A Volunteer's Story

Why I support the LAS–ELC

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Michelle Roberts

I first volunteered at the LAS–ELC Workers’ Rights Clinic as a law student at UC Berkeley. I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 20-year-old who started law school motivated to help workers and eager to get started. While I enjoyed law school, volunteering at the Clinic provided a great counterbalance to the legal theories I was learning in the classroom. Working directly with clients was invaluable. It taught me empathy, how to communicate with clients in tough situations, and how to be a good advocate.

Through the Clinic I met Hahn, a client I will never forget. Hahn was a 70-year old Vietnamese widow who was working as a pedicurist in Berkeley. Due to a misunderstanding and, at most, a minor infraction, she was fired from her job. Her attempts to advocate for herself were stymied by her limited English. When the employer contested her unemployment insurance, she turned to the Workers’ Rights Clinic and I was given the opportunity to represent Hahn. We were ultimately successful in securing for her the benefits that she deserved. And that is why I am asking for your support of the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center.

From working with Hahn and listening to her story, I learned that her job was more than her livelihood. I will never forget how she hugged the employer representative who came to defend the company. At the hearing, she read a poem that she wrote, expressing how much work meant to her. Her job was her only meaningful connection to the community, and one that she cherished deeply.

LAS–ELC helps thousands of workers like Hahn every year, either by providing valuable information or representing them when all other doors are closed. The staff provides low-wage workers with the tools they need to know, understand, and pursue their rights. I feel very fortunate to be one of the more than two thousand law students who have been able to participate in this wonderful program.

My experience at the Clinic was also the springboard to my career as an ERISA plaintiff’s attorney, and the lasting impression of that experience led me full circle. Now, I volunteer as a supervising attorney at the Clinic.

Most of you know about the valuable services that LAS–ELC provides to the underserved community of low-wage workers, but LAS–ELC is more than that. It is a bedrock institution in the Bay Area employment law community. Its impact litigation meaningfully shape the law, its clinics train thousands of future attorneys, and its programs provide access to legal services that we as a community should hope to achieve and broaden.

So please consider making a donation today—because we all have a stake in the LAS–ELC.

Thank you for your consideration,

Michelle Roberts

Michelle L. Roberts
Springer-Sullivan & Roberts LLP

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