will likely end up working for big-time law firms on multi-million dollar cases (this is still Stanford, after all). Still, she wants them to remember that a case's importance is not tied to its bottom line.

    "I hope that being out here in East Palo Alto for a quarter,"Juliet says,"they will see the huge difference that being someone's lawyer can make in their lives."