SWLAW Blog | Future Students

Image - PILC Feature Friday 2021 Civil Legal Aid

September 17, 2021

Meet our 2021 PILC Grant Recipients Working in Civil Legal Aid

Southwestern's Public Interest Law Committee (PILC) is a student-run organization that sponsors a number of events each year to raise student awareness and involvement in providing legal services for underrepresented communities and is dedicated to facilitating public interest law careers by supporting students in public interest work through fundraising efforts for the school’s Public Interest Law Summer Grant Program.

We want to recognize these students and the incredible work they are doing with their Public Interest Law Committee Summer Grant. Meet our 2021 PILC Grant recipients working in Civil Legal Aid:

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Alexandra Christensen

Summer Placement:  Public Counsel's Community Development Project

I am passionate about public interest work because I think that the more people working to solve the issues that face us as a society, whether it be economic, social, or environmental justice, the better.  Making the legal system accessible while working to make it more equitable is a piece of this work. I think that as part of the privilege of being educated as, and eventually becoming, an attorney, there is also a duty to work with and uplift underserved populations.

I am really passionate about affordable housing and ensuring that people have a safe place to sleep and access to basic necessities. Most of my work this summer centered around affordable housing. I helped to draft a rubric with which attorney’s could evaluate their city’s Housing Element Plan and was able to sit in on weekly coalition meetings with activists around the County working to ensure that people are able to stay housed during and after the pandemic. 

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Shara Darden

Summer Placement:  Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County 

The summer clerkship with NLSLA introduced me to the work of legal aid organizations. Though there are limitations to the type of advocacy work that can be done, due to how legal aid organizations are funded, there is a lot of direct representation and support work they provide to underserved populations. I will continue to explore how I can shape my career through work with a legal aid organization or nonprofit while pursuing and supporting advocacy work with community organizations.

While researching legal issues related to racial justice and education rights, I learned about systems and processes for holding state agencies accountable for their duties to the public. The ability to have a real-time glimpse at, let alone work on, components that will help determine the viability of a legal case was transformational in refining my interests in certain areas of the law. 

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Emily Goldberg

Summer Placement:  Bet Tzedek - Preventing and Ending Homelessness Project

I have several passions when it comes to public interest. Particularly it has been with the homeless population lately. Especially during the pandemic, we have seen a significant spike in the homeless population in Los Angeles. My summer placement dealt heavily with those who are unhoused due to COVID. Though the pandemic is not as bad as it used to be, we are still dealing with the aftermath.

My summer work solidified that I want to focus on homelessness prevention. I knew for all of my law school career that I wanted to be in public interest, however, I wasn’t sure specifically what. As a 2L I worked on a guide in conjunction with LACBA and ALSP for people with criminal records or living with HIV/AIDS and how to prevent homelessness. This summer I happened to work in homelessness prevention again, and I realized that is the field I want to stay in.

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Laura Hartman

Summer Placement:  Public Counsel's Adoptions Project

I entered law school with the goal of developing the necessary skills for a legal career focused on removing barriers to justice for marginalized communities. Even more so than with my coursework, my clinical hours providing direct client services have only strengthened my commitment to a career in public interest law.

As a clerk for the Adoptions Project, I assisted in facilitating adoptions for L.A. County foster youth, conducted intake interviews with adopting parents including a comprehensive assessment of any unmet needs for benefits, and advocated for the children by drafting Inquiries for additional funds and services to DCFS. Additionally, I wrote case summaries for families, flagging relevant issues for the pro bono attorneys that work with Public Counsel. I drafted adoption petition paperwork and researched unique areas of the law including the adoptions process under the Hague Convention. I honed my interview skills by operating with a trauma-informed approach to remove legal barriers for foster youth most impacted by systemic racism and economic injustice.

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Jovana Morales

Summer Placement:  Public Law Center

I am passionate about public interest because it provides communities in need with the representation that they want and would not have otherwise. From my experience with working with public interest organizations, I have seen the impact that the legal services have on individuals from getting a work permit or learning that there is a possible source of immigration relief. Seeing the work and impact public interest has on the community drives me to be part of such an area where one can assist in helping the people who need it the most.

My role as a summer clerk provided me with such a great experience in being able to learn more about the law and how to put it into practice. Being able to assist the attorney with declarations needed or other requirements such as compiling evidence together for motions or forms was very rewarding.  For instance, for one motion for Prosecutorial Discretion that I assisted on, I was able to be part of the conversation with the attorney and the client, where we informed him that he would not need to be in immigration court but would instead wait for his priority date for his adjustment of status. It was great to be able to see how even in the smallest ways of contribution I was able to help someone with their case, which puts really in perspective the power of public interest for me because it's about helping someone.

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Stephanie Rendon

Summer Placement:  Bet Tzedek - Kinship Care Team 

As a member of the Kinship Care team, I assisted in the process of obtaining legal guardianship, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), and other forms of immigration relief for our clients. Throughout the summer I worked on several projects. I prepared guardianship and SIJS petitions, drafted memos of point and authorities, motions to terminate proceedings, and kept myself informed on changing immigration policies. I was able to meet some of our clients and shadowed client interviews.

My time at Bet Tzedek was a huge accomplishment. It was a realization of the goals that brought me to law school. I had the opportunity to put my studies to practice in a legal environment and through Bet Tzedek align myself with its mission to provide legal representation to the most vulnerable.

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Jennifer Rivera

Summer Placement:  Inner City Law Center

I applied to Inner City Law Center to give my time and work to those less fortunate on the verge of homelessness. The homelessness problem in Los Angeles cannot be ignored and the COVID-19 Pandemic has imposed a hard burden on those struggling to stay housed. I think it is important to dedicate some time to help others because there is a large need for legal aid in Unlawful Detainer cases.

One very interesting experience I had this summer was testifying under oath during a jury trial that I was assisting the attorney in. I overheard the jurors discussing the case during a break and I had to testify with regards to what I heard. My testimony was the basis for a mistrial and the whole trial process had to be rescheduled.

Southwestern’s PILC Summer Grant program was established in 1990 with the mission of providing financial support to selected recipients seeking full-time, summer clerkships with legal services organizations providing no-cost assistance to underserved, marginalized communities. This program makes it possible for students to acquire the legal training and education necessary to address the lack of access to legal services for indigent communities while also alleviating Southwestern students’ financial burden of acquiring more educational loans in order to do so.

PILC sincerely thanks our donors and supporters for your invaluable contributions to this program benefiting Southwestern students. PILC’s mission is to help create a community where Southwestern students, staff, faculty, and alumni are educated and incentivized to participate in issues concerning and advancing the public interest and it is your support of this mission that is vital in helping us reach our fundraising goals each year. 

The student deadline to apply for the PILC Summer Grant Program is typically scheduled in early March each year. Awards up to $5,000. Email publicservice@swlaw.edu for more information.