Forty Hours

Alex Verdegem is an LLS student blogger.

As I mentioned last year, every law student is required to complete forty hours of pro bono work to graduate. In my 1L year, I got an early start working over the winter break for a tenant advocacy firm, the Tenant’s Law Firm. Because I was a 1L, I was limited to claiming a maximum of ten hours, even though I actually worked closer to forty within the two-week break.

Last year, I completed the bulk of my hours, acting as a bailiff in Loyola’s National Civil Trial Competition. I acted as a timer and event coordinator over an entire weekend and was even credited for the time spent at the pro-competition party! The event added another 28 hours to my pro bono total.

This year I finished up my forty hours by working in a landlord/tenant law clinic. Loyola offers a wide variety of clinics from landlord/tenant to criminal justice to international refugee assistance. I am interested in real estate law and had not had much experience in residential real estate or landlord/tenant law since my volunteer work as a 1L. The good news about clinics is that it is a regular class for credit with instruction on the relevant area of law. The first half of the landlord/tenant clinic focused on the basics of landlord/tenant law and on the newly enacted regulations and prohibitions to address the pandemic. The bad news about clinics (for me anyway) is that each clinic requires each student to work 2 to 4 hours per week in addition to regular classes. The time commitment meant that I was not able to rejoin the Byrne Trial Team again this year.

During the pandemic, the city of Los Angeles, the state, the county and the CDC all enacted emergency regulations which prohibited evictions for failure to pay rent, though contrary to popular belief evictions for cause were still allowed. Tenants were, however, still required to pay all rents owed according to a pre-established timeline once the pandemic had ended. I (rather optimistically) guessed that the pandemic would have subsided enough by the fall semester of 2020 that housing would be a hot issue. My belief was that tenants and landlords would be busy negotiating repayment options and that there would be a glut of wrongfully evicted tenants as landlords reacted to eased evictions restrictions. Unfortunately, the pandemic had not subsided by the fall so I mostly spent the time cataloging the new pandemic laws into a new questionnaire for the clinic to use during client intakes. I did get to do one intake myself but it was far from the busy workload that I had expected. Nevertheless, I did learn a lot about landlord/tenant law and was able to complete my pro bono hours.

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