By Andrew Cohen
It didn’t take long for Michelle Kim ’18 to realize how seamlessly the Christopher M. Patti Legal Fellowship fit her professional aspirations and personal ethos.
Given to a recent law school graduate interested in public service, the fellowship provides one-year, full-time work at UC Berkeley’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) and Office of Legal Affairs. Kim pursued it largely “because the UC system serves a diverse community. Its mission to uphold diversity and fairness aligns with my own passion in that area.”
A nationally recognized leader in higher education law, Patti was a member of OGC for more than 27 years. While serving as chief campus counsel, he died in a tragic road-cycling accident after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in August 2017. To honor his memory, OGC and Berkeley Law established the fellowship last year.
“Michelle’s strong leadership qualities and clear commitment to social justice issues—particularly in the areas of domestic violence and immigration—make her an ideal choice for the fellowship,” Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and UC General Counsel and Vice President for Legal Affairs Charles F. Robinson said in a joint statement.
The fellowship, which begins September 9, provides an early opportunity to gain meaningful experience in the wide range of issues facing public and nonprofit entities. Kim will conduct legal research, draft documents, and attend client meetings, hearings, and negotiations.
Serving the marginalized
Kim recently completed a one-year fellowship with the Family Violence Appellate Project in Oakland, a nonprofit dedicated to helping domestic violence survivors and their children. She was also a law clerk for Legal Aid at Work in San Francisco.
“At the Family Violence Appellate Project, I focused on issues particular to immigrant survivors of domestic violence,” Kim says. Her efforts reflected a zeal for “supporting underserved communities and closing the justice gap for marginalized groups. This passion continues to be the undercurrent of my drive to develop a career in public service.”
During her time at Berkeley Law, Kim worked as a clinic student at the East Bay Community Law Center’s Immigration Program, participated in the California Asylum Representation Clinic, clerked at Bay Area Legal Aid, served as a staff editor for the Berkeley Business Law Journal, and was a member of Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Silicon Valley.
She heard glowing stories about Patti, who represented the university in numerous complex matters, steered litigation to protect campus interests, and worked extensively with government agencies, the California State Legislature, community organizations, and the media. He was deeply committed to issues of equity and diversity, including access to higher education for all underrepresented minorities and the advancement of LGBTQ rights.
“Everyone had only the most wonderful things to share about Christopher Patti,” Kim says.
“I learned he was a truly exceptional attorney who cared deeply about diversity and social justice. It reflected what a respected colleague he was at work and in the community. I am so honored to have been awarded this fellowship in his name.”