By Lucia Valenzuela 2L
On Tuesday, October 29th the Labor and Employment Law Association (LELA) held their first event co-sponsored by the Business Law Society (BLS), titled the Labor and Employment Law Careers Panel. The event, aimed to introduce students to the exciting and dynamic fields of labor and employment law.
Members of the panel that spoke about their background and practice included two TJSL Alumni: Amanda Thompson '07, a plaintiff-side employment law solo practitioner and Melissa Lewis '11, a management-side employment attorney at Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz. Also in the panel were Ricardo Ochoa, a union side attorney and member of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee, and Justin Hewgill, attorney and intern supervisor at Employee Rights Center (ERC).
Justin Hewgill told students that he enjoys his position with the ERC because it allows him to do the type of work that he has always wanted to do. He said that the ERC is one of few non-profits on the west coast that represents lower income workers. He added, “Law students are the life-blood of the ERC” and encouraged more TJSL students to apply and take advantage of this hands on experience while in law school.
Richard Ochoa explained to students what a union lawyer’s job entails, offering glimpses into cases that he handles. He said that one of the rewards of his practice is being able to bring justice in the workplace that benefits a lot of workers as a result of their cases. Further he said, “One reason I enjoy my work is because I get to work side by side with elected [union] leaders.” He went on to explain that in a normal lawyer-client relationship the lawyer simply moves on at the conclusion of a case, but his job on the other hand requires him to form “long term relationships” with the union and its leaders.
Amanda Thompson spoke about the challenges and rewards of being a solo practitioner in employment law. She shared her deep commitment for wanting to help employees be treated with respect in the workplace. She stated that she chose her path because she wanted to “be the change, and have an impact.”
Melissa Lewis stated that 70% of her job included preventing lawsuits by helping employers structure a workplace that complies with the law and ensure a good working environment for workers. She called herself “the fun police” adding that she is the one who gets to play the bad guy when employers want to do things such as “play contact sports and hand out beer.”
“We are happy that the first labor and employment law careers panel here in TJSL turned out to be a success," said Ian Seruelo (2L), President of LELA. "We had a great panel and about 50 students and staff in attendance.”
“The panel was great and it helped me to further understand the different components of a employer-employee relationship and how attorneys fit within that relationship to facilitate a mutually beneficial work environment,” said BLS President Jeremy Elias (3L).
TJSL Students with an interest in labor and employment law will be able to take Professor Susan Bisom-Rapp and Professor Rebecca Lee’s related elective classes in the spring.