Vanessa Rivas-Bernardy ’21 has won the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA), given to one student or team at each law school that has demonstrated excellence in a clinic. During four semesters with the International Human Rights Law Clinic, Vanessa worked on policy advocacy, documentation, and litigation projects. Vanessa is a consummate professional, an empathetic presence, and a trusted partner. Each project tested Vanessa as an advocate and she rose to each challenge becoming an indispensable and highly effective member of each project team. She showed up prepared for every meeting, volunteered for additional work, supported her teammates, and found opportunities to learn more about her projects.
The volume of work product Vanessa generated is as impressive as the range of her advocacy skills. Over the last four semesters, Vanessa met with scores of community groups in Berkeley and San Francisco; traveled to Washington D.C. with a delegation organized by a coalition of southern border community groups to brief congressional representatives; and researched and drafted memos on a range of topics, including U.S. border policy, the history of anti-Black police violence in San Francisco, international truth commissions, and state surveillance of human rights defenders. Throughout her time with the IHRLC, Vanessa maintained an intense desire to learn about and contribute to the projects and a commitment to thinking deeply about the goals of the projects, her performance, and the limitations of the law. IHRLC clients, partners, students, and faculty all benefitted in countless ways from Vanessa’s diligence and dedication, intellectual curiosity, skills, and passion.