By Andrew Cohen
The spirit of giving, evident throughout the Berkeley Law community, continues to buoy students in myriad ways.
This year, alumni and friends helped the school expand its public interest fellowships to include judicial externships, enabling 40 students to work for judges last summer. Donor support also provided scholarships for financially challenged students, fueled the hugely successful trial competition program, and launched numerous projects that cultivated valuable client interaction while addressing some of society’s most pressing issues.
Here are just three examples of donor generosity—and its impact on students—that illustrate the power of “paying it forward.”
Bill Voge ’83 occupies a lofty seat in the legal world as global chair and managing partner of Latham & Watkins, a top international firm with 32 offices around the world. Back in law school, however, there was ample self-doubt.
“These feelings are particularly acute for first-generation professional students,” he said. “They may never have met anyone who has achieved similar goals or taken a similar career path. They may wonder if they have the stamina or skills to succeed. I certainly had these concerns as a law student.”
Wanting to allay such worries for today’s first-generation students, Voge “proudly” supports the new Berkeley Law Opportunity Scholarship (BLOS)—and serves on its selection committee. The scholarship provides full tuition, fees, and health insurance for three years of study at Berkeley Law—and access to wide-ranging programmatic support.
The first five BLOS recipients, including Iryna Fedoseienko ’18, enrolled this fall. Raised in Ukraine, Fedoseienko was an Honors student at UCLA and a litigation assistant at the Disability Rights Legal Center in Los Angeles. Having just finished her first semester, she said Berkeley Law “goes beyond providing a world-class legal education. I was stunned to find a superior degree of engagement and collegiality among my fellow law students, as well as highly supportive professors who are fully dedicated to our success as law students and future lawyers.”
Voge calls it “critical” for law schools to seek out first-generation students—who comprise 17 percent of Berkeley Law’s current 1L class. He said such students need to know “we believe in them and will do what it takes to help them,” as well as “how much the legal industry values their voices and wants to hear their unique perspectives.”
Access for all
When Jeff Bleich ’89 went to Berkeley Law, he paid his tuition with money earned from summer jobs. “You can’t do that today,” he said. “It’s up to us alums to pay it forward, to give that same opportunity we had to the next generation.”
That ethos prompted Bleich to generously support the Access for All Challenge, a campaign for need-based financial aid that raised nearly $4 million to help Berkeley Law remain accessible to all qualified applicants.
The former U.S. Ambassador to Australia, now a managing partner at Munger Tolles & Olson, Bleich credits the school’s “very diverse population” for accelerating his career. He said it “helps produce lawyers that have more global perspective, greater interest in strengthening and building relationships around the world, and more facility to do that.”
Bleich’s support enables the school to be enriched by students such as Jameson Miller ’16. Raised by a single mother in Houston’s inner city, Miller knew that “statistically, I was not slated to win. Financial aid definitely made this experience possible.”
As a 1L, Miller won the oral component of Berkeley Law’s Written and Oral Advocacy Competition. He is now a student advisor for an Appellate Advocacy course taught by William Fernholz ’93, and a legal intern for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors. “I chose Berkeley over some Ivy League schools because it’s top-tier, but also has a public mission and a global calling to give back and benefit society,” Miller said.
James Kwak achieved enormous success before going to Yale Law School in 2008, co-authoring a best-selling book and co-founding a major software company. At the school’s Community Reentry Clinic, he worked under Berkeley Law Clinical Professor Jeff Selbin, there on a visiting scholar appointment.
Years later, Selbin told Kwak about the new Policy Advocacy Clinic (PAC)—where Berkeley Law and public policy students pursue innovative, systemic strategies to help the disadvantaged. The clinic needed a teaching fellow to make a meaningful impact, prompting Kwak to make a generous gift that sparked other donations. That led to the hire of Stephanie Campos-Bui ’14, who co-teaches the clinic seminar and supervises student projects.
“Jeff is a great advocate and a great teacher and I know he’ll do valuable work with any money I donate,” said Kwak, now University of Connecticut law professor. “The kinds of problems that the clinic is addressing are extremely important to our society, yet often go ignored.”
Kwak also supported the fellowship to “help open the door to more people who want to do public interest law out of law school.” That list includes Rachel Draznin-Nagy ’16, who joined PAC after an internship at the Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office revealed “there isn’t enough communication with policy experts and people who know what’s happening on the ground.”
Under Campos-Bui’s direction, she and other students are working to reform the imposition of fees in California’s juvenile justice system, which disproportionately affect low-income families. She made major contributions to a policy brief and was instrumental in helping clinic students prepare for a key presentation before the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
“Without Stephanie, it wouldn’t be possible for the clinic to do nearly as much as it does,” Draznin-Nagy said. “She’s an organized leader with a calming presence, and has that perfect balance of letting students develop their own strategy while stepping in when needed.”
As the semester comes to a close, and the holidays usher in a new year, the law school community is profoundly grateful for the spirit of giving that unites us all.