New UC Hastings Center Supports Law Students’ Social Justice Work

Two professional women stand in front of City Hall dome
Professors Brittany Glidden and Gail Silverstein are co-directors of the new Center for Social Justice at UC Hastings.

Most UC Hastings student applicants list wanting “to make a difference in the world” as their primary motives for attending law school, according to recent student surveys. A new center at UC Hastings will help law students build on that value and find ways to integrate it into their future legal practices.

That new center is the Center for Social Justice, launched this fall by UC Hastings Professors Brittany Glidden and Gail Silverstein.

“We believe a lot of students lose their connection to why they came to law school in the 1L year,” Glidden said. “We want to offer students a vision and opportunity to see how they can incorporate public interest work into their role as a lawyer, wherever they may end up.”

Glidden and Silverstein say the center will help law students choose their own ways of incorporating justice work into their future legal practices. The center will help some students navigate numerous public interest offerings at Hastings and support them in finding positions at nonprofits or government agencies. It will connect other students to pro bono work or other ways to express their social values while working in the corporate sector.

At UC Hastings, students have many opportunities to engage in social justice work – from doing pro bono legal aid work, to interning with non-profit and government agencies, to participating in clinics and externships, or getting involved in social justice-focused law journals and student groups.

The opportunities stretch across multiple departments, from Student Services and Career Development to faculty-led centers. There are so many opportunities, in fact, that for the last two years, different law school departments formed a Social Justice Committee to organize offerings and identify gaps. This committee supported the creation of the new center.

“We’ve known for a while that there needed to be a mechanism within the law school to coordinate all these opportunities and help students navigate their own path to social justice,” Silverstein said.

Upper-division law students joined Professor Ascanio Piomelli (third from left) in speaking at a “How to be a Social Justice 1L” event in September.

To that end, the center has hosted a series of seminars this fall, in which alumni and upper-division law students shared their paths for pursuing social justice work during and after law school. A talk on “How to Land and Fund a Social Justice Summer Job” is scheduled for Nov. 1.

Another goal of the center is to strengthen the law school’s existing network of public-interest-minded students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Both directors bring strong records of social justice experience. Silverstein, who also serves as Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, spent more than two decades in public-interest law. She previously worked with non-profit organizations representing disabled workers, people living with HIV/AIDS, and others before joining UC Hastings in 2005.

Glidden also has 20 years of public interest experience, much of it focused on challenging inhumane prison conditions through impact litigation, both with the Prison Law Office and as a clinical teacher. She has been teaching public-interest law courses for over a decade and joined UC Hastings in 2015, where she previously served as the Director of Externships and the Pro Bono Program.

Allison Wang brings 17 years of legal experience to her new role as director of the Pro Bono Program at UC Hastings.

The new Center for Social Justice is also the new home for the law school’s Pro Bono Program. That program is being led by its first full-time director – Allison Wang – who brings 17 years of experience in law firm and non-profit practice.

“For me, pro bono work is the heart of the legal profession,” Wang said. “It helps address the justice gap, and helps students gain valuable lawyering skills.”

Find more information about the Center for Social Justice and its upcoming events here.