The UCLA School of Law Volunteer Witness Program is unique in the nation. By acting as clients, witnesses and jurors, our volunteers play a crucial role in training UCLA law students to be competent lawyers. About 300 students each year participate in a law school clinical such as trial advocacy, interviewing & counseling, mediation and depositions & discovery. As part of those classes, the students participate in a series of specially designed simulated exercises that help them develop skills that are essential to practicing law such as interviewing and counseling clients or trying cases in court. The student is placed in the role of lawyer and this is where our volunteers come in by playing the part of the client the student lawyer will represent, or the witness the student needs to question, or the juror who decides the case. Bringing in "real" clients from all walks of life changes the simulation from a simple classroom or textbook educational experience to a real life experience. Our volunteers bring a dimension to the classroom that adds immeasurably to the clinical program's goal of teaching students to be competent lawyers. Student have to learn to deal with the emotions that clients bring to the lawyer's office; they get to practice their cross examination skills in a mock trial presided over by a real judge and decided by real jurors; or they learn that each client will make decisions based on his her own client values and objectives. Each simulation is designed to assist students in their efforts to master specific knowledge and skills. Most of the simulations are videotaped so the students can critique their performance under the guidance of the instructor.
The "Stars" of the Program
Our wonderful volunteers come from all walks of life. We have students from UCLA, stay-at-home moms, retired professionals, business people, and aspiring actors. Those who volunteer receive free parking and our eternal gratitude, but no monetary compensation. Why do these extraordinary people agree to volunteer? Why don't we ask them!
"If I had not gone to graduate school to study literature, I probably would have gone to law school, so participating in the Volunteer Witness Program has not only been great fun, but it has allowed me to see 'how the other half lives'. Not only have I learned a lot about law school, but I've learned a lot about the law. I've worked with law students exploring everything from disability laws and AIDS issues to home ownership, employment law and the criminal justice system. I've played a wide range of characters from an art teacher to HIV positive former sex worker to the wife of a murder victim, and every experience is different. It's also rewarding because it's obvious that the students learn a lot in these exercises--they have to deal with real people in potentially very stressful situations. That's very different from textbook learning, and most of the time, it's much harder!
Erin Templeton, Former Professor of Literature at UCLA
"The program is enormously interesting and terrific fun. It gives me the fabulous opportunity to indulge my desire to act. And, I am providing an important service to the law students as well. I can't wait for the [next] quarter to begin so that I can assume multiple personalities again."
Jo-Ann Krohn, Retired Teacher
I'm Interested in Volunteering, What Should I do?
If you are interested in a volunteer activity that will enable you to take an active role in enhancing the education of our future lawyers, then this is for you!
The success of the UCLA Clinical Program depends heavily on participation by our volunteers. A core of over 200 volunteers serve as "witnesses" in classroom simulation exercises and mock trials. Most of the volunteers return year after year because they are convinced that this program is vital in training lawyers to become sensitive to the needs of the clients.
Please contact Summer Rose, Volunteer Witness Coordinator to express your interest!
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
Questions Most Often Asked By Volunteers