“I think as law students we sometimes get so busy with schoolwork and reading that we take for granted how valuable and helpful the skills we are learning can be to our community,” reflects USD Legal Clinics intern Cris Buckley of his participation in a recent outreach event. “The USD Legal Clinics provide us with valuable legal work experience, but more than that they also allow us to serve people in our community who can’t afford traditional legal services. We’re able to help entrepreneurs move forward with their businesses and we’re able to help families struggling with immigration issues.”
In addition to the hands-on legal experience interns receive through the Legal Clinics, interns like Buckley are also encouraged to participate as volunteers in the many outreach events at which the clinics maintain a presence. Most recently, the clinics participated in the MAAC Head Start & Early Head Start 20th Annual Networking Conference on October 25, 2013. Five interns from the Entrepreneurship Clinic in addition to Outreach Coordinator Patty O’Deane provided informational flyers and answered questions regarding the free legal services that the USD Legal Clinics offer to the low-income community.
“Most people who stopped by the booth asked general questions about what the USD Legal Clinics does,” describes legal intern Ali Adelman. “Some people asked for examples of the problems people come to us with and the services that we provide to help them solve those problems. Others asked how people qualify for our legal assistance, where the clinic was located, and if there was a certain geographical area that we served.”
The legal interns and O’Deane provided answers to these questions and many more, as they also had the opportunity to network with professionals from the over 200 organizations that were invited to participate in the conference. MAAC Head Start & Early Head Start is a federally- funded Early Childhood and Family Education program serving children ages 0-5 and their families in North San Diego County. Head Start ensures that income eligible and special needs children are given many of the same opportunities as their more affluent peers during their formative years.
“This was a great opportunity for various organizations to network and provide key staff with information regarding the services that are offered,” states Clinics Outreach Coordinator Patty O’Deane. “Additionally it gave the USD Legal Clinics’ legal interns a chance to work with the community. I was also happy to have the opportunity to assist fourteen of the Spanish-speaking representatives that stopped by our booth.”
“Most people were very surprised and happy to hear that we were providing free legal services,” adds Adelman of the experience. “Seeing people react this way was rewarding; seeing them smile as they realized there was a way out or a way to seek help for them or a friend who needed legal assistance. It was also rewarding when people who did not need legal assistance praised us for the work we do to help our community.”
Approximately 89 organization representatives stopped by the USD Legal Clinics booth. The event provides an opportunity for professionals to learn more about local organizations that MAAC Head Start families could be referred to, such as the Legal Clinics.
“What was rewarding about the event was actually being out in the community, talking to real people and seeing what types of issues they have,” describes legal intern Jackie Rodriguez. “I learned how grateful people are for the types of free legal services that we offer. Everyone seemed truly interested and hopeful that we might be able to assist them.”
“Participating in clinic outreach events has been rewarding because so many people who qualify or need our services still aren’t aware we exist,” adds Buckley. “It was great hearing some of the stories as people took our handouts and commented that they would be contacting us or passing the information along to someone who really needed it.”
MAAC Head Start has been a longstanding partner of the USD Legal Clinics, and we’re proud to support the work they do. More information about their programs and service offerings can be found on their website.