The Community Justice Clinics’ Individual Representation (IR) section at UC Hastings offers pro bono counseling to low-income clients and in turn provides students with real-life experience that supplements their legal education.
Students have the opportunity to work on a broad range of cases including litigating wage and hour violations or the denial of applications for disability benefits.
Kate Walsham ’13 is the current lawyering fellow at IR, where she previously served as a student. After graduation, Walsham worked with the ACLU and the Transgender Resource Center in New Mexico as the Pride Law Fund Tom Steel Fellow. In New Mexico, she helped encourage Medicaid Managed Care companies in the state to remove all transgender-related care exclusions from their plans. She also worked at the East Bay Community Law Center as a Staff Attorney in the Health & Welfare Practice, but she’s delighted to return to her alma mater for the next two years. Walsham recently sat down with UC Hastings to talk about her return.
Q: What are some of your responsibilities as a lawyering fellow at IR?
A: I am responsible for intake on all new cases and picking up where students leave off at the end of a semester. I also manage my own docket of cases in all of the IR practice areas and I’m the teacher’s assistant for the IR class.
Q: What is one of the most challenging aspects of your new role so far?
A: It’s been challenging stepping into the shoes of the previous fellows and trying to complete all of their ongoing cases.
Q: How did your education at UC Hastings prepare you for the position?
A: Being a graduate of the IR clinic was a prerequisite for the fellowship, so my education was directly applicable to the position. But really, the clinical instruction I received in IR, the Criminal Practice Clinic and the social justice lawyering concentration seminar taught me not only about how to think like a lawyer, but also about how to bridge communication barriers. It taught me how to properly communicate with coworkers, clients, opposing counsel, court clerks and even clients’ parents. That has been invaluable.
Q: Why were you drawn to working at the clinic?
A: It’s kind of like coming home in a very special way. I was also drawn to the opportunity to have such a diverse litigation and administrative docket as a new attorney. It’s not in every civil firm that you get to be first chair at trials as a second year.
Q: What career advice would you give to current UC Hastings students?
A: To spend as much time as you possibly can outside of the classroom. Taking clinics or doing externships will teach you what lawyers really do and how to apply what you’re learning in class. You’ll get to do a much wider range of things than you would just do during your two summer breaks. You might even find out that you’d rather do something unexpected with your degrees; plus, you’ll make connections with more lawyers in the community.