Law in the Service of the Public

As the sun beat down on the sea of graduates in Memorial Stadium, I could not help but wonder who thought black polyester robes were a good idea. But that was beside the point; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was giving an inspirational speech regarding the true meaning of our newly donned titles as Berkeley graduates. It meant we were “disruptors,” charged with going forth and creating change. Serving as a Matsui Fellow in the Oakland City Attorney’s Office has been the ideal place to begin that journey.

I am currently working for Oakland’s Neighborhood Law Corps. The Neighborhood Law Corps is comprised of four attorneys who serve as Oakland citizens’ first line of defense against all issues affecting the quality of life in their Oakland communities. The attorneys’ passionate and innovative work has revealed the true meaning of being a disruptor. Their tireless efforts to combat drug houses, prostitution, graffiti, slumlords, and blight on the public’s behalf exemplifies how powerful law can be when used for public service. I have been lucky enough to work directly with the attorneys and Oakland residents on cases regarding illegal dumping, an issue plaguing the city, wage theft, massage parlors, and anticompetitive real estate practices. These cases have encompassed a myriad of tasks, including witness interviews, legal research, and policy analysis. Each task is significant. I draft witness declarations that are directly integrated to case files for administrative hearings and conduct research that forms the rational basis for presenting legislation to the Council, overall directly impacting residents’ lives for the better.

The experience thus far has been greater than I ever imagined. I have met fellow law clerks, eager to impart their law school survival tips. My thoughts have been valued and respected, my ideas have been challenged, and I have been inspired daily by the disruptors that call themselves the Neighborhood Law Corps. I cannot wait to continue creating change throughout the summer with this incredible team of coworkers, and apply all I have learned from them in my future endeavors.

Kenna Falk just graduated from UC Berkeley with dual degrees in Psychology and Legal Studies. She is currently interning with the Oakland City Attorney's Office as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.