UCI Law Recognizes Community Partners with Pro Bono Awards

April 29, 2015

IRVINE, Calif., April 29, 2015 — UC Irvine School of Law presented Community Pro Bono Awards to the Public Law Center and to Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center attorney Michael Gaitley for their tireless work in helping the underrepresented and for providing UCI Law students with opportunities for pro bono service.

Community Pro Bono Awards allow UCI Law to recognize individuals and organizations that help advance the school’s commitment to serving the public interest. The Law School was founded on the idea that graduates would not only learn how to practice law, but also understand their professional obligation to use their legal skills to assist underserved communities. Since UCI Law opened, at least 90 percent of students have been engaged in public service, providing up to 10,000 hours of pro bono service to the community each year.

The Public Law Center (PLC) received the 2015 Pro Bono Partner Award for its support of the Domestic Violence Declarations Project. Twice a week, UCI Law students — supervised by attorney volunteers assembled by PLC — spend the morning at Lamoreaux Justice Center in Orange County, assisting self-represented litigants to prepare declarations for Temporary Restraining Order applications. UCI Law students have been providing ad hoc declaration preparation for litigants since 2010. Last year, however, PLC requested and was awarded a grant from the California Endowment; that funding allowed PLC to manage the project and provide more consistent services to domestic violence victims in the community. Since PLC took over the project last fall, the number of student volunteers increased from 95 to 134, resulting in 100 additional pro bono hours this academic year. As of April 10, the project has prepared declarations for 345 litigants.  

“The Public Law Center saw a strong need to provide support to domestic violence victims in Orange County, and they took action — securing a grant to fund a supervising attorney and improving the volunteer training process so that students are able to help even more clients,” said Anna Davis, UCI Law director of public interest programs. “Through PLC’s support, the Domestic Violence Declarations Project is making a tremendous difference in our community.”

Michael Gaitley, senior staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center in San Francisco, received the 2015 Pro Bono Advocate Award for initiating and directing the twice-monthly Worker’s Rights Clinic — Orange County’s first employment law clinic for low-income workers. Student volunteers assist clients on a wide range of issues, including discrimination, harassment, wage and hour, unemployment benefits and wrongful termination. Gaitley regularly travels from Northern to Southern California to train and supervise UCI Law students at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, coordinating additional training and supervision through local employment attorneys.

Davis says volunteers who have participated in the project rave about their experience, including a first-year UCI Law student who argued an administrative hearing and secured more than $45,000 in back wages for her client.

“Mike Gaitley has singlehandedly provided much needed legal services to low-income workers in Orange County,” said Davis. “And he has inspired dozens of UCI law students, teaching them important lessons about how to provide top-level legal services for the poor.”

In addition to presenting Community Awards, UCI Law also honored students who personify the school’s commitment to public service. In particular, the Class of 2015 was recognized for the following achievements:

  • More than 96 percent of the class was actively engaged in pro bono work at some time during law school.
  • Collectively the class completed more than 12,500 pro bono hours over the past three years.
  • Approximately 51 percent completed at least 120 pro bono hours; 36 members completed at least 200 hours, and four members logged more than 300 hours: Kelly Galligan (336), Alex Patterson (314), Amelia Alvarez (307) and Ryan Ueda (306).

A complete list of UCI Law Pro Bono Award recipients is available here.

About UC Irvine School of Law
UCI Law is a visionary law school focused on training talented and passionate lawyers and driven by professional excellence, intellectual rigor, and a commitment to enrich our communities through public service. UCI Law is a collegial environment, and our faculty comprises accomplished, nationally ranked thought leaders from around the country with a broad range of expertise. More about the Law School is available at law.uci.edu.