Berkeley Law News – By Andrew Cohen
For Nirali Beri ’19, whose parents emigrated from India, “witnessing their struggle to make the United States home in the face of cultural barriers and discrimination pushed me to learn more about systems of inequality. Their perseverance inspires me and their support is … why I’m able to do work that I care about.”
Her parents were in attendance April 22 at the Bancroft Hotel, where Beri received Berkeley Law’s annual Sax Prize for Clinical Advocacy. She was honored for her exceptional efforts at the school’s East Bay Community Law Center and Death Penalty Clinic.
Named for the late Brian Sax ’69, a respected San Francisco litigator and Berkeley Law lecturer, the prize honors a graduating legal clinic student who displays excellence in advocacy and professional judgment. Beri was chosen from a group of nominated students from the school’s various clinics.
As a 1L, she joined EBCLC’s Tenants’ Rights Workshop, which helps low-income tenants facing landlord harassment, illegal rent increases, and inhabitable living conditions. She co-directed the group the following year and also joined EBCLC’s Housing Practice, where she negotiated settlements that kept evictions off clients’ records and allowed them to remain in rent-controlled units and subsidized housing programs.
Housing Practice Director Meghan Gordon ’11 hailed Beri’s “mixture of brilliance, humility, kindness, compassion, and tenacity.” Gordon described her work on behalf of a single parent living in subsidized housing, who had come to EBCLC behind in rent after her ex-husband repeatedly assaulted her and took the rent money she had saved.
“Nirali approached this case with the perfect balance of compassion and zeal,” Gordon said. “Many law students take a myopic view of eviction cases, focusing exclusively on the legal issues. Nirali, however, listened to the client’s goals and crafted a case strategy that addressed all of her needs.”
Beri secured a safety transfer, allowing the client to move to a new apartment away from her abuser, while ensuring that her children did not have to change schools. She also secured financial assistance to help the client pay the back rent owed, and connected her with EBCLC’s Health and Welfare Practice to apply for public benefits and further stabilize her family’s income.