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Elder Law Clinic

Enhance your legal education with Empire College’s School of Law California Elder Law Clinic.

Our Elder Law Clinic in Sonoma County is an elective class that enables second-, third- and fourth-year law students to gain experience by working under the supervision of a practicing lawyer. Elder Law clinics in California provide free legal services for senior citizens and needy persons in the Sonoma County community.

Since opening in 2000, Supervising Attorneys Barry Adams and Lauren Gardner, along with Empire law students, have served more than 2,200 clients in the preparation of legal documents and as advocates in a variety of matters. Examples include:

Legal Documents

Durable powers of attorney for health care
Durable powers of attorney for finances
Credit problem letters
Banking dispute letters
Consumer fraud issues


Errors in billing
Banking mistakes
Interpreting court minutes
Eviction notices and landlord/tenant disputes
Social Security disputes
Deceptive vendors
Expungement information
Collecting small claims judgments
Probate information

NOTE: During Spring Semester, our Elder Law Clinic in Northern California will be held on Tuesdays at 4:15 p.m. at the Silvercrest Senior Living Residence, 1050 Third Street, Santa Rosa. Phone messages may be left at 707-736-6150.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), effective March 16, 2020 until further notice, the Elder Law Clinic will be closed for in-person interviews. Phone messages will continue to be monitored and responded to.

“I know that most of us are more than a little tired of being treated like silly old folks. These students do not talk down to you; i.e, they are not condescending. In my case, they are helping me to write a will (at my tender age of nearly 70!). They seem to have a wide range of knowledge. Those of us who have used the services are pleased with the help.”
- Esther Hybert

Disability Law Clinic

Our Disability Law Clinic in California helps our students gain real-world experience.

A collaborative effort between Disability Services and Legal Center (DSLC) and Empire College School of Law, our California Disability Law Clinic provides students the opportunity to participate in all areas of case development, from client interviews to court appearances. In these elective clinical training courses in California, students receive clinical training in Federal and California Disability Law. Each student is responsible for handling several cases within the area of Administrative Law.

Under the supervision of Law Professor Adam Brown, third- and fourth-year students represent clients before a Federal or State Administrative Law Judge. They conduct research, write legal briefs, interview clients, and argue their cases before the Judge. Disability Law clinical training gives students the experience of handling real cases on behalf of real clients and provides an exceptional learning experience for the students while benefiting those in need.

If you want to earn your education and gain firsthand experience in our Disability Law Clinic in Northern California, contact us today.

“The nice thing for me is that I was able to help somebody who probably couldn't otherwise afford legal representation. It absolutely changed my client's life.”
- Don Brown

Immigration Law Clinic

Explore our Sonoma County pro bono Immigration Law Clinic.

This pro bono legal clinic is staffed by second-, third- and fourth-year law students from Empire College School of Law. Assisting them are students from the college’s paralegal program for bilingual translation, as well as other services. These quality pro bono legal services are for individuals and families who are otherwise unable to afford it.

This is the fifth pro bono legal clinic in Sonoma County offered by Empire College School of Law since 2000. Previous clinics have covered elder law, disability law, family law and small claims law.

The new clinic, in partnership with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, assists people in obtaining a new category of visa which was authorized by Congress as part of the 2000 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.

People who qualify for this type of visa must prove to their legal representatives that they have been a victim of a crime, that they have suffered substantial physical or mental harm, and that they have assisted law enforcement in prosecuting the crime.

“We have been so pleased with their quality that we've hired only Empire students for years. The results have been splendid for us and our clerks. The students have written wonderful legal briefs that have been used by the California Supreme Court in Three Strikes cases, have tried jury trials in our local courts, and have made a tremendous contribution to my office.”
- Bruce Kinnison, Sonoma County Chief Deputy Public Defender, Professor of Criminal Law

Small Claims

Earn college credit by volunteering at a small claims court in Northern California.

In December 2005, Empire College School of Law took on the advisory role for the Sonoma County Small Claims Court. The free service, mandated by the county for users of the court, is overseen by Professor Murray Cockerill and clinical director Dan Lanahan, Esq.

At Empire College School of Law, our second-, third- and fourth-year Juris Doctor students can volunteer their time or earn academic credits for 15 hours of telephone advice and five hours of in-person counseling each week at the Santa Rosa Small Claims Court. We cover a variety of California small claims court issues. Most common are landlord-tenant disputes, unfulfilled contracts, complaints about contractors and disputes among neighbors. About 50 percent of the people the student advisers talk to have already filed claims or received a summons. The rest are trying to determine whether they have a case.

Any claimant to the court, whether a resident of Sonoma County or elsewhere, can visit the clinic at the College campus Monday and Wednesday afternoons or call 707-521-6534 Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Bilingual services are offered on Monday and Thursday afternoons. For complete information regarding clinic hours and services, please visit the Small Claims Advisory page at the link below.

This program is a great way for law students to get real experience in small claims court in Sonoma County.

For additional information, visit the Small Claims Advisory page

PLEASE NOTE:  Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and current court closure, Empire’s Small Claims Clinic including telephone assistance is also closed, at least until April 6th and possibly longer. Please do not come to Empire College for Small Claims help at this time; we are closed to the public.

FOR THOSE WHO NEED TO FILE PAPERS IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT:  Sonoma County Courts have a process for the electronic filing, or “e-filing”, of Civil cases, which may allow for the filing of any Complaints, Answers or other documents as needed. We cannot provide legal advice, but the link below should help you determine whether this procedure is available to you. If you are unable to proceed on your own, you will have to seek the advice of an attorney. We wish you well in this difficult time for everyone. Here is the link: 

“We always advise mediation as a first recourse. A lot of times an agreement can be worked out with a simple phone call. But our students also help fill out forms, show how to name the party, have the party served with a complaint, and prepare for trial with witnesses and paperwork.”
- Professor Kadin Blonski

Family Law Clinic

Explore the Family Law Clinic and learn about California pro per litigation.

The Family Law Clinic (formerly called Self-Help Access Center-SHAC) has been able to expand its services by collaborating with Empire College School of Law and the Superior Court of Sonoma County. Through participation in this clinic, students learn about California pro per litigation.

The Family Law Clinic assists self-representing litigants, 70 to 80 percent of all family law cases, in preparing legal arguments and documents for court in family law matters. The parties receive much-needed help with issues such as divorce, restraining orders and custody issues, and students get hands-on experience in this elective course.

“By assisting clients at the Self-Help Access Center, students learn about law, human nature, society and challenges people face on a daily basis.”
- Michelle Brown

Angela Emerick, Esq.

(Class of 2015)

"Being born in Australia and becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009, I understand the process and honor of becoming an American citizen and am proud to help those in their quest to become citizens and better their lives."

Daryl Reese, Esq.

(Class of 2014)

"I decided to enroll in Law School when I was 50 years old having enjoyed a full career in the nonprofit sector. Now I have a robust business and nonprofit law practice serving clients throughout the State of California and I am loving it. I could never have made that kind of career transition if it had not been for Empire Law School. The opportunity to take evening courses and at a cost far less than other law schools, and to do so in my own community made my career shift affordable, enjoyable, and attainable."

Orchid Vaghti, Esq.

(Class of 2010)

"There are not that many new lawyers who have the experience to go to trial. They would not be ready for it. Seeing the practical points of the legal process through her Empire education gave Orchid an advantage."
- L. Stephen Turer, Esq.