Summer Associates Learn Advocacy Skills and Community Service

A number of law students began the academic year after a busy summer securing housing and disability benefits for community members. Because they were summer associates at firms that participate in the Justice & Diversity Center’s (JDC’s) Summer Associates Program, the students also learned important lawyering skills firsthand. JDC thanks and acknowledges O’Melveny & Myers and Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein for engaging their summer associates in this vital work.

Two students, Anna Schneider and Alex Trabolsi, with O’Melveny attorney Remi Moncel, helped a couple facing eviction. The landlord alleged the tenants had not paid rent for a month, even though they had in fact paid but the money order was lost.

O’Melveny team, from left, Rocio Gonzalez, Alex Trabolsi, Karla Quintanilla, Remi Moncel and Anna Schneider

O’Melveny team, from left, Rocio Gonzalez, Alex Trabolsi, Karla Quintanilla, Remi Moncel and Anna Schneider

The lawyer-student team negotiated an excellent settlement agreement that allowed the tenants to stay in their home and dismissed the landlord’s eviction case. Without pro bono representation, the tenants would have had to fight alone against their landlord and his attorney, and likely would have ended up homeless.

Two more O’Melveny summer associates took on another eviction case under the firm’s guidance and supervision. The committed team was prepared to fight hard to keep the tenants in their home, but when the tenants decided to settle the case, the team negotiated on their behalf. The final settlement agreement provides the tenants with a re-location payment for moving out.

Lieff Cabraser team, from left, Sarah Chen, Jeremy Pilaar, Aisha Saad, Phong Nguyen and Melissa Gardner

Lieff Cabraser team, from left, Sarah Chen, Jeremy Pilaar, Aisha Saad, Phong Nguyen and Melissa Gardner

Meanwhile, summer associates from Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein teamed up with JDC to help a woman get Social Security Supplemental Income (SSI) benefits. The client had recently been released from serving 13 months in prison. Throughout this time, she experienced continued severe functional limitations due to post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Her incarceration cut off her SSI benefits, which she’d received since 2008. JDC’s Homeless Advocacy Project’s advocate Alexander James helped the client complete necessary application forms and gather medical evidence to document her disabilities. Under the supervision of Phong Nguyen and Melissa Gardner, both attorneys at Lieff Cabraser, the firm’s summer associates used the medical evidence to write a comprehensive legal brief establishing the client’s eligibility under the Code of Federal Regulations.

For information about JDC’s Summer Associates program, email probono@sfbar.org.