WRC news 2013 - Attorney View

LAS-ELC

Putting Justice to Work

 The Workers’ Rights Clinic Newsletter

Ana de Alba

A Volunteer’s Story

BY ANA DE ALBA

When I was growing up, I had no idea what a lawyer was. My family and I lived in one of the small towns that dot California’s Central Valley where my parents, recent immigrants from Mexico, worked in the fields. I grew up working alongside them, picking fruits and vegetables and learning about hard work that often goes unrewarded.

The summer of 1986 changed my life. It was then that I decided to become an attorney. I was only six years old and was spending my summer vacation from school picking tomatoes with my mother and grandmother. During one of the typical scorching days that summer, and after several hours working in the fields, I was focused on my thirst with the single mindedness of a six year old. Not knowing any better, I complained about the brackish water provided for us to drink. Immediately, the cup was torn out of my hands and the supervisor lashed out at the rest of the workers waiting in line for a drink of that water inviting anyone to complain to the immigration authorities about our mistreatment.

When I got home that night, I was furious at the injustice of being threatened for asking for clean drinking water. My oldest brother, whose wisdom belied his years, asked me what was wrong, so I relayed the day’s events. His response: you should become a lawyer so you can help people and stop things like this from happening. It was the first time I had ever heard the word lawyer, but it sparked an unwavering determination in me to pursue a legal career and return to the Central Valley to protect the rights of workers.

During my first year of law school, I had the good fortune to hear about the Workers’ Rights Clinic, which allowed me to provide real help at the outset of my legal career. Watching the Clinic attorneys work and learning from them, I felt like I was sitting at the right hand of God. I was inspired by the righteousness of the cause and the simplicity of the idea: everyone should be paid for the work they do.

When I graduated from law school in 2007, I did as I had set out to do and returned to the Central Valley determined to find a way to make the legal system more accessible so that justice would truly be a right for all. Working as an attorney at Lang, Richert & Patch has provided me the launching pad to do that.

When I informed Charles Trudrung Taylor, the head of the employment department at my firm, about my desire to start a Workers’ Rights Clinic in Fresno, mirrored on the clinic I had volunteered in as a law student, he was 100% supportive.

The Workers’ Rights Clinic has allowed me to fulfill a promise I made as a young child to return to the Valley and fight to make the legal system more accessible for all. I feel privileged to be a part of the expansion of today’s Clinic, bringing justice to those who previously had nowhere to turn.