“As aspiring lawyers at a preeminent public institution, I believe Berkeley Law students are in a position of unique responsibility to give back to our broader community. To me, participating in the pro bono program is not just about building legal skills and advancing professional goals, but it is about leveraging the privilege of my Berkeley Law education to help build a more equitable and just society.
This past year I was involved in both the Gun Violence Prevention Project (GVPP) and the Digital Rights Project (DRP), and this coming year I will be co-directing the Gun Violence Prevention Project. I became involved with GVPP because I have personally seen the pain that our nation’s gun violence crisis has caused. In 2012, the father of a close friend was killed in a mass shooting at his place of business. In 2017, a grade-school classmate of mine lost his step-mother from a reckless shooting by a police officer in Minneapolis. And in 2020, my friend from college as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley was shot and killed in a random drive-by shooting in San Francisco’s Mission Dolores Park.
So often our nation’s gun violence crisis is framed by a collection of abstract statistics or distilled to niche constitutional legalese. But for thousands of Americans, the gun violence crisis is neither abstract, nor esoteric; rather, it is real, painful, and unambiguously dangerous. It is a crisis that disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. It is a crisis that overlaps with other complex issues in our legal system, including domestic violence, mass incarceration, human trafficking, mental health classification, police brutality, and socioeconomic stratification. And yet, the legal paradigms on the subject matter often are devoid of this nuance and this sense of shared humanity, and instead center around canonical minutiae in statutes, regulatory schemes, and case law.
Working with GVPP this past year, I had the opportunity to support Brady Legal (a national gun violence prevention organization) in cutting-edge research into legal schemes that could regulate the proliferation of 3D-printed “ghost guns” in my home state of Minnesota, as well as many others. It was profoundly empowering to engage in impactful legal research on a subject-matter of such personal importance affecting my home community, especially in a year where the number of gunshot victims in Minneapolis, my home city, are up 90%. This issue has never been more urgent, and I am grateful to Berkeley Law and Brady Legal for affording me the opportunity to engage in such substantive and interesting legal work as a law student.
Whether it be through legal research on behalf of advocacy organizations or through providing legal assistance to those in need, the pro bono program at Berkeley Law empowers students to use the law to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable in our society. Although the pro bono program is optional at Berkeley Law, I believe that the unique public mission of our school invites us as law students to use our education for more than professional advancement, but instead to also give back our time to support those persons, communities, and causes that may benefit from our assistance navigating an historically-flawed legal system.”