By Joseph Hernandez
The Pathway to Law School Program and the Mexican-American Bar Association partnered to give back to the community with a free legal advice clinic.
The Free Immigration and Post-Conviction Relief Clinic was open for anyone seeking legal advice whether they were students or community resident.
The PTLS is a program approved by the State Bar of California to provide a pathway for community college students attend to Law school. The PTLS provides students with the academic foundation necessary to successfully transfer and eventually enter into law school.
The Free Immigration and Post-Conviction Relief Clinic was not only meant to help people who needed legal advice, but also help students in PTLS by having them shadow a lawyer in the clinic and learn from them.
“It’s a great experience to get one-on-one with not only the lawyer and see how they give their free services to the community,” Austreburto Valencia, a student with the PTLS said.
Kenneth Chaiprasert said he hopes students takeaway how the lawyers have similar backgrounds as them and the importance of giving back to people.
“They [judges and lawyers] were in the same shoes as our students and look at them now, they are revolutionizing the legal field by making it more equitable, making it more reflective of who our community is.
“I want them to be the game changer of the legal profession and soon when they’re busy people come back and give back to the people who need free service,” Chaiprasert said.
The MABA is a organization that supports the Latino community by advocating the advancement of Latinos as legal professionals.
Their mission is to empower the Latino community through advocacy and education.
The MABA does a legal clinic for Immigration and Post-Conviction once a year. They hold the free clinics to prevent community members from being misled from incorrect information.
This year was the first clinic in partnership with the PTLS since MABA had contact with the director of the program, Chaiprasert.
“He[Chaiprasert] was the one who offered us this space and told us that he could help bring in members of the community so that we could give legal advice and help out some community members,” Secretary of MABA Lori Romero said.
Throughout the clinic, there weren’t many breaks for the lawyers as they had a new client to speak to by the minute.
The wait time for people to speak with a lawyer at the free clinic was about 15 minutes, which was mind-blowing to some, because the wait time is longer to speak with a paid lawyer.
This was best expressed by Fransisco Rodriguez, a member of the community who heard about the clinic from a friend.
At the clinic, he was already waiting to speak to a third lawyer who specializes in immigration to get more information about his case after speaking to post-conviction lawyers.
“Before coming to the clinic, I was seeing another lawyer and they were charging me $200 just to talk to them for 10 minutes. When you have a family, you don’t have enough money to spend on talking to a lawyer about your situation.
“So this is a good opportunity to talk to a lawyer. They already gave me some good information about my case,” Rodriguez said.
Chaiprasert said that the clinic was advertised far and wide with ELAC posting about it on social media. Univision promoted it on Channel 34, and it got promoted through the radio.
These promotions benefited the clinic, it lead to a large turn out of people attending the clinic.
At the end of the clinic, lawyers and a member of the MABA stayed to answer any final questions from the PTLS students. What followed was an exchange of gratitude from both sides.
Some lawyers shared some motivational words for the students to never give up and always persist through tough trials in their lives.
Chaiprasert thanked everyone from the MABA for taking time out of their schedule to participate in the clinic and if they want to hold another clinic at ELAC, they are welcome to.