When I decided to sign up for the EBCLC Housing Clinic, I did not imagine that we would be working in a global pandemic, fighting to reclaim our democracy in one of the most important presidential elections to date while witnessing one of the largest movements for racial justice. Unsurprisingly, this year has been challenging for students and staff alike. However, I am so thankful for the opportunity to channel some of my frustrations with the world around me into substantive good for our clients. Over the course of the last year in the Housing Clinic, I have learned practical skills of lawyering, become more immersed in the substantive law of housing, and connected with the amazing team at EBCLC.
In the coming months, I will be taking the bar and stepping into the legal world I have spent the last three years training for. EBCLC has given me invaluable access to the practical skills of being a lawyer. I have learned how to write motions, collaborate with a team about complicated legal and statutory interpretation issues, and verbally advocate for clients. Throughout law school, I have always felt a disconnect between theory and practice, and my experience at EBCLC helped to actualize what I have learned. For example, I was able to combine my classroom evidence knowledge with preparation for a hearing in which I will have to apply that information to enter exhibits and lay the foundation. So many law students, including myself, often feel “imposter-syndrome.” Especially as post-graduation life looms, I am often concerned that I will be unprepared to enter practice. I still have those feelings, but my time at EBCLC has been a great counter to those impressions. EBCLC has not only taught me new practical skills but has reminded me that I am adaptable and receptive to learning. Before clinic, I had never written a motion for summary judgment, appeared in front of a judge, or gathered evidence. Now, I more confident in approaching tasks because I know I have the capability – and excitement – to learn.
I also have learned so much about substantive housing law, among other areas. Before clinic, I did not know anything about housing laws in California other than my own experiences as a tenant. However, through the knowledge of my supervisor, the other attorneys, and all of the EBCLC staff, I have learned an immense amount. That knowledge is not only important to be a good advocate, but it has been amazing to dive into the complicated system the laws and policies that govern the city in which I live. Before coming to California for law school, I had only visited the Bay Area once for admitted students day. I was very immersed in local politics and policy fights back East, and I am grateful to EBCLC for giving me the resources to learn about the place I have called home for the last few years.
Regarding our shared goal of justice for all, my time at EBCLC has given me ample opportunity to be active in the never-ending work for a better world and truly live my values. I have committed myself to continuing to learn as engrained oppression takes new, or revived, forms. Even though I have been working in housing, systems of racial, economic, gender, and disability inequality—to name a few—are constantly impacting the lives of our clients. For example, the fires first semester disproportionately affected a client because of her disability status and inability to access economic resources. To help her, we had to address those problems before we could even move forward with her case. In another example, with the move to virtual court, remote hearings on one hand open up access to justice while also shining light on gaps in technological literacy. EBCLC takes its commitment to intersectional justice seriously, and I have learned how to use the law to advance equality, even if it is through helping one client in their fight. EBCLC has taught me that I must have double vision—I must be present to support individual clients while also zooming out to the larger systems that have made them vulnerable in the first place.
EBCLC has been an amazing site to deepen my knowledge of the law, engage with the community, and participate in local justice in a targeted way. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn under the amazing supervision of Katherine Lin, and I am ready to take what I have absorbed into the next chapter of my legal career.
Written by Emma Walters
University of California, Berkeley School of Law Class of 2021
East Bay Community Law Center Housing Clinical Student