My time as a clinical student at EBCLC was one of the most meaningful and impactful experiences I had in law school. After a year and a half of doctrinal classes and seminars, I was desperate to put the abstract concepts and rules I was taught, as one of my professors put it, “on the ground.” During my three semesters as a member of the Consumer Justice Clinic, I was able to do just that. CJC taught me how to leverage my power as a member of the legal profession to advocate for our clients against predatory financial institutions and the vicious cycles of debt they thrive on. I deepened my substantive legal knowledge of credit reporting, debt collection, financial fraud, and evictions. I gained affirmative litigation skills by drafting motions and demand letters, conducting discovery, and managing cases. I learned how to interview clients and provide legal advice. I learned about policy advocacy by collaborating on a white paper and sitting in on lobbying meetings with state congressional staffers.
The wide range of skills and experiences I gained at CJC is evidence of EBCLC’s holistic approach to community advocacy, its radical view of racial and economic justice, and, above all, its clinical supervisors’ dedication to training students to be highly effective and compassionate advocates. I am incredibly grateful to the CJC attorneys who spent countless hours teaching us about the impact of our work, expanding our understanding of our oppressive economic system, and preparing us to think creatively for our clients. And, importantly, they took time each week to help us build community with one another. I am particularly thankful for my supervisors, Miguel Soto and Desirée Nguyen Orth, whose mentorship has been a defining feature of my time at Berkeley. They have encouraged me, endlessly, to be critical, curious, and hopeful. Thanks to the amazing staff at CJC, I feel ready to take on the challenges of public interest work.
The staff and attorneys at EBCLC exemplify the type of advocate I hope to be after I graduate. In spite of the formidable nature of the structures and systems we aim to change, they approach their practice with a type of dedication, passion, and joy that I can only hope to emulate in my career. My time at EBCLC has taught me, again and again, that the mission to advocate for our communities and shape more just and equitable systems is a collective one. I am going to miss the CJC attorneys, students, and clients, and will take the lessons they’ve taught me about humility, care, and thoughtfulness to every aspect of my career. I look forward to the work that lies ahead of us.
Written by Chae Park
University of California, Berkeley School of Law Class of 2023
East Bay Community Law Center Consumer Justice Clinical Student