Delegation from Philippines comes to USC Gould for guidance on clinical education, externships

Leslie Ridgeway • October 26, 2022
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Visit includes classroom observation, discussions with program leadership

Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor Henna Pithia, Professor Niels Frenzen, director, USC Gould Immigration Clinic and clinical director, and Preston Ascherin, director of externships and adjunct associate professor (back row) with the delegation.

Several members of a Philippine delegation of judges, law school deans and attorneys visited the USC Gould School of Law on Oct. 10 to learn more about Gould’s externship and clinical programs, in response to recently revised curriculum requirements handed down by the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

The full delegation of 16 visited the California area for a conference that brought together leading professionals in externships at the Pepperdine Caruso School of Law. The delegation reserved an extra day to meet with Professor Niels Frenzen, director of the USC Gould Immigration Clinic and clinical director, and Preston Ascherin, director of externships and adjunct associate professor at USC Gould. Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor Henna Pithia also met with the group to share her experience with the USC Gould International Human Rights Clinic. The delegation also briefly joined a seminar with Professor Deepika Sharma and students from the USC Gould Housing Law and Policy Clinic.

“They asked lots of questions, and they were interested in how students engage with the community,” said Ascherin, who spoke with the delegation about the options for pro bono work that often emerge for students who participate in externships and clinical work. “That seemed to resonate with the delegation. The thrust of their experiential component seems to get law students out to do good in the world, to make them competent lawyers with an emphasis on community.”

Preston Ascherin discusses experiential education at Gould with the group.

When the Philippine Supreme Court adopted and promoted the Revised Student Practice Rule in July 2019 as a required course in the curriculum to earn a law degree, the delegation began reaching out to American law schools for ideas, insights and best practices on creating and developing externship programs and client-specific legal aid clinics best suited for Philippine law schools. Delegation members said the fact-finding visit to USC Gould supports the Supreme Court’s goals to promote access to justice and social responsibility and to give students the skills needed to be responsible, ethical and competent upon entry into the profession.

“Our goal is not just to teach students about the law, but to teach students how to be lawyers,” said Rosanne Juliana R. Gonzaga, dean, University of St. La Salle College of Law in Bacolod City, Philippines. “The integration of the CLEP in the law curriculum shall serve as an avenue for social change as the primary clients would be persons from the marginalized sector who shall benefit from pro bono legal aid services. [Students] should be able to develop a law practice with a social conscience and at the same time, the capacity to continue to earn [money to] support a family.”

The delegation found USC Gould’s externship model worth emulating and the opportunity observe classes and interact with program leadership valuable.

“This visit affirms the path we are taking is the right path and gives us confidence [to] go on with what we are doing,” said Josefe C. Sorrera-Ty, commissioner of the Legal Education Board of the Republic of the Philippines.

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