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Shimoda & Rodriguez Law, PC Partners With University To Provide Free Legal Advice

by | Jun 19, 2023 | Firm News

​​Law students and volunteer attorneys discuss legal issues like debt collection, housing, and employment during Street Law.​

Founding Partner Galen Shimoda Rallies Volunteers To Mentor Students On Real Cases

A tenet of Shimoda & Rodriguez Law, PC is giving back to the local community the firm serves.

When founder Galen Shimoda expanded the employment law group to Utah, he quickly became involved with the Utah Employment Lawyers Association (UELA) and found himself elected president, which led to further volunteer opportunities.

UELA is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1992, consisting of employment law attorneys, law students from the nearby University of Utah, and nonprofits dedicated to helping employees. In total, there are about 40 active members who attend seminars, conduct mock trials, and listen to guest speakers like Magistrate Judge Daphne A. Oberg.

“When I became president, we had a three-fold mission, and one of the missions was to work with the students from the two law schools: Brigham Young University and the University of Utah,” Galen said.

“That’s what made me interested in employment law in the first place is helping people who don’t know all of their rights or don’t have a way to speak up for themselves,” Brittany said. “I feel like the Center is helping people in the community who might otherwise not get legal representation, and I think that’s really important.”

Shimoda & Rodriguez Law, PC has employment law attorneys who are passionate about helping employees wronged by their employers. If your rights have been violated in California or Utah, call us today.

Street Law: Employment Law Clinic

He connected with the S.J. Quinney College of Law dean at the University of Utah and was introduced to the Pro Bono Initiative. The Pro Bono Initiative (PBI) provides brief legal consultations on topics like family law, housing, employment, and periodical legal-adjacent services. Currently, every fourth Wednesday is Street Law: Employment Law, where university students and employment attorneys collaborate to provide legal advice at no cost.

Each of the 13 current PBI sites, staffed by student and attorney volunteers, covers a specific area of law. The sites are located at Salt Lake City-area community centers as well as some remote sites, according to the University of Utah. During a two-hour window, one or two weeknights per month, volunteers give legal advice on simple issues, refer people to firms and legal services organizations, and provide other information and resources.

“In Street Law, you have people coming off the street, and they’re asking a number of questions,” Galen said. “A lot of wage and hour issues and independent contractor versus employee issues are very common.”

The University of Utah law students meet with the clients, summarize their claims and present them to a practicing employment lawyer, the attorney then advises the student about the case, and the student provides the client with their options.

Because Utah employment laws are on par with federal regulations, the students often have the unfortunate job of relaying bad news, such as an at-will termination where the circumstances surrounding the firing would violate employment law in other states, Galen said.

He said questions related to wrongful termination round out the common questions he and the students receive, along with wage and hour and independent contracto/remployee differences. A typical Street Law: Employment Law clinic night has roughly 3-5 attorneys consulting numerous law students from 5:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Consultations last approximately 30 minutes.

Pro Bono Work In Utah

Galen works with UELA to provide attorneys and make announcements to its group to encourage lawyers to volunteer.

In the last year, Galen estimated that he alone donated roughly 75-100 hours of pro bono work to UELA, which includes the association’s work with PBI.