Experiential Learning

Principles learned in the classroom applied to working actively with the community

To understand the theory of law, practice it. Thomas Jefferson School of Law has in-house law clinics for students to work with community members seeking pro bono work on a small scale. Meeting with people seeking answers to law challenges is one of the best ways to apply what you learn in the classroom to real-life scenarios, whether working on family or veteran issues or interning at local law office or public interest organization. This is one way to find out what segment of the law interests you. Many of these programs allow you to earn academic credit. Students can choose from clinics offering services to veterans, families, business entrepreneurs and artists.

Externship Program

Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s Externship program offers great opportunities for hands-on legal experience and academic credit at the same time. In fact, our externship program is ranked 18th in the nation based on the ratio of externships the school has placed and the number of full-time students. For total enrollment based on full-time and part-time students, TJSL is 5th in the nation. These rankings are based on data from the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, 2013 edition. In all, 441 Thomas Jefferson students, representing 61 percent of the student body, participated in externships in 2012.

Placement opportunities are plentiful and varied, ranging from traditional settings such as the United States Attorney’s Office to local biotech corporations to international settings like The Hague. We have externship placement opportunities in law firms of all sizes and practice areas and a number of opportunities at nonprofit, issue-focused organizations.

Students who have successfully completed the Evidence course, or are concurrently enrolled, can become certified law clerks and, thus, be able to make court appearances. Externships provide students an opportunity to develop and hone their research and writing skills. They also work closely with practicing attorneys, and have interactions with clients.

Externship areas of practice include civil litigation, corporate transactions, criminal prosecutions, criminal defense, tax, estate planning, immigration, family law, intellectual property and child welfare and custody.

Students also attend Externship classes and receive individual mentoring.

The Judicial Externship Program

Students participating in the Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s Judicial Externship Program have a unique opportunity to work in a judge’s chamber during their law school careers. Students can earn academic credit as they work for a Federal or California State Court Judge.

Students participate in judicial seminars, receive individual mentoring, have the opportunity to research, write and advise the court on a wide variety of legal issues, and observe courtroom proceedings. Students often have the chance to draft judicial opinions and to play a very special role within the judges’ chambers.

Thomas Jefferson students have been placed with federal judges, justices from the California Court of Appeal, the State Superior Court, the Probate Court, and the Family Court.

For more information on externships, students should contact the Externship and Pro Bono Programs Office.

Judybeth Tropp, Esq. jtropp@tjsl.edu, Director of Externships and Pro Bono Programs

Mediation Program

Thomas Jefferson School of Law is a community leader in immersing students in the art of conflict resolution. Students receive intensive training in mediation and then have the opportunity to gain experience working with real clients and cases in an actual courtroom setting.

Pro Bono Program

The Pro Bono Honors Program encourages community-based volunteer legal services projects working with underserved populations both in traditional and non-traditional legal settings.

Small Claims Self-Help Workshop

The Small Claims Self-Help Workshop provides free limited legal assistance for low- to moderate-income individuals and businesses with small claim issues.

Tax Clinic

The student-led Tax Law Society operates the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program of the IRS each spring and offers free income tax return preparation.

Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic

The Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic provides limited legal assistance, as well as full service legal representation, to the residents and alumni of Veterans Village of San Diego, a successful, residential program that provides housing, substance abuse, mental health, and job training services to formerly homeless veterans.

Veterans Self-Help Workshop

The Veterans Self-Help Workshop provides low- to moderate-income veterans with limited legal assistance during 30-minute consultations. Veterans have computer access to fill out legal forms and to conduct legal research.

Small Business Law Center

The Small Business Law Center supports community economic development in San Diego County by assisting entrepreneurs, artists, inventors, small businesses and non-profit organizations that do not have the financial means to hire an attorney. The Center includes:

  1. Art and Entertainment Law Project
  2. Nonprofit + Business Law Clinic
  3. Patent Clinic
  4. Trademark Clinic The patent and trademark clinics are certified by the United States Patent and Trademark Office