In 2000, Professor Barry Adams pursued a vision of creating an Elder Law Clinic at Empire College School of Law through which law students would provide free legal services to senior citizens in Sonoma County and surrounding areas. The clinic has been a tremendous success with students learning the nuances of the letter of the law while being exposed to the infectious passion modeled by Professor Adams. Former student Vanessa Nisson (Class of 2007) enjoyed her opportunity to participate in the clinic. “Under the direction and guidance of Professor Barry Adams, I learned what the spirit of service feels like.”
PASSING THE TORCH
Chris Carver was one of Professor Adams’ first students. Chris graduated with Cum Laude honors from Empire Law School in 2005. After completing the class, Chris continued to work at the clinic as a volunteer while still in school. Recognizing Chris’s knowledge of the law and his compassion while working with the clients, Professor Adams invited Chris to serve as the Assistant Clinical Director. Through tremendous dedication, Chris has continued to help senior citizens every Thursday for the past five years. Lead by Chris, many graduates of the law school continue to return to the clinic to volunteer their time even though they have set out on their busy legal careers.
According to Chris, “Giving back is something that I have believed in my entire life. The Elder Law Clinic has allowed me to assist people when they are truly in need. The senior citizens as well as the students that I have assisted over the years continually show their appreciation and gratitude for the help. Every week upon leaving the Clinic, I feel that I have done something good for someone in need, which in turn makes me feel really good.” Kathleen Castro (Class of 2005) echoes the sentiment expressed by Chris. “I continued working at the Elder Law Clinic because I enjoyed helping people who had nowhere else to turn for legal advice.”
THE NEXT GENERATION
Chris ad the other volunteers assist senior citizens with a variety of matters including preparation of durable powers of attorney for health care, applications for Medi-Cal benefits, temporary restraining orders, probate related issues and consumer fraud. As Elder Law advocates, the students make telephone calls, complete extensive legal research, and write letters to aid senior citizens with problems such as errors in billing, banking mistakes, social security disputes, and landlord/tenant issues.
In the past nine years, over 150 students have worked in the clinic. They have volunteered more than 6,000 hours of assistance. Ms. Nisson continues, “Working with the esteemed elders of the North Bay gave true meaning to my life during law school.”
2008 graduate, Zachary Carroll, summarized his experience as follows, “I have lived in the area my whole life and I enjoy giving back to the community by helping those in need. Every week I have an opportunity to help people with unique legal issues.” Since the inception, students have worked with over 3,000 senior citizens. In addition to mentoring the students on the law, Chris Carver shares his devotion and cheerful spirit with the students he oversees. Maggie Brothers (Class of 2009) also continues to volunteer time at the clinic after graduation. According to Maggie, “I have volunteered at the Elder Law Clinic over the past two years because I am committed to helping seniors with legal advice and direction. With our support and legal insight, people regain a sense of calmness and control over the issue facing them. To me, that’s very rewarding.”