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Mark Parnes and his volunteer associates were first in line to staff an evening pro bono law clinic at the newly opened Stanford Community Law Clinic in East Palo Alto. The only thing missing were would-be clients. Only two new clients showed up that evening late last month, and Parnes, a Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati of counsel who runs the firm’s pro bono program, said his volunteer associates couldn’t help but be disappointed. Still, the clinic has just reopened after nearly a year of being shuttered by money troubles, so it may take awhile for word to get out that the clinic is back in business, Parnes said. The clinic opened in January in a temporary space, but moved into its permanent home in early March at 2117 University Ave. It keeps business hours with law students supervised by several staff attorneys. The clinic lined up local practitioners to pitch in with evening hours. The Wilson lawyers, for example, staffed a guardianship clinic for residents who suddenly found themselves caring for a child. “The law firms are going to be staffing the clinics and working with both the [clinic] staff and the students at Stanford to take these cases,” Parnes said. A handful of local law firms also helped fund the program, pitching in about $25,000 each toward the clinic’s annual budget of $650,000, say lawyers familiar with the clinic’s financials. Peter Reid, the clinic’s director, joined Stanford in November after 30 years with the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo. Charged with setting up and running the clinic, Reid is jazzed about building something new and working with students. “It’s nice to go through things with someone who hasn’t seen these kinds of problems,” Reid said. The bulk of cases the clinic expects to see involve government benefits, employment issues and landlord-tenant disputes in addition to specialty clinics staffed by volunteer lawyers. Wilson is one of about 15 local firms on the list waiting to sponsor a clinic. It makes sense that Wilson would be on top of the clinic’s reopening. The firm helped launched the original community law clinic in the 1980s, and partner David Steuer served on the organization’s board of directors. “There was an effort to restart the clinic,” Parnes said, “and we wanted to be involved.”

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