UC Irvine Law students get creative, do pro bono work remotely

Law schools have made the quite the pivot since the coronavirus outbreak. Many have switched to online learning. A number of moot court competitions are being held virtually. Schools are zooming, so to speak. 

And now students at the University of California, Irvine School of Law are even managing to do pro bono work remotely.

“I am so proud of our students who have stepped up, and increased their capacity to give back to the most vulnerable communities,” said Anna Davis, director of Pro Bono Programs at UCI Law. “We have more than 30 students who have taken on new projects just since the social distancing began.”

Over the course of their time at UCI Law, over 90-percent of students partake in pro bono projects. Usually a number of those students are volunteering at legal clinics, courthouses, and legal services offices ...

But social distancing has put a halt to that work. 

Now they’re getting more creative. This is thanks in part to UCI Law alumni who have sent over projects, or worked with their organizations to find projects for current students, Davis said.

Some of the work is related to COVID-19, and some is simply general legal casework. Examples include:

- Border X Project – students are helping with Humanitarian Parole requests to get individuals in detention centers, out as they are more susceptible to COVID-19. 

- City Council Comments – students are actively tracking city and county activity as it relates to COVID-19, and submitting public comment where it may adversely effect the homeless or housing insecure. 

- Document Delivery – students will be supporting legal services by delivering documents to seniors and the medically compromised, who are unable to go out to get their documents signed, or to pick up important legal papers.

- Research – students are conducting research for Community Legal Aid SoCal, Public Law Center, Public Counsel, Human Rights Initiative and Neighborhood Legal Services. The research relates to housing, probation, delinquency, immigration, and mental health. Some of this work is related to COVID-19 (effects on parental visitation in the dependency system during quarantine), while other work is broader (housing discrimination).

- Remote Clinics – earlier this month, students engaged in a remote legal clinic for transgender individuals, assisting with paperwork to request name and gender marker changes.  The clinic was all done remotely via Zoom thanks in large part to the flexibility of the supervising attorney, Stephen Hicklin.

UCI Law students have also stepped up deliver groceries and other necessities to those in need – like Olivia Meme who launched Orange County Grocery & Supply Delivery in order to get these goods to the elderly and others who need assistance.

“UCI Law has always been about innovation, and rolling with the punches – and we’re continuing to do that even now during these uncertain times,”  Davis said.

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