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Immigration Clinic

Through the Immigration Clinic at Western State, students have the opportunity to do exactly what lawyers do in practice – represent real clients in real matters. Throughout the process, students receive close guidance and supervision from the Clinic Director, Professor Jennifer Lee Koh, who formerly taught at the Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, and Professor Sabrina Rivera, Clinic Staff Attorney.

The Western State Immigration Legal Clinic is a three-credit, one-semester course that provides students with hands-on skills training while responding to the pressing needs of immigrants in Orange County. Under faculty supervision, students represent immigrants who cannot otherwise afford legal representation before Citizenship and Immigration Services and in Immigration Court. In addition to their casework, students attend a weekly two-hour seminar focusing on lawyering skills and substantive immigration law.

Each student serves as the client’s primary representative. Under faculty supervision, they interview the clients, investigate and gather facts, research the relevant law, draft briefs and affidavits, file applications for relief and supporting documentation, and represent clients in immigration interviews and in court. Over the past three years, the Clinic has represented dozens of clients who have overcome experiences of domestic violence, human trafficking, persecution in their home countries, and sexual assault. The Clinic also collaborates with community-based organizations to protect and promote the rights of noncitizens in Orange County. The Clinic has taken a leading role in providing services to young people who came to the U.S. as children and has engaged in various community education efforts. As the primary advocates for their clients, students gain experience that translates into many areas of legal practice, including:

  • First-hand legal advocacy, under the direct supervision of an experienced faculty member.
  • Feedback from others and self-reflection, through the use of techniques and technology that encourage self-critique and peer review.
  • Practical lawyering skills, such as interviewing and counseling, fact investigation, case planning, legal research and writing, witness examination, and oral advocacy.
  • The opportunities to learn about their strengths and areas of growth and to develop their own professional values and goals.

WHAT DO STUDENTS SAY ABOUT THEIR CLINIC EXPERIENCE?

"The Immigration Clinic was the most rewarding experience I had during law school. I developed invaluable lawyer-client relationship skills and helped my clients achieve peace of mind about their legal matters. I also honed my writing, organization, time management and networking skills. Most importantly, I gained the confidence to know that not only could I be successful in law school but that I would be better prepared as a young attorney because of my experience in the Clinic."

Iris Franco
Class of 2014

"The Immigration Clinic was one of my greatest experiences in law school. It helped me to develop and apply lawyering skills and techniques through representing clients in complex immigration matters. In the Immigration Clinic, I was responsible for my case from its beginning to its completion. As a student attorney in the Clinic, I performed client interviewing, case planning, fact investigating, counseling, legal writing, and oral advocacy – which are fundamental lawyering skills I will carry over into practice."

Sonya Nevarez
Class of 2014

"Classrooms teach you the law and how think critically. The Clinic teaches you how to work compassionately with clients and about the impact you can have on your community."

Angel Lalama
Class of 2014

"Western State's Immigration Clinic is a wonderful opportunity to practically apply immigration laws and hone critical thinking and writing skills while actually making a difference in the lives of non-citizens. The Clinic was the highlight of my law school experience, and through it I was able to meet amazing people, actually help an underserved population, and grow not only as a law student, but also as a person."

Kristalyn Bautista
Class of 2014

People with immigration clinic

Fall 2014 Immigration Clinic Students

The Immigration Clinic students collectively reflect experience this semester on a wide range of immigration work

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The Immigration Clinic students collectively reflect experience this semester on a wide range of immigration work: bond hearings, detention work, asylum, U visas, adjustment of status, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Violence Against Women Act self-petitioning, and defenses to deportation. They have worked on behalf of survivors of political persecution, rape, domestic violence, kidnapping, and sexual assault, and confronted the effects of racial profiling, drug addiction, gang violence, and immigration detention in their Clinic work this semester.

Immigration Clinic students stand together

People with immigration clinic

Immigration Clinic and Law Review Host Panel on Migration of Unaccompanied Minors from Central America

Western State Immigration Clinic and Western State University Law Review hosted a guest speaker panel to address the surge of migration from Central America

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On October 22, 2014, the Western State Immigration Clinic and Western State University Law Review hosted a guest speaker panel to address the surge of migration from Central America that has taken place at the US-Mexico border since the summer of 2014.

The panel was comprised of Kris Jackson, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney at Public Counsel Law Center and adjunct professor at UCLA Law School; Cynthia Lucas, partner at Lucas & Barba and the past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association Southern California Chapter, and Prof. Jennifer Lee Koh, Director of the Western State Immigration Clinic. The panel addressed a range of policy and legal issues, including the legal framework governing the treatment of unaccompanied minors; the rise of family detention; the right to counsel in the immigration system; and immigration courts' response to the surge in Central American migration.

The event was also co-sponsored by the Public Interest Law Foundation, Latino Student Bar Association, Orange County Bar Association Immigration Law Section, and American Immigration Lawyers Association Southern California Chapter.

3 women sit at a desk

People with immigration clinic

Clinic Students Raise Community Awareness in Immigration Fraud

On April 12, 2014, Immigration Clinic students Sonya Nevarez, Raul Saldana and Gloria Kim delivered a community education on immigration and notario fraud at the El Modena Family Resource Center

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On April 12, 2014, Immigration Clinic students Sonya Nevarez, Raul Saldana and Gloria Kim delivered a community education on immigration and notario fraud at the El Modena Family Resource Center, a community-based social services organization located in Orange, California.

Sonya, Raul and Gloria researched the problem of immigration fraud, developed all of the presentation materials, gave the presentation and fielded questions from audience members.

"By working on this project, I developed an awareness of the dangers of notario fraud in immigrant communities, and also learned how I as a future lawyer can help prevent people from getting taken advantage of," said Sonya, a third year law student enrolled in the Clinic. " I also honed my oral presentation and advocacy skills."

As students in the Immigration Clinic, Sonya, Raul and Gloria have also been representing clients in efforts to seek political asylum (for survivors of persecution abroad) and U visas (for certain crime victims in the United States). In addition to individual presentation, Clinic students regularly engage in community education and advocacy work that seeks to advance the human rights of noncitizens in the area.

Students stand together

People with immigration clinic

Immigration Law Students Tour US-Mexico Border

Sixteen Western State law students who have been studying immigration law traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Sixteen Western State law students who have been studying immigration law traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to witness firsthand the growth of border enforcement along the southern border.

"Participating in the border trip was an amazing opportunity that gave me unique insight into the agency and the realities of what we have been learning in the law school," stated Jossiel Moreira (’14), a Western State third year who is taking the survey Immigration Law class, and has represented several clients this year through the Immigration Clinic and Advanced Immigration Clinic.

The day-long trip, organized by Professor Jennifer Koh (who teaches immigration law and directs the law school’s on-site immigration clinic), also exposed students to multiple perspectives on border enforcement. First, in the morning, U.S. Border Patrol agents provided students with a guided tour of the U.S.-Mexico border near San Ysidro, California. Students rode in U.S. Border Patrol vans, walked along an "enforcement zone" (not accessible to the public) between border fence and the U.S.-Mexico border, and spoke extensively with Border Patrol agents about the challenges of monitoring the U.S.-Mexico border. Later that afternoon, students explored human rights critiques of current border policies through a visit with the founders of The Water Station, a non-profit humanitarian organization that provides water to migrants who risk death and dehydration when crossing the desert.

This spring, Western State announced the creation of an Immigration Law Certificate, which students may obtain through the completion of -- and success in -- a combination of required coursework, practical skills training, elective courses, and pro bono work.

Students stand together

People with immigration clinic

Law Students Win Release From Detention For Clients in Immigration Court Bond Hearings

Kristalyn Bautista and Angel Lalama, third-year law students participating in the Advanced Immigration Clinic, each represented a client detained under the federal immigration laws.

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Kristalyn Bautista and Angel Lalama, third-year law students participating in the Advanced Immigration Clinic, each represented a client detained under the federal immigration laws. Their efforts led to release or release on bond for their respective clients.

Kristalyn Bautista and Angel Lalama represented their respective clients in November before the Los Angeles Immigration Court in bond hearings, to convince an Immigration Judge that the clients were neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community. Both students’ performances – which included direct examinations and closing arguments – produced amazing results for the clients: in Kris's case, her HIV+ client was released on an ankle bracelet and was released in time to spend Thanksgiving with his family. Angel's client was given a bond, which the family is working to meet it so that the client can come home to his wife and family. Both clients will continue to fight their deportations in immigration court, but the results of the bond hearings will enable them to do so while not being physically incarcerated in an immigration detention facility. Said Kris: "This was the best experience of my law school career." Angel stated "I never imagined being able to help people with their real cases while still in law school".

Both law students were supervised in these cases by Prof. Munmeeth Soni, staff attorney at the Public Law Center and Adjunct Professor in the Western State Immigration Clinic.

Two people stand together

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