SWLAW Blog | Future Students

Image - Hannah Mandel '20

May 14, 2020

Hannah Mandel '20 Awarded the George and Katrina Woolverton Public Service Award

A huge congratulations to Hannah Mandel '20 on receiving the George and Katrina Woolverton Public Service Award! 

She was selected for the Award in recognition of her demonstrated extraordinary dedication to public interest law activities while at Southwestern. Only one student is chosen for this prestigious honor annually. The Woolverton Award is in the amount of $10,000.

During her three years at Southwestern, Hannah completed 109.25 hours of Public Service Program hours through her work with the Children's Rights Clinic, Youth Offender Parole Clinic, Teen Court, the Public Interest Law Society, and Criminal Law Society. Hannah also completed two summer externships with the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office working with indigent, underrepresented communities. This summer, she will be returning to the Public Defender's Office as a Post-Bar Clerk. 

Congratulations to Hannah on her well-deserved recognition! 

Meet Hannah Mandel '20

Image - Hannah Mandel '20Why did you choose to go into law?

I am becoming a lawyer to hone my skills and enhance my role as an advocate to ensure the voices of underrepresented communities are listened to and respected.  

I believe all lawyers have a professional responsibility to engage in public service. We are given such an incredible opportunity with our Juris Doctor to positively impact those in the community who need it most. Attending law school is a privilege that many people are not as fortunate to have; I believe I have an obligation to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves and to help them develop their own strong, powerful voices to be heard and respected. 

How did you become involved in public service?

Before starting law school, I knew I wanted to work in the Public Interest/Public Service field. My passion for working with indigent clients and young adults continued to develop throughout my time at Southwestern in the Children's Rights Clinic, Youth Offender Parole Clinic, Teen Court, and the PD's Office. This passion is also the result of my work prior to law school, at the Children's Law Center of California (CLC), AmeriCorps VISTA Year of Service with Holocaust Survivors, and my role as Holocaust Survivor Program Director at Nachshon Minyan.  

What is your proudest accomplishment so far? How did you grow from it?

It is difficult for me to choose just one experience as my proudest accomplishment throughout my three years at Southwestern. Here are two examples of experiences in law school that made me incredibly proud to work in public service.

First, as a legal advocate in the Children's Rights Clinic (CRC), I was able to successfully advocate for one of my most at-risk clinic clients who was being housed at a juvenile hall. I learned how to provide my client with holistic representation to address all of his needs. I was able to secure him the appropriate and necessary IEP services through the Los Angeles County Office of Education while working with his probation officers, Public Defender, and mental health team to ensure his transfer to a more appropriate placement. I am proud to say that after much back and forth and pushing for what was needed, my client was successfully moved out of juvenile hall into a more appropriate placement and is doing much better and getting the help that he needs. I thank the CRC for the opportunity to work with and learn from this incredible client.

The second experience that I am especially proud of is when I represented my client in his first parole hearing after serving over 20 years in prison, under the guidance of Professor Caldwell and Dean Duenez in the Youth Offender Parole Clinic. I was fortunate to have developed a strong relationship with my client, a truly incredible man who has turned his life around and worked to address his traumatic upbringing through rehabilitative programming in prison and his own innate perseverance and strength. I visited my client four times in his San Diego prison and communicated with him often by mail. I also developed a good working relationship with his wife, a strong and inspiring woman. Building these relationships with my client and his wife, and taking the time to get to know them, enabled me to better prepare my client and represent him in his hearing.

Both of these invaluable experiences have taught me how to become a more effective advocate while developing the necessary trial advocacy skills that I will need as a criminal defense trial attorney in the future.

What is the most satisfying aspect of public service for you?

The most satisfying aspect of public service for me is the relationships I have developed with my clients through the legal clinics and while working as a law clerk in the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office. 

I have been fortunate to learn from every client I have worked with, whether advocating for juvenile clients in Dependency and Delinquency Courts, to indigent adult clients facing criminal charges or in prison. My clients have taught me lessons about perseverance, strength, and the power of empathy. I have enjoyed spending time talking to every client, whether it be about their case or having a conversation about what music they like or foods they like to eat.

What are your plans after law school?

After spending two summers externing at the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office (PD), I am returning to the PD's office as a Post Bar Law Clerk with the goal of becoming a Public Defender after passing the bar.  

My PD externship provided me with the hands-on opportunity to learn how to become a successful trial attorney and safeguard an individual's legal rights. I strongly believe that everyone is entitled to quality legal representation regardless of one's economic status, race, gender, mental health status, or age. I believe it is my duty to ensure our legal system is balanced and fair for all members of our community, and have found that Public Defenders work tirelessly to safeguard and ensure that all individuals receive proper counsel to protect their legal rights. 

I knew that I wanted to represent at-risk clients before entering law school, but did not know what type of attorney I wanted to be. I am very grateful for these experiences that have helped me come to this decision.

Congratulations on receiving the Woolverton Award! Feel free to share a personal note to those you’d like to thank for supporting you during your law school career.

I would first like to thank George and Katrina Woolverton for this incredible honor and for creating an award that recognizes the importance of public service both during law school and after as a practicing lawyer. 

I would also like to thank Commissioner Laura Cohen, who provided me with support and guidance throughout my law school career, especially when it came to public service opportunities. 

I also thank Dean Julie Waterstone and Professor Jennifer Rodriguez-Fee for providing me with opportunities to grow as a law student in the Children's Rights Clinic, and a special thanks to Professor Yokoyama for his teaching and ongoing support the past three years. 

My appreciation also goes out to Vice Dean Dov Waisman for his continued help, Professor Beth Caldwell and Dean of Students Nydia Duenez for their guidance in the Youth Offender Parole Clinic, Michelle Takagishi-Almeida for her assistance with Teen Court, and the Faculty Public Interest Law Committee for this Award. 

Lastly, I thank the incredible attorneys I worked with in the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office. I have learned so much from watching and working with you, but most importantly, I am inspired by your dedication and commitment to your clients and hope to work with you in the future.