Jeff Baker says he has a particular kind of law professing at Pepperdine where he is more like the managing partner of a public interest law firm and the students are the associates.
“Most law professors teach big classes and write a lot,” he said. “I am a clinical law professor at Pepperdine where we teach through practice. We teach our students law by practicing with them with real clients,” Baker said.
In the Community Justice Clinic, Baker practices with law students to provide pro bono legal services to local nonprofits and international nongovernmental organizations dedicated to justice, human rights and community empowerment among vulnerable and marginalized populations.
The law clinic serves clients in the fields of homelessness and poverty; gender-based crimes and women’s empowerment; sustainable agriculture and rainforest conservation; human trafficking and access to education; and farm-worker rights.
Most of the clients in the Malibu community for whom the clinic provides legal services work with the homeless, migrant and day workers—but some have a global reach, like Malibu-based Medicine for Humanity. MFH began as a client and now Baker serves on its board of directors.
He believes passionately in the importance of global health and education for young girls.
“The cause of women’s dignity, rights and opportunity for girls in our world is the human rights cause of our age,” he said. “I believe that truly and deeply—at home and abroad. We are in a tipping point historically on a long cycle of recognizing the deep humanity of women which has historically been denied. We have a moral imperative to make sure we are advancing the cause of women and girls in the world.”
Medicine for Humanity provides medical and surgical help to women in Mbarara, Uganda, who are suffering from a fistula during an obstructed childbirth that usually results in the death of the baby and devastating injuries to the mother—an injury that often results in her being ostracized, banned from her village for life and abandoned by her husband.
MFH sends a team of doctors and nurses to Uganda from UCLA every year to perform fistula repairs and teach local doctors how to do it. It’s believed that some two million women are suffering from an untreated fistula in the developing world.
“MFH doesn’t just help women’s health but also connects them back to society and their community,” Baker described. “We know through studies that to empower women and to educate girls is the single most effective way to create a developed economy.”
Originally from the South, Professor Baker moved to Malibu with his family in 2013. His daughters Betsy, 13, and Kate, 11, are students at Malibu Middle School.
“Malibu is a beautiful place to bring up kids. It’s a really good fit for me, my wife, Jennifer, and our children. It’s a gorgeous place that sits well with our values. Malibu is a place where our children can thrive,” he said.
Jennifer Baker also works at Pepperdine, where she’s assistant director of the Office of Student Accessibility. Her field is special education and access for people with disabilities.
Professor Baker feels lucky and blessed to live and work in probably the best setting in all of academia.
“I am a public interest lawyer who doesn’t have to suffer for it,” he laughed.
As he and his family thrive in Malibu, Baker will continue his scholarship addressing domestic violence and gender justice in families and helping those less fortunate in the community with free access to the finest legal minds.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org and medicineforhumanity.org