A ribbon cutting ceremony on April 26 celebrated the naming and growth of the Andy and Gwen Stern Community Lawyering Clinic, located in the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.
The clinic was renamed in honor of the $1.65 million gift from Andy Stern, a partner at Kline & Specter and one of the city’s best-known trial advocates, and Gwen Stern, a professor at the Kline School of Law, director of the Trial Advocacy program and an accomplished litigator.
The gift will enable the clinic to hire a staff attorney and take on more complex cases on behalf of residents of Mantua and Powelton Village, said Professor Rachel López, director of the clinic.
“It means we’re going to be able to offer year-round services,” López added.
As generous as their gift was, University President John Fry said, the most notable contribution the Sterns are making is through their time, donating their prodigious advocacy skills to mentor students and work on behalf of University neighbors facing significant unmet legal needs.
Drexel made “big bets” by acquiring a medical school in 2002, launching a law school in 2006 and opening the Dornsife Center in 2012, Fry said, and the University viewed the clinic as a lynchpin for ensuring that the center will serve the community while providing transformative academic opportunities for students.
“It’s meant the world to our neighbors,” Fry said. “Along come Gwen and Andy, bringing it to the next level.”
Dean Dan Filler praised the clinic’s accomplishments to date, calling López a “superstar,” and said Gwen Stern’s tireless work shaping the Trial Advocacy program makes her “the kind of person every dean dreams of having, because she is someone you can count on to change the world.” Andy Stern’s “incredible verdicts and settlements,” Filler said, reflect “remarkable skill and savvy and deep generosity” in regarding the needs of others.
The Sterns’ service has already reaped benefits, López said, describing their advocacy on behalf of Jacqueline Ewing, a client whose home had been stolen through a deed forgery.
Observing that Andy Stern “will not let anyone push community members around,” López said an “amazing settlement” has been reached with five of seven perpetrators of the theft so far.
Ewing said that the loss of her family home had thrown her “into a sea of legalities” that left her wondering how she would ever get to shore.
“The Sterns are like the ship going by,” Ewing said. “It isn’t just a name or check...they’re providing people floating on a sea of uncertainty with a little boat of our own.”
Citing her own childhood growing up in Philadelphia and her work at Legal Aid as an undergraduate student, Gwen Stern said she is thrilled to work with López and the students on behalf of clinic clients.
Andy Stern said he is “honored” to be part of the clinic.
“My greatest passion is representing a person in need in a court of law,” he said. “This provides that opportunity. I feel proud and privileged to be part of this clinic.”