Ateneo Legal Services Center: Experiential learning at its best

August 31, 2016

For some law students, participating in a moot court — a simulated court proceeding where students present their oral arguments before an appellate court — is the closest they can get to watch the law in action. 

Students at the Ateneo Law School (ALS), however, not only assist lawyers in handling cases but also get to appear in an actual court through the Clinical Legal Education Program (CLED). The program, supervised by the Ateneo Legal Services Center (ALSC) gives law students a taste of their future: conducting client interviews, consultations, research, preparation of court pleadings and motions, examination of witnesses, and trial advocacy.
“ALSC, through CLED, is the primary venue for experiential learning for the law students. ALSC gives face and life to the provisions of law that the students only read about,” says Atty. Axel Rupert Cruz, ALSC’s executive director. An ALS alumnus who specializes in civil, criminal, and administrative litigation and alterative dispute resolutions, Cruz is right at home at ALSC, the university’s legal aid center.

ALSC trains students through experiential learning (Photo from ALSC)

ALSC traces its roots to 1990 when law students created the Ateneo Legal Aid Society (ALAS) to give legal counsel to individuals unable to afford the services of a lawyer.  The Ateneo Human Rights Center housed the ALAS office then. By 2004, ALAS became a separate body and its name was changed to the Ateneo Legal Services Center or ALSC. Atty. Gilbert Sembrano and Atty. Giovanni Vallente became ALSC’s first co-directors.

In the succeeding years, CLED became an important component of ALSC. The center also signed a memorandum of agreement with the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to allow ALSC student-interns in assisting PAO lawyers. In 2014, ALSC and the Ateneo Law Student Council had gathered about 200 students to volunteer with the Human Rights Victims Claims Board.   ALSC student volunteers were able to assist an estimated 2000 claimants.

“We believe that true learning can only be gained through experience,” says Cruz. ALSC, he adds has 2 functions: provide free legal assistance to destitute clients and train law students through experiential learning. It is a revelation, as students are able to get their feet wet in what the job entails.

ALSC gives students the opportunity to conduct client interviews, do research, prepare court pleadings and motions, and examine witness. (Photo from ALSC)


 

 “The students also feel empowered as they are treated as associates in a law firm. They get to experience how to be responsible for someone else’s life, which is something they don’t get from other electives or subjects, and also something that not all students get to experience,” says Cruz. There is nothing like taking their learning to practice, with the result possibly changing someone else’s future. “Law is taught on a per topic basis but CLED allows students to process and synthesize all they have learned, tying things together.”

ALSC currently has 20 volunteer lawyers, most of whom were former CLED students, Cruz notes. Given the relationship that these students have with their clients, it is also not surprising to find students continuing to handle cases previously assigned to them once these students become lawyers.

The men and women of ALSC (Photo from ALSC)

As Cruz explains, “In the course of handling the case when they were still students, they formed a relationship of trust with the client, that the client themselves would prefer the same lawyer [former student] to continue handling the case.”  Presently, two former CLED students continue to oversee their old clients’ cases.

Aside from helping the students gain more confidence in their chosen career, Cruz says that the most rewarding part of being in ALSC is when clients become empowered, when they “gain confidence and learn not to be overwhelmed by their problem.”

“The ALSC experience shapes how students see themselves, other people, especially the marginalized, as well as the   legal profession. We complement the ALS’ thrust in forming the right attitude and character of our graduates by instilling responsible conduct, perseverance, compassion, and diligence,” says Cruz.

To advance ALSC’s mission, the center has formed a partnership with the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center. The collaboration encompasses the provision of additional training as well as assistance to the selected students.

”ALSC is also forging a partnership with the Philippine Institute of Arbitrators for assistance in training of mediators and setting up of a mediation center,” Cruz says.

Know more about the Ateneo Legal Services Center
 

News Archive

  • Ateneo Legal Services Center: Experiential learning at its best
    Wednesday, August 31, 2016

    For some law students, participating in a moot court — a simulated court proceeding where students present their oral arguments before an appellate court — is the closest they can get to watch the law in action. 

    Students at the Ateneo Law School (ALS), however, not only assist lawyers in handling cases but also get to appear in an actual court through the Clinical Legal Education Program (CLED). The program, supervised by the Ateneo Legal Services Center (ALSC) gives law students a taste of their future: conducting client interviews, consultations, research, preparation of court pleadings and motions, examination of witnesses, and trial advocacy.
    “ALSC, through CLED, is the primary venue for experiential learning for the law students. ALSC gives face and life to the provisions of law that the students only read about,” says Atty. Axel Rupert Cruz, ALSC’s executive director. An ALS alumnus who specializes in civil, criminal, and administrative litigation and alterative dispute resolutions, Cruz is right at home at ALSC, the university’s legal aid center.

    ALSC trains students through experiential learning (Photo from ALSC)

    ALSC traces its roots to 1990 when law students created the Ateneo Legal Aid Society (ALAS) to give legal counsel to individuals unable to afford the services of a lawyer.  The Ateneo Human Rights Center housed the ALAS office then. By 2004, ALAS became a separate body and its name was changed to the Ateneo Legal Services Center or ALSC. Atty. Gilbert Sembrano and Atty. Giovanni Vallente became ALSC’s first co-directors.

    In the succeeding years, CLED became an important component of ALSC. The center also signed a memorandum of agreement with the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to allow ALSC student-interns in assisting PAO lawyers. In 2014, ALSC and the Ateneo Law Student Council had gathered about 200 students to volunteer with the Human Rights Victims Claims Board.   ALSC student volunteers were able to assist an estimated 2000 claimants.

    “We believe that true learning can only be gained through experience,” says Cruz. ALSC, he adds has 2 functions: provide free legal assistance to destitute clients and train law students through experiential learning. It is a revelation, as students are able to get their feet wet in what the job entails.

    ALSC gives students the opportunity to conduct client interviews, do research, prepare court pleadings and motions, and examine witness. (Photo from ALSC)


     

     “The students also feel empowered as they are treated as associates in a law firm. They get to experience how to be responsible for someone else’s life, which is something they don’t get from other electives or subjects, and also something that not all students get to experience,” says Cruz. There is nothing like taking their learning to practice, with the result possibly changing someone else’s future. “Law is taught on a per topic basis but CLED allows students to process and synthesize all they have learned, tying things together.”

    ALSC currently has 20 volunteer lawyers, most of whom were former CLED students, Cruz notes. Given the relationship that these students have with their clients, it is also not surprising to find students continuing to handle cases previously assigned to them once these students become lawyers.

    The men and women of ALSC (Photo from ALSC)

    As Cruz explains, “In the course of handling the case when they were still students, they formed a relationship of trust with the client, that the client themselves would prefer the same lawyer [former student] to continue handling the case.”  Presently, two former CLED students continue to oversee their old clients’ cases.

    Aside from helping the students gain more confidence in their chosen career, Cruz says that the most rewarding part of being in ALSC is when clients become empowered, when they “gain confidence and learn not to be overwhelmed by their problem.”

    “The ALSC experience shapes how students see themselves, other people, especially the marginalized, as well as the   legal profession. We complement the ALS’ thrust in forming the right attitude and character of our graduates by instilling responsible conduct, perseverance, compassion, and diligence,” says Cruz.

    To advance ALSC’s mission, the center has formed a partnership with the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center. The collaboration encompasses the provision of additional training as well as assistance to the selected students.

    ”ALSC is also forging a partnership with the Philippine Institute of Arbitrators for assistance in training of mediators and setting up of a mediation center,” Cruz says.

    Know more about the Ateneo Legal Services Center