EBCLC threw me a lifeline when I needed one the most.
Right before my summer internship with EBCLC’s Consumer Justice Clinic, I felt like my life was falling apart. I was suffering from a series of health issues and was forced to take a medical leave. Even after the leave, I continued to struggle. Not only was I exerting energy and time to address my chronic health issues, but my chronic pain was also hindering my ability to focus. I felt I did not have what it takes to be a lawyer. As a law student, I felt lost.
But my supervisors and fellow students in the Clinic helped me find my way back. They were patient and understanding. While they acknowledged that they could not imagine what I was going through, they tried to understand my pain. They created an environment where I could be vulnerable and reach out for help when needed. With their support, I eventually learned to balance my health and work. Based on their support, I developed my life goal: Like them, I aspire to create an inclusive community where others can feel valued, safe, and encouraged to succeed.
My time with the Clinic also helped me recognize the privilege and power l have as a member of the legal profession. My clients reminded me why I wanted to become a lawyer. I observed a broken economic system, where many low-income consumers fell into a vicious spiral of accumulating debt, fines and fees, poor credit, and high interest. I saw financial institutions often taking advantage of these consumers through deceptive and predatory market practices. The Clinic provided me with the tools to oppose this broken economic system.
Indeed, I gained many legal skills through the Clinic. I obtained policy advocacy skills through writing a white paper and administrative comments. I gained affirmative litigation skills through drafting a complaint, discovery request, motions, and a settlement statement. I accumulated substantive legal knowledge on debt collection, identity theft, student loans, credit reports, and liens. I learned how to interview clients and to provide legal advice in concise, simple terms. Of course, such variety in experiences would not have been possible without the countless hours that our supervisors dedicated to our mentorship.
The skills and network I gained through the Clinic allowed me to further assist vulnerable, underprivileged communities. After my summer with EBCLC, I founded a consumer pro bono project at Duke Law School, where I recruited more than 50 students and forged partnerships with local and national consumer organizations. The project provided direct legal services for low-income consumers, supported consumer litigation efforts, and participated in policy advocacy work promoting consumers’ interests. I also created a pro bono project for immigrants, which provided counseling to more than 100 detained asylum seekers. I organized North Carolina’s first workshop to help pro se asylum applicants facing deportations develop their claims in immigration court. And after I transferred to Berkeley Law, I jumpstarted and co-led a new student-initiated legal services project (SLPS) for students interested in consumer policy advocacy. This long list of activities would not have happened without my experience at EBCLC.
I will miss my time with the Consumer Justice Clinic. I will never forget the support I received from my colleagues and friends in the Clinic. I will never forget all the fun I had at the Clinic, from an escape room adventure to a birthday party with sushi and video games. I will also miss the renowned baked goods from Miguel Soto, one of our clinical supervisors. I am grateful that my experience with the Clinic became the foundation for my interests in law school and my career goals.
Written by Doo Hyun Nam
University of California, Berkeley School of Law Class of 2022
East Bay Community Law Center Community Justice Clinical Student