EBCLC Celebrates Our 2019 Graduates

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April 30, 2019

Each summer, EBCLC sends a new class of over 150 principled, compassionate attorneys into the world. We hope you will join us in celebrating all of our students, and in congratulating our very own Nirali Beri, Hannah Flanery, and Cindy Pan on the highly distinguished honors they received in May. Congratulations, and thank you for all the outstanding work you have accomplished during your time at EBCLC.

 Congratulations to Nirali Beri, Winner of Berkeley Law’s 2019 Sax Prize for Excellence in Clinical Advocacy!

Nirali has been awarded the 2019 Brian M. Sax Prize for Excellence in Clinical Advocacy. This high honor is granted to students who displayed excellence in advocacy and professional judgment during their clinical work. Nirali joined EBCLC as a first-year student, initially volunteering in the Tenants’ Rights Workshop. During her second year, she was tapped to lead the workshop. In addition, she participated in our Housing Clinic for two semesters where she successfully took on complex cases, including her work drafting a writ filed against a local housing authority for its refusal to grant a client’s reasonable accommodation request. Nirali’s work on this case was essential to finally ensuring that her client, an elderly woman with a disability, was able to remain in her home.

 “More than anything, I enjoyed listening to clients, who were often facing so much more than their housing challenges, and exhibited more courage and resilience than they should have had to. Working directly with people in our community energized me and reminded me why I came to law school.” – Nirali Beri

 Tell me about your time at EBCLC.

As a 1L, I started out volunteering at EBCLC’s Tenants’ Rights Workshop, an after-work hours clinic for low-income tenants facing situations like landlord harassment, illegal rent increases and uninhabitable living conditions.

While I sometimes felt uncomfortable and disconnected from the theoretical discussions in Berkeley Law’s classrooms, I instantly felt at home at EBCLC. There, I was surrounded by a community of compassionate problem solvers who taught me tangible ways to use our legal knowledge to keep people in their homes. More than anything, I enjoyed listening to clients, who were often facing so much more than their housing challenges, and exhibited more courage and resilience than they should have had to. Working directly with people in our community energized me and reminded me why I came to law school.

During my 2L year I helped direct the Tenants’ Rights Workshop. I also spent both semesters in the EBCLC Housing Clinic helping defend tenants facing eviction lawsuits. I learned how to use the law to negotiate settlements that kept evictions off our clients’ records, allowing our clients to remain in rent-controlled units and subsidized housing programs. In addition, I learned the limitations of the law and was pushed to find ways to support our clients in achieving health and stability even after their eviction cases ended.

What does your time at EBCLC mean to you?

Through this work I learned just how intentionally un-navigable our legal systems have been made to be for low income communities and people of color. However, seeing how the EBCLC housing team continuously showed up every day to fight like hell for our clients made me hopeful. Progress is slow, but I saw that these daily efforts were bringing us closer to changing these systems and keeping our communities intact.

Meghan Gordon and Marc Janowitz were the attorneys whom I worked with most closely. Meghan is the most energetic person who goes above and beyond to make sure we are prepared to thoughtfully represent our clients. She is not scared to work with you. Marc was my supervisor my second semester and he is a housing legend; he has the laws memorized and he is very trusting. I got to work on more complicated cases such as a writ and an appeal. I felt empowered by his trust in me and I felt I could think creatively and move forward with these decisions. They are examples of how legal work should be done – thoughtful and creative.

What’s your next step?

I will be graduating this May. The EBCLC housing team models what thoughtful, client-centered lawyering looks like, and are the reason why I will be continuing to do tenants’ rights work just a few miles away at Centro Legal de la Raza after graduation. I will be helping defend people in eviction proceedings and empowering tenants to assert their rights. I’m excited to see EBCLC’s housing team in the same court doing the same work!

 

Congratulations to Hannah Flanery, Winner of Berkeley Law’s 2019 Brian M. Sax Honorable Mention for Excellence in Clinical Advocacy!

For the past three consecutive semesters, Hannah has demonstrated unequivocal commitment to tenants’ rights. In our Housing Clinic, Hannah attempted to settle a case but opposing counsel refused. Hannah, outraged by the landlord attorney’s unreasonableness, volunteered to represent the tenant at trial the next day. She returned to the office, worked feverishly with her supervisor, and prepared for trial.  The next day, Hannah took first chair in the trial and won – something that no student in the Housing Clinic’s history has ever done! Not only has she fought tirelessly for her EBCLC clients, she also serves as a member of the Oakland Rent Board. We are happy to have supported Hannah’s career in housing justice and are excited for her post-grad work at Legal Assistance to the Elderly in San Francisco.

“I saw what an impact a good, thoughtful attorney can have on a client’s life because, as is often the case for clients working with the housing team, our client could have been homeless if we lost.” – Hannah Flanery

 Tell me about your time at EBCLC.

I’ve been with EBCLC’s housing unit for the past three semesters and my time here has easily been my favorite part of law school. I have worked with two incredible supervisors: Laura Lane, who now works for the Oakland City Attorney’s Office, and Meghan Gordon, the director of the housing unit. Laura is one of the most brilliant litigators I’ve ever worked with, and I loved being able to watch her do what she does so well. She had been practicing housing law for so long, and still loved it after all those years. As an aspiring tenants’ rights litigator, it really meant a lot for me to see that. And Meghan is a complete force of nature. She takes on so much and does it so, so well. She goes non-stop, and I’ve never met anybody quite like her.

Laura and Meghan have really given me a lot of wonderful opportunities over the past three semesters. I had the opportunity to regularly negotiate on behalf of clients at settlement conference; to research, draft, and argue (for one hour!) a motion to set aside a default judgment; to represent two clients in hearings before the Oakland Housing Authority (resulting in both clients getting their Section 8 Vouchers reinstated); and to conduct several depositions. Laura and Meghan pushed me to do things that I wasn’t sure I was able to do, and they were always there when I needed them. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

What was your favorite moment at EBCLC?

In my first month at EBCLC, my supervising attorney, Laura Lane, and I represented a client in a court trial for her eviction case. We had picked up the case at our weekly courthouse clinic, so there hadn’t been an opportunity to work up the case at all. I feel so lucky because Laura let me first-chair the trial and do the majority of the work. And incredibly, we won, which was just unbelievable. This was easily the most exciting moment of my professional career thus far, and it was in this moment that I knew for certain that this is the work that I want to do for the foreseeable future. I saw what an impact a good, thoughtful attorney can have on a client’s life because, as is often the case for clients working with the housing team, our client could have been homeless if we lost. She was such an extraordinary woman and I felt so grateful that she trusted us with her case, even though the risks of losing at trial are so high. I was so proud to be able to represent her.

 

Congratulations to Cindy Pan, Winner of the Clinical Legal Education Association’s 2019 Outstanding Clinical Student Award!

 

Each year, the Clinical Legal Education Association awards one Berkeley Law student the Outstanding Clinical Student Award. This year, our very own Cindy Pan was honored for her excellent work with EBCLC’s Consumer Justice Clinic. Cindy joined EBCLC during the fall of her 2L year. Her excellence in research, policy development, and legal and non-legal advocacy is absolutely unparalleled, and during her time at EBCLC she engaged in research that contributed significantly to the Contractors State Licensing Board’s and District Attorney’s investigations into a high-profile fraud case. She transcended expectations in the realm of consumer issues from student loan debt to consumer credit reporting and credit card discharges. We are proud to have had the chance to work with Cindy, and wish her every success in New York, where she will start her career at a major firm.

It was really interesting to learn the “black letter law” at school and then come to EBCLC to apply the law by speaking to clients, learning their issues and seeing if we can do anything to help. It was a beautiful reminder of why we go to law school and it motivated me to keep going, despite the workload, readings, homework, and cases.” – Cindy Pan

 Tell me about your time at EBCLC.

It has been wonderful to work under the supervision of Sharon [Djemal], Miguel [Soto] and Kara [Acevedo]. They have been excellent mentors. I enjoyed working on a variety of things and work for our clients. It was really interested to learn the “black letter law” at school and then come to EBCLC to apply the law by speaking to clients, learning their issues and seeing if we can do anything to help. It was a beautiful reminder of why we go to law school and it motivated me to keep going despite the workload, readings, homework, and cases.

What does your time at EBCLC mean to you?

 It has meant so much to me in different ways. I’ve made friends who share the same interests as me; friends who can go from venting our frustrations to celebrating our successes.

I’ve also been able to watch attorneys from EBCLC give it their all and come up with solutions that help individuals on such a personal level and be able to look up to them and see what this is all about.

It also meant being part of a community because I feel like there are so many people at EBCLC who share the same passion and experience. This is something I will carry with me through law school and after law school. I feel fortunate to be part of the community.

I worked directly under Kara; she has been so supportive in everything and is always there to listen and give me suggestions on how to deal with clients, personal issues and law school issues. In the last two years, I’ve received a mentor and a friend. It’s been a pleasure to work with her, especially since she’s been here since the clinic was created so she has all new ideas and also keeps learning.

What was your favorite moment at EBCLC?

We have a client right now who has gone through a variety of issues that we are trying to help her through. I had to take a semester off because I had an externship but I came back this semester. Kara and I went to visit her, and she was catching us up with everything going on with her and her daughter. Kara was updating her on her life too. I felt a connection with the client; even though I was away for a bit she still felt comfortable with us and this made me appreciative about being a part of this case. I like knowing that I will continue to hold these connections with clients.

 

Our very best wishes to these incredible new justice-seekers and to all the new civil rights advocates who are entering the field! You inspire us to continue on the path of principled advocacy and relentless commitment.

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