News & Events: Alumni Profile: Bill Hirsh (JD 86)

Hirsh (third from the left) with fellow GGU Law alumni at the recent Alumni & Awards Night.

Alumni Profile: Bill Hirsh (JD 86)

Hirsh (third from the left) with fellow GGU Law alumni at the recent Alumni & Awards Night.

GGU Law recognized Bill Hirsh (JD 86) with the Positive Impact Award this past January at the Alumni & Awards Night, held during Law Alumni Week. Hirsh was selected to receive the award – which recognizes a GGU Law alum who has used his or her law degree to make a positive impact in the community – for his three decades of public interest work in San Francisco.\

Hirsh has been the Executive Director of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel (ALRP) for 18 years. The ALRP is the first legal services program in the country to focus on the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS. ALRP serves nearly 1500 individuals living with HIV in the San Francisco Bay Area each year, and leverages over $1 million in donated legal services through its panel of more than 700 volunteer attorneys.

“I will always be deeply appreciative of the education I received at GGU, most especially in the clinical programs that were offered,” says Hirsh. “Through Professor Hing’s Immigration clinic, Professor Rhine’s Labor law clinic, and Professor Moskovitz’s Landlord Tenant clinic, I gained a deeper understanding of the challenges my clients face trying to access justice.”

ALRP has had a close relationship with GGU Law, partnering with the Honors Lawyering Program (HLP) for more than 15 years for its summer intensive skills program and the spring and fall semester apprenticeships. ALRP staff attorneys participate as professors for the summer program, during which HLP students provide direct representation to ALRP clients in housing matters, under the staff attorney’s supervision. HLP students have helped ALRP clients to defend against evictions, secure reasonable accommodations in housing, challenge illegal rent increases, and obtain relief from sub-standard housing conditions. Several HLP students who were supervised by an ALRP attorney over the summer have subsequently come to ALRP for their fall or spring semester apprenticeship, during which they have expanded beyond housing cases to assist clients with everything from credit and debt disputes, to drafting Powers of Attorney, to challenging denials of health care benefits. 

In addition to his years at ALRP, Hirsh has contributed to many community-based nonprofit organizations ranging from alternative mental health programs to legal services for people with disabilities. After graduating from law school, Hirsh served as a welfare rights attorney and helped organize homeless San Francisco residents. He served as Directing Attorney for the Mental Health Advocacy Project of the Santa Clara County Bar Association Law Foundation. Hirsh then directed the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, where he coordinated a broad-based public policy advocacy effort to increase affordable and supportive housing for people with mental health disabilities.

In 2005, Hirsh was appointed by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom to the city’s Long Term Care Coordinating Council, where he works to ensure that seniors and adults with disabilities can access the services they need. He has also taken a leadership role in the HIV/AIDS Provider Network (HAPN), working to ensure that San Francisco’s model of care for HIV/AIDS services continues to meet the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS. Hirsh recently was honored for his outstanding contributions to the disability community by the Mayor’s Office on Disability and the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco.

When presenting the award to Hirsh, Professor Eric Christiansen, who volunteers for ALRP said:

“GGU Law’s Mission Statement declares our belief that ‘law is an honorable and valuable profession’. The positive impact of alumni like Bill Hirsh on the lives of people throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, prove that to be true."