January 10, 2024

John Heisler

St. Andrew Legal Clinic
Portland, Oregon

This past summer I worked as a law clerk for St. Andrew Legal Clinic (SALC), which primarily offers legal representation to low-income families in crisis. They help families with adoption, child custody, child support, divorce, domestic violence protection, guardianship, and spousal support. SALC’s work helps abuse victims get legal protection by securing restraining orders. They help potential parents through the adoption process, which connects children in need with loving homes. They help people through the emotionally and financially stressful experience of divorce. They help individuals who wish to be guardians navigate the guardianship process, which helps minors and adults in need of protection. These are situations that members from every economic class will experience, and SALC seeks to ensure that people with limited resources will not be barred from the legal help they need. SALC specifically focuses on “bridging the gap” between economic resources and legal aid, so they specifically focus on helping clients with modest means. 50% of their clients make less than $1,400/month, and 45% of their clients belong to marginalized groups from underrepresented backgrounds. SALC exists to further equity in the field of legal representation; it is baked into the purpose of the organization. Access to the legal system should not only be available to the rich. When access to justice depends on monetary resources, then there is no justice at all. SALC seeks to correct this problem.

As a law clerk, I helped the staff attorneys with various tasks through every step of the legal process. I performed research and drafted memos, prepared discovery, assisted with client interviews, drafted pleadings, and performed many other tasks depending on the needs of the attorneys. I also had the opportunity to attend court hearings on a regular basis and watch the attorneys stand up and fight for the rights of their clients, which was always inspiring. As a nonprofit organization with limited resources, SALC could only offer me the clerk position on a volunteer basis. Without PILP funding, I could not have afforded to volunteer my summer with SALC. I came to Lewis and Clark so that I could pursue a career in public-interest law and make a positive impact on our community, and I’m so grateful to PILP for giving me that chance this past summer.