Wells Fargo Foundation supports business development of new attorneys through $10,000 award to OC Incubator Program

Wells Fargo Foundation_photo

September 13, 2016


SANTA ANA, CA (September 13, 2016). The Wells Fargo Foundation has awarded the Legal Aid Society of Orange County (LASOC) $20,000 in program funding, $10,000 of which will go to LASOC’s Lawyer Entrepreneur Assistance Program (LEAP) to support the development, training, and mentorship of new lawyers in Orange County.

An incubator hub for Orange County law schools – Chapman University Fowler School of Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law, Western State College of Law, and Whittier Law School – the LEAP program provides solo practitioners with real, hands on experience in practicing law.

The gap between law school classrooms and running a solo law practice is far and wide. New attorneys are rarely given opportunities to effectively practice law and often enter the market with little to no legal work experience. LEAP addresses the challenges faced by new solo practitioners by providing invaluable practical training on how to successfully open and manage their own firms. LEAP participants work on real cases from start to finish, and also have direct access to experienced attorneys, retired and sitting judges, and law school clinical professors who share their insights and knowledge of the legal field.

“Participating in LEAP bridges the gap between law school theory to practicing attorney,” explains Raj Matani, Civil Litigation Attorney and past LEAP participant. “There has been no replacement for ‘learning by doing,’ while having the security of established attorneys and former judicial officers as resources.”

LASOC requested funding through the Wells Fargo Foundation to further develop and refine its LEAP program by strengthening its mentor network of the private bar, improving practical training resources and multimedia tools, and refining its infrastructure to enhance the quality and efficiency of pro bono and modest means legal services in Orange County.

“The Wells Fargo Foundation’s support for our program allows us to increase our capacity for training, supervision, and mentoring,” says LEAP Staff Attorney, Bill Tanner. “We are training our next generation of attorneys by fostering entrepreneurship and providing the roadmap for new graduates to make a living as a new attorney.”

“At Wells Fargo, a major focus is supporting small business. Developing attorneys for small business law firms through mentoring and business support allows us to back economic growth at a local level,” says Greater Orange County President Keith Kobata. “I am proud to be a part in keeping Main Street thriving and finding solutions for entrepreneurs.”

The mentorship portion of the program is a key feature that distinguishes the LEAP program from the typical pro bono model of referring cases to volunteers with limited oversight or continuous involvement. It is also mutually beneficial to the seasoned attorneys who are eager to pass their knowledge on to the young entrepreneurs.

“As soon as I started interacting with the interns, I realized how fortunate I was to have received my formal training and how that is missing today,” says LEAP mentor and volunteer attorney, Doug Davidson. “I started thinking about how people get training and how they figure out how to be better lawyers. I wanted to help move the needle forward.” With over 40 years of legal experience, ranging from business law to real estate law, Doug is just one of 26 mentors that work closely with the LEAP attorneys on a day-to-day basis.

In 2015, 40 LEAP attorneys provided 4,000+ hours of training and pro bono service, assisted over 600 litigants, and represented over 300 clients, which resulted to 132 court decisions. Minus just a handful, almost all of the past LEAP participants continue to operate and manage their own practices.

“We have big plans for this incubator program,” says Tanner. “Our goal is to develop an Incubator Toolkit to allow our model to be replicated among other legal aid organizations nation-wide.”


Editorial Contact:

Iris Ma, Director of Fund Development
Legal Aid Society of Orange County, 2101 North Tustin Avenue, Santa Ana, CA 92705
irisma@legal-aid.com | 714.571.5220

About the Legal Aid Society of Orange County

Since 1958, the Legal Aid Society of Orange County has provided free legal aid services to our community’s most vulnerable: veterans, the elderly, the homeless, families, and low-income individuals. Our mission is to support equal access to the justice system.