Serve Community Needs for Social Justice
While Studying Law
The Center provides students with a legal education that instills a commitment to social justice, public interest, and public service. While not all attorneys specialize in this area, the opportunity to serve others is an important experience in your legal education.
The Center for Social Justice and Public Service at Santa Clara Law is dedicated to its mission of promoting and enabling a commitment to social justice through law. The Center emphasizes the use of law to improve the lives of marginalized, subordinated, or underrepresented clients and causes. Community-building events increase the visibility of social justice on campus and facilitate connections within the social justice community. The Center’s role includes:
- Facilitating and promoting the social justice research, teaching, and service of faculty
- Sponsoring extracurricular events for the local community to enhance awareness and
advance education about social justice issues;
- Promoting student social justice legal education and pro bono service opportunities;
- Supporting clinical education;
- Reviewing and administering the Public Interest and Social Justice Law Certificate Program; and
- Promoting the next generation of social justice practitioners through the educational
pipeline that leads to law school.
Student Opportunities in Social Justice Law
- Social Justice Certificate
- Pro-Bono Recognition Program
- Wildman Writing Award
- Public Interest Summer Grants
- Environmental Jusice Law & Advocacy
Interested to see where a career in Social Justice Law can take you?
Furthering Social Justice through Experiential Learning
Santa Clara Law provides a number of experiential learning opportunities for its students, which allow students to gain invaluable practical legal skills. They also have the added benefit of allowing students to participate actively in social justice. Our experiential learning offerings include the law school’s in-house clinics, as well as some of our externship placements, both in the United States and internationally.
Santa Clara’s law clinics are actual law offices that serve under-represented individuals. In the clinics, law students represent clients in ongoing cases under the supervision of a clinical professor. The students provide invaluable, life-changing service to clients who otherwise could not obtain counsel. At the same time, the clinics give our students an invaluable opportunity to put their legal training to work and to gain critical lawyering skills in interviewing, counseling, preparation of case documents, and court appearances. Many students say that their clinical work was the most meaningful part of their law-school experience and that it changed forever the way that they thought about and approach the law. Santa Clara Law is extremely proud of our students’ contribution to the community and to their clients through their clinic work.
The work our students do in the clinics includes:
- Obtaining exonerations for wrongfully convicted individuals and promoting a just and compassionate criminal justice system, through the Northern California Innocence Project.
- Representing individuals seeking review of removal orders before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in the Immigration Appellate Practice Clinic.
- Litigating human rights issues and representing victims of human rights violations both domestically and internationally, through the International Human Rights Clinic.
- Providing incalculably important legal services in the areas of immigration, consumer protection, and workers’ rights, through the Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center.
In addition, we are very proud of the initiative shown by Santa Clara Law faculty, staff, and students in designing projects to address specific community needs. A primary example is the series of Second Chances programs, which has resulted in innovative tools to aid individuals in obtaining expungements of old criminal convictions. A second is the Bridges to Justice advice clinics organized each semester by Santa Clara Law faculty and staff to provide information and referrals to under-represented individuals. These responsive measures are a striking demonstration of the Santa Clara Law community’s commitment to social justice and of our students’ determination to put their legal training to use for the good of their world.
Law Firm Partners
Santa Clara Law has started a new initiative partnering with local law firms to establish named Public Interest Fellowships. These fellowships, through the generosity of local law firms, support Santa Clara Law students who work during the summer in unpaid public interest internships for.
First and second year law students secure public interest summer jobs that provide them an opportunity to learn and develop practical skills while providing much needed services to underserved populations in our community. These placements include death penalty defense, fair housing, LGBTQ services, immigration work, police accountability, and numerous other positions. Each law firm partner provides a summer grant of $5,000 that is paid directly to the student to help defray their basic expenses as they perform in these non-paying, public service roles.
Several Bay Area firms who employ some of our best Santa Clara Law Alumni, have decided to participate and to support our students and also our community. These include Fenwick and West, Hoge Fenton, and Cooley LLP. This partnership is critical.
Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize
The first Alexander Law Prize was presented in March 2008 and has been awarded annually since. This award was made possible through the generosity of Katharine & George Alexander to bring recognition to legal advocates who have used their legal careers to help alleviate injustice and inequity.
Past award winners include Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Emily Arnold-Fernández, Executive Director of Asylum Access, and Jessica Jackson JD ’11, national director and co-founder of DreamCorps #cut50, a bi-partisan national initiative to reduce the prison population by 50 percent. Read more.
News & Events
- Social Justice Events Calendar
- Center for Social Justice Blog
- 2021 Spring Break Virtual Border Service Project
- 2020 Social Justice Graduation
- 2020 Border Trip Immersion Blog
- Law Clinics in the Time of Covid-19 – a blog series
- 2019 Border Immersion Trip Blog
- 2nd Chances Empathy Hackathon
- Faculty News
- Grillo Retreat