Dear East Bay Community Law Center,
Thank you. I am grateful for how my supervisor and the whole program encouraged me to build healthy and trusting relationships with our clients as a central part of our legal practice. Perhaps for some this is a no-brainer, but it was such a refreshingly different mode of operating in comparison to my law school classes. In some of my law school classes, the story of the plaintiff or defendant were just that, stories to be noted. In clinic, I was told to not just jump in and transactionally get the story I needed for the asylum declaration, but to create space for stories and conversation that would help my client feel safe and comfortable sharing. It turns out that space helped me become more comfortable and safe to advocate for my client.
I should note that it is hard to cultivate such relationships in the remote era! Accordingly, I will always be grateful to my supervisor for facilitating a series of in-person meetings with one of my clients, a high school youth. In these meetings, over time, she and I both felt more comfortable and capable of navigating all of the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status forms’ demands. I attribute this comfort and sense of capability in large part because we spent ample time getting to know one another.
Going into my legal career, I will be taking with me this commitment to relationship building and this approach to legal work not as simply forms or rules to apply to a set of facts, but as a constant effort to build community and capacity amongst all parties involved.
Written by Taliah Mirmalek
University of California, Berkeley School of Law Class of 2023
East Bay Community Law Center Immigration Clinical Student