By Andrew Cohen
In celebration of its 25th anniversary, the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) has launched an ambitious $1 million Fund for the Future campaign, in partnership with the Berkeley Law Foundation. The two-year initiative will provide seed funding for a permanent in-house postgraduate fellowship and enhance the center’s client services.
Sixty percent of fund contributions will support the fellowship program, while forty percent will be dedicated to high-tech upgrades, such as: mobile technology to achieve more efficient client intake and counseling; flexible satellite sites closer to clients, courts, and community services; and a “mobile law office” that delivers legal information, counseling, and advocacy where needed.
“If successful, the Fund for the Future campaign will enhance EBCLC’s service and teaching missions,” Executive Director Tirien Steinbach ’99 said. “It will also continue our tradition of innovation and evolution to meet the growing needs of both our clients and students.”
Since its 1988 founding by Berkeley Law students, the center has served more than 65,000 clients and trained more than 1,200 students through the law school’s community-based clinical program.
The center first assisted low-income clients on housing and welfare issues. It has since become the East Bay’s largest provider of free legal services—and a nationally recognized poverty law clinic—by adding programs in health, immigration, prisoner reentry, consumer law, homeless rights, community economic development, policy advocacy, and youth education.
“As a law intern and even as an alum, I assumed EBCLC was fully funded by the law school,” said Nery Castillo-McIntyre ’10, the center’s pro bono and communications coordinator. “Only after becoming a staff member did I learn that EBCLC raises 75 percent of its funds from individual donors, foundations, firms, and other supporters. This fund is an opportunity to reach out to alums—to inspire them to stay connected and become supporting members of the EBCLC community—and to ensure that the program is here for future law students and clients.”
The two-year fellowship will be awarded to a Berkeley Law graduate to develop a new clinical program at EBCLC. The Berkeley Law Foundation (BLF) is funding the initial fellowship’s first year, and EBCLC will fund its second year and both years of subsequent fellowships.
Ten years ago, a grant from BLF helped Steinbach cultivate a new EBCLC program—the Clean Slate Practice. Focused on the intersection of criminal and civil law for marginalized East Bay residents, the practice has since been replicated in counties across California.
In fall 2011, EBCLC launched its Green-Collar Communities Clinic to help low-income workers and entrepreneurs incubate cooperative and environmentally-sustainable business ventures, while engaging law students in hands-on transactional work.
This past fall, EBCLC established a Policy Advocacy Clinic to address chronic needs in its client community. Clinic projects are selected in consultation with the center’s practice directors, community leaders, and other stakeholders. Supervised by Faculty Director Jeffrey Selbin, students take part in bill drafting, negotiation and lobbying, administrative rulemaking, and public education and media campaigns for local, state, and federal initiatives.
EBCLC’s continued growth and outreach “enhances the law school’s public mission,” said Selbin, “and strengthens one of the most robust and fruitful community partnerships in all of legal education.”