Summer Clinical Opportunities Respond to Increased COVID-19-Related Legal Needs in Unemployment and Bankruptcy

Professors Anne Wells (middle-left) and Gary Williams (middle-right) lead two new summer clinical opportunities at Public Counsel and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles (NLSLA).

This Spring, as the school year came to a close, our legal aid partners reported increased client need, and limited resources to expand services. Many LLS students wanted to use their summer to help clients affected by COVID-19, but had no prior experience in the relevant fields. LLS faculty quickly stepped in to bridge the gap, offering training and supervision. By June we’d created two new summer clinical opportunities. Professor Anne Wells supervised students working with Public Counsel on bankruptcy matters and research for clients affected by COVID-19. Other students, supported by Professors Gary Williams and Elizabeth Bluestein, with guest lectures from Adjunct Professor Jerry Flanagan (LLS ’10), assisted clients of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles (NLSLA)'s workers' rights program with unemployment insurance claims arising due to COVID-19 and related appeals.

NLSLA Supervising Attorney, Sandra Chung (LLS ’11), reports that the LLS students “helped to expand access to justice for individuals in dire need. They provided application assistance, EDD troubleshooting, and most importantly, client centered services. One student had the opportunity to represent a claimant before the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and successfully obtained a favorable result for the client. As a Loyola alumna, I am proud of Loyola's commitment to train and educate the next generation of leaders to bring about social justice.”

As a result of the success of the summer clinic, LLS and NLSLA have expanded the partnership, engaging students in externships during the 20-21 school year in preparation for starting a new Workers Rights Clinic which will enroll students for the first time in Fall 2021 to represent clients in matters including unemployment benefits, state disability insurance, leave issues, wage & hour and work safety issues related to COVID-19.

At Public Counsel, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney Maggie Bordeaux shares that the LLS students helped maintain continuity of service for clients during the pandemic.  “Due to the shelter in place orders we had to transition our walk-in bankruptcy services to a remote intake process where clients apply for assistance online.  With the added capacity provided by this great group of Loyola students, we were able to reopen our telephone hotline, with students conducting telephonic intake for clients who don’t have the technology to apply over the internet.”  As part of the summer experience, Bordeaux created a speaker series to introduce the students to practitioners and judges in the bankruptcy field, to supplement their research and client work.