Can one do good as a lawyer and also do well?
In other words, can an attorney practice public interest or civil rights law and still make a good living?
That was the main topic at an alternative career panel discussion titled “Doing Good and Doing Well,” held at TJSL on April 2, presented by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) student chapter.
The three panelists are all members of the National Lawyers Guild and have worked protecting the civil rights of their clients in different areas of the law. They all advocated for what can be called “the progressive path.” San Diego criminal defense attorney Alex Landon says he “wanted to do something in law that would help both the community and the people in it.”
Landon says his mentors were two NLG attorneys. “They were very beneficial to me, teaching me how to try criminal defense cases.” he says. “Guild lawyers are always willing to mentor.”
San Diego attorney Kate Yavenditti says she got involved with NLG her first week in law school, and later worked with a collective of “Guild lawyers” in Los Angeles. She practices Family Law in San Diego now. She urged the law students in the audience to get involved with political causes. “Don’t hide your politics. It’s who you are,” Yavenditti said. “Even if you can’t do it within your practice. There are a lot of us here in the NLG. We can do progressive work.”
Julia Yoo has worked with female prisoners over the years and defended a number of women who were arrested in the Occupy San Diego movement of 2011.
She told a story of how some of the women arrested during Occupy were confined to a bus and not allowed to have access to bathrooms for hours and hours. Yoo says the attitude of law enforcement was: “If you don’t like it, sue us.” So she did. And that’s how she brought about change, as she has done many other times during her career, with lawsuits on behalf of prisoners.
“The speakers showed students that it is possible to ‘do well while doing good,’ that one can gain financial stability in an area of public interest law or civil rights law that one is passionate about and also that one can remain politically active in their legal career while working in more lucrative areas of the law,” said Susy Prochazka 3L, the president of TJSL’s NLG chapter.
“I thought the National Lawyer Guild's Alternative Career Panel was a very rewarding experience,” said Kelly Hayes 3L. “The speakers gave great advice and some very creative ideas on how to pursue a legal career within many different areas of the law. I enjoyed hearing their stories of how they got to where they are now. Some of them had rough beginnings, but they used their resources and collaborated with fellow Guild members to work through their struggles and ultimately become successful attorneys, creating change from the ground-up. “