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Access to Law Initiative attorneys and advisors: (back row) ALI Director and Visiting Professor Robert F. Seibel, Omar G. Nassar ‘11, Jake A. Walton ‘09, Eric A. LaGuardia ‘10 (front row) Lisa L. Wong ‘09, Tammy Sumontha ‘00 (LL.M.), Robin J. Sassi ‘10, Advisory Board President Christopher C. Walton ‘04
Program for Small and Solo Practitioners Expands to Second San Diego Location
Success of Access to Law Initiative recently highlighted by national legal publication

SAN DIEGO, January 10, 2013 - California Western’s Access to Law Initiative (ALI), the innovative program that brings affordable legal services to the San Diego community through associated attorneys in solo or small firm practice, has expanded its services this month becoming the only program of its kind in the nation with two locations.

The program’s 14 attorneys, recent California Western graduates who practice in a variety of legal disciplines, offer free and reduced-price legal services from offices at downtown’s Symphony Towers and a new location near the intersection of Broadway and 4th Avenue.

Community support fuels program expansion
The program launched in June of 2012 with eight attorneys and quickly developed connections to numerous community organizations including the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, California Rural Legal Assistance, Casa Cornelia, the Legal Aid Society, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Employee Rights Center, and California Western’s Community Law Projects in Downtown, Lemon Grove, and City Heights. Support from these organizations and demand for reduced-cost legal services in the community allowed for the program’s rapid expansion.

“The acceptance and growth of the program is a great reflection of the kind of lawyers California Western students become—people with strong ties to the community, a sense of independence, spirit of entrepreneurship, as well as public service,” said Robert F. Seibel, visiting professor and director of the Access to Law Initiative. “It also demonstrates the strength of the curriculum and commitment to educating graduates to be effective in serving clients as well as tackling social problems.”

The Program will continue to connect with other community organizations and will soon develop public education programs about common legal issues.  Each lawyer associated with ALI agrees to perform 100 hours annually of public service work while they also build their practices with clients who pay affordable rates. 

“Every community service organization that ALI works with is faced with large unmet needs for legal services and we believe our lawyers can make a substantial contribution to helping those people while also establishing sustainable law practices,” said Chris Walton, a California Western alumnus who is a solo practitioner and Chair of ALI’s Advisory Board.

California Western nationally recognized for innovation
The Access to Law Initiative received significant national attention after its launch last year, becoming the first program of its kind on the West Coast. The January 2013 issue of National Jurist magazine highlights this success and the recent expansion.

The program adds to a more than 30-year history of hands-on legal curriculum at California Western. The law school combines a traditional academic program with a strong focus on skills development and ethical practice, preparing students for success on the bar exam and in their legal careers.

The Access to Law Initiative allows graduates to employ the skills and perspective developed through the second-year STEPPS course - emphasizing professional responsibility and reflective practice - and the third-year clinical internship program.

Organizations interested in working with ALI, or individuals who want information about available legal services, can contact ALI Director Robert F. Seibel at rfs@cwsl.edu or (619) 752-4443.