Clinic Experience Inspires Career As Public Defender 

Loyola Project for the Innocent Claudia Garcia-Salas
Claudia Garcia-Salas '18

A paralegal for Children's Law Center of California, JD Evening student Claudia Garcia-Salas ’18 knew she wanted a career in public interest law. Her experience as a clinical law student in the Loyola Project for the Innocent (LPI) cemented her desire to become a public defender.

Q: How did your participation in your clinic make a difference in your Loyola education?

A: The classroom component of LPI helped me understand several major landmark cases and constitutional amendments discussed in my criminal procedure and constitutional law courses. It made a difference in my legal education overall because it gave me a better understanding of the kind law I would like to practice and the career I wanted.

Q: What has been the most memorable part of your experience?

A: Meeting some of my clients face to face and seeing how their cases progressed, and in some instances, obtaining a hearing or exoneration was an incredible experience. I am forever grateful to LPI Program Director Adam Grant, Professor Laurie Levenson and LPI Legal Director Paula Mitchell for trusting students with the crucial work that goes into every case. Their insight, dedication, and encouragement, made my clinical experience very special.

Q: What about your clinical experience surprised you?

A: I was surprised at the amount of actual “hands-on” work! I expected I would be sitting in an office organizing papers and conducting research. While, there is a lot of reading, mostly transcripts and police reports, I visited our clients in prison,  interviewed several family members and witnesses, investigated new leads, and prepared documents for court.

Q: How did it feel to put your classroom knowledge to work for clients?

A: Being able to apply case law and classroom discussions to real life situations made everything come together. It made the extensive late-night case briefing, margin writing and highlighting feel worth it.

Q: How has your clinical experience prepared you to be an attorney for others?

A: In my first year, a professor told us we must never forget that our casebooks are the stories of real people and real tragedies. I didn’t feel the impact of that statement until I worked with our clients. My experience ignited a desire to provide a legal voice to those who don’t have one and pursue a career in public defense.

Q: Finish this sentence: "If my time in the Loyola Social Justice Law Clinic has taught me anything ______”

A: It is that legal advocacy is at its most powerful and most meaningful when it is guided by compassion, care and concern for others.

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