Social Security Disability Pro Bono Project

The SLS Social Security Disability Project (SSDP), the Mills Legal Clinic’s only in-house pro bono project, gives students the opportunity to work directly with local homeless and at-risk clients under the supervision of Community Law Clinic Lecturer-in-law/Supervising Attorney Lisa Douglass.  As detailed in a recent Stanford Lawyer Magazine feature, SSDP provides a much-needed tangible benefits to members of the local community, while offering an rewarding and valuable experience for Stanford Law students.

Opportunity Center of the Mid-Peninsula

Meeting a Local Need

The Law School established SSDP in 2007 to respond to an urgent need in the local community.  Palo Alto’s newly established homeless service center, the Opportunity Center for the Mid-Peninsula, had begun to swell with individuals who were facing hearings regarding their federal disability benefits and were in need of representation.  These clients came to us without housing and with no access to consistent medical care for their disabling conditions.  Now the Center is filled with individuals who have stable housing, income and medical coverage, thanks to the help of SLS students.  But there are many more that still need help.

Working with Clients

SSDP volunteers help clients receive disability benefits and need-based supplemental income through federal programs administered by the Social Security Administration. Students play a key role in client’s cases: they conduct in-depth interviews with clients to gain an understanding of their condition and possible sources of supporting evidence; they work with clients to prepare applications and appeals; and they request medical records from health care providers to support the claims.  By accurately completing initial applications and submitting medical evidence to Social Security, student volunteers have helped numerous clients receive life-changing benefits.

Partnership with SLS Mills Legal Clinic

When the cases cannot be resolved without a hearing, representation continues through the Law School’s Community Law Clinic, where 2L and 3L students will represent SSDP clients at hearings before Administrative Law Judges.

Students in SSDP volunteer a total of 5-10 hours each quarter and attend a quarterly case-rounds lunch. The client sessions, called “Office Hours,” take place on Friday afternoons at the Opportunity Center, across the street from campus. Each student is expected to staff 3-4 sessions per year, including one per quarter.

For more information about SSDP contact:    

(650) 724-6347

  • Director and Supervising Attorney: Lisa Douglass, Lecturer-in-law, Mills Legal Clinic,
  • Legal Assistant: Nancy Phu,
  • Student Project Coordinators: Karen Ding (’18); Kirsten Diedrickson (’18); Kelsey Merrick (’18); George Warner (’18); Leah Yaffe (’18)