In my personal statement to Berkeley Law, I wrote that my goal in coming to law school was “to find the words that will help empower people to tell their own stories.” I wanted to address the complexity and cost barriers I’d seen as a legal assistant preventing people from vindicating their rights. Though I now better understand how broad my original statement was, the Clean Slate Clinic at EBCLC has helped me work towards that goal. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this critical work.
In broad terms, Clean Slate helps mitigate the collateral consequences of criminal convictions. It pairs policy creation and advocacy with outreach to support the individual and collective voices of our East Bay community. During my three semesters with Clean Slate, I primarily worked with individual clients to prepare their petitions for criminal record remedies. These remedies are similar to, but not the same as, expungement. In this process, I most enjoyed meeting with clients. Often folks come to clinic when things are going right in life — they may be preparing to start a new job or go back to school, and clearing up the remnants of a past chapter in their life is a remaining hurdle. It is always a privilege to get to speak with clients and hear their stories; I hold many clients’ stories with me now.
One of the most important things I’ve learned from my time at EBCLC is that being a good advocate means being a good listener. Only when we’ve seen and heard our clients can we ask for their trust. Only when we understand our clients’ goals can we work with them to craft solutions. Only when we’ve learned our clients’ stories can we support them in narrating that experience to the audience empowered to help them. I’ve learned that the best solutions often come from the creativity of many minds. I’ve learned that there is always more to learn and that humor and the people you work with are essential to success and longevity.
While some days I can safely say I was not enthusiastic about going to class, I was always excited to come to clinic. Thank you Maureen, Jael, Juan, Rebecca, Asher, Osha, Vinuta, and everyone in Clean Slate (past and present) for letting me come and learn from you. I did not expect to find such dedicated mentors in this process, but you are the most positive, passionate and supportive team. California is a better place, and I am a better advocate, because of you. Thank you especially, Maureen, for your advice and guidance and patience in answering every one of my million questions.
And one final thank you to my parents, whose work in special education and in the Air Force instilled in me the importance of serving my community from the very beginning. You are my daily inspiration.