My Fellowship Year at Community Legal Aid SoCal by Janista Lee

Janista Lee is currently working as a staff attorney at Community Legal Aid SoCal for one year on a Fellowship from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.  She originally wrote the below blog post as a first in a series for Orrick.

Orrick Blog Post 1

My name is Janista, and I graduated from UC Irvine School of Law in May 2020. I am a southern California native and currently living in Orange County. I look forward to joining Orrick’s Orange County office next January.

I could have never imagined what would transpire in 2020 and early 2021. With the pandemic disproportionally killing BIPOC and low-income communities, the continued shootings of unarmed black men and women, and the rise of violence against Asians and Asian Americans, the existing pain points in our society became glaringly apparent. I felt convicted to do something. And when Orrick provided the opportunity to do a fellowship for the year, I was grateful to have a small role towards trying to rectify some of these injustices.

For the last four months, I have been working at Community Legal Aid SoCal (CLA SoCal) as a fellow in the Complex Litigation Unit. CLA SoCal is a legal aid organization that serves vulnerable communities in Orange County and southeast Los Angeles. I had previously volunteered at CLA SoCal in the Health Consumer Action Center, assisting people navigate the complexities of Medicaid and Medicare, and in the Expungement Clinic, expunging qualifying misdemeanors from criminal records. Because of my previous relationship with the organization, I was excited to spend my first year as an attorney here.

The Complex Litigation Unit (CLU) focuses on impact work and touches a breadth of practice areas, such as family law, housing law, and LGBTQ rights. My supervisor jokingly says that the unit’s name is a bit of a misnomer because the unit really does impact advocacy, which may include complex litigation but could also include writing letters, speaking at city council meetings, etc. The diversity of my work reflects this philosophy. I have had the opportunity to participate in litigation, and I have also conducted investigations, attended city council meetings, and joined community coalition calls.

I look forward to sharing in more detail about my experience in the next blog!