Law student volunteers who participate in the Small Claims Clinic gain valuable hands-on legal experience that enables them to hone interviewing skills, identify issues and apply the law to the facts. They see first-hand how the small claims process works including how to ensure proper service, what paperwork should be presented to facilitate the hearing officer's understanding of a case, and other strategies for a successful claim. Prior to working with clients, students receive materials and training in case preparation and are encouraged to visit Small Claims Court to observe hearings
At the monthly Small Claims Court Clinic, volunteer attorneys and Southwestern law students conduct detailed educational workshops open to both plaintiffs and defendants. Following the one-hour workshop, litigants have the option to meet with a mediation representative to discuss mediation as an alternative option to Small Claims Court. Litigants also have the option to meet one-on-one with a volunteer to clarify procedural issues, ask additional questions, and prepare for their hearings. Litigants are seen on a “first come, first served” basis. With an average of 30 participants attending each workshop, the project has assisted over 2,500 litigants. Outreach efforts specifically target low-income Angelenos. The presentation and one-on-one meetings are conducted in both English and Spanish.
The Project is a collaborative effort of Southwestern, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, the law firms of Greenburg Glusker, Reed Smith and the Center for Conflict Resolution.
The Small Claims Court Clinic has been awarded the distinguished “Pro Bono Service Award” for “providing meaningful support to low and middle-income citizens accessing the small claims courts.”