I cannot imagine having gone through law school without my clinical experiences. When pandemic isolation and the routine process of law school disillusionment took a toll on my enthusiasm for joining the legal profession, EBCLC’s Immigration Clinic reconnected me with my drive and passion. Through Clinic I was able to do what I had come to law school to do in the first place: to help the most marginalized of our community access justice—or at the least, legal tools to advance it—in the face of systemic barriers. EBCLC’s approach to client advocacy mirrors my own values. It goes without saying that our clients are whole people with whole lives and whole problems, not just immigration ones, but this truth is not always reflected in the field of legal services. EBCLC’s Immigration Clinic fully embodies client-centered lawyering. I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to have been a part of it.
During my Clinic semester I was assigned a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status case. I worked very closely with a young person significantly cut off from many societal institutions due to linguistic and other barriers. My experience working with him and his family as we navigated not only legal systems, but also healthcare and educational ones, was the most energizing I have had in law school. We built connection across every kind of difference, and I was deeply honored in the trust he and his family placed in me to help assist with his case. As his case currently stands, it seems we have done what we needed to do, and our client will be able to stay here without worry in the United States. The cruelty of our nation’s immigration system is breathtaking. The most natural response to such massive machinery of oppression is to feel powerless. Being part of the effort to help this individual obtain a favorable outcome reinforced my connection to this work and my dedication to pursue it.
I participated in two EBCLC clinics during my time at Berkeley Law. My supervising attorneys always assigned me meaningful work, with real opportunities to actually practice being a lawyer, and they provided by far the most comprehensive supervision and feedback that I received during my legal education. If I learned anything about how to actually be a lawyer during my time in law school, it mostly happened in Clinic. In addition, my supervisor has already served as an advocate for me in my own legal career. Next year I will be staying in the Bay Area representing people before immigration courts and agencies. My work with EBCLC directly helped me prepare for the first job that I will begin as an attorney. I will take with me all of the debriefs I had with my supervising attorneys, all of the practical experience I gained managing my cases, and most importantly, the commitment to the work woven throughout EBCLC.
Written by Grace Paine
University of California, Berkeley School of Law Class of 2022
East Bay Community Law Center Immigration Clinical Student