In their own words: 1L UC Irvine student wins challenging worker’s rights case


“In their own words” is a series of firsthand accounts, experiences, and stories from Legal Aid Society of Orange County attorneys, staff, and volunteers who provide free legal aid services to our community’s most vulnerable populations. This series is aimed at showcasing not only the impact these services have on the clients they serve, but also the profound impact these cases and clients have on them professionally and personally.

Chris Nielsen, a 1L UC Irvine student who works at the Workers’ Rights Clinic, shares how a challenging worker’s rights case impacted him in a surprising way.

Through the Workers’ Rights Clinic, I recently had an opportunity to represent a client at an unemployment insurance hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (AJL). The client’s former employer had fired her for alleged misconduct at work, and the client sought help appealing the denial of her unemployment-insurance claim.


As a 1L, the idea of representing a client before an ALJ was both terrifying and exciting. Although my Supervising Attorney from the Clinic, had described the case as a bit of an uphill climb, he was extremely helpful in familiarizing me with the hearing process and helping me as I prepared the client. This allowed me to walk into the hearing with confidence.


The hearing went well and I was subsequently thrilled to learn that my client won her appeal. Looking back, I was particularly struck by the sense of empowerment I felt from putting my client in a better position to receive her benefits.


I was also surprised by how much I related to my client as we prepared for the hearing and by how much I felt she and I achieved a common goal when we heard about the outcome of her appeal. I am grateful to the Workers’ Rights Clinic and to UC Irvine Law for opening the door to this unique learning opportunity.