While their peers will start their third year of law school in the classroom, UC Hastings College of the Law’s five inaugural Lawyers for America students will spend the year working full-time at the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s or Public Defender’s office. After a short break to study for and take the bar exam, they will return for another year in a paid fellowship position at the same job.
2Ls Tamara Bartlett, Peter Chau, Nicholas Gohn, and Saron Tesfai will spend next year working at the District Attorney’s office in Contra Costa under the guidance of Tom Kensok ’84. 2L Aaron Jaques will spend next year working for the Contra Costa Public Defender’s office under the tutelage of Jonathan Laba. All five students will graduate with their class, take the Bar exam over the summer, then return to their positions for another full year in a paid fellowship.
“The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is looking forward to welcoming the first cohort of Lawyers for America,” said Thomas J. Kensok ’84, Assistant District Attorney for Contra Costa County. “We think of this as a win-win opportunity for the office and the students. We are confident they will quickly make a contribution to fulfilling our mission as well as gain valuable courtroom experience. In addition, they will receive specialized one on one coaching tailored to the individual that is not available in a classroom setting. Each of the participants can expect to be a seasoned litigator by the end of the 2 year commitment.”
Lawyers for America founder Professor Marsha Cohen expects the program, open to law schools throughout the country, to have a tremendous positive impact. “At LfA, we seek to create the framework and support to enable legal nonprofits and public law offices to increase their legal staff while simultaneously providing new attorneys with practical training and valuable exposure to society’s unmet legal needs,” she said. “In doing this, our program supports a new model for legal education and enables an expanded affordable pool of lawyers to meet critical societal needs.”
2L Saron Tesfai says he is very much looking forward to this unique opportunity. “The LFA Fellowship is a perfect fit for my educational and career goals,” he notes. “I came to UC Hastings so I could learn to serve my community and the Fellowship provides that learning opportunity for me while also helping to fill the justice gap."
“I am very excited to be part of the first Lawyers for America class,” agrees 2L Tamara Barlett. “The fellowship provides the ideal way to give back to the community, and really make a difference with my legal education.”
Lawyers for America, Inc. (LfA) is a California charitable corporation that has received IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. LfA was founded by UC Hastings College of the Law Professors David Faigman and Marsha Cohen.