The Berkeley Law Effect: Resonating Impact on Law, Policy and Lives

Tim Kline ’17, Rachel Draznin-Nagy ’16, Stephanie Campos-Bui ’14, Ahmed Lavalais ’17, Alex Kaplan ’16, and Jeffrey Selbin of Berkeley Law’s Policy Advocacy Clinic after presenting the clinic’s findings to the Alameda County Public Protection Committee.
Tim Kline ’17, Rachel Draznin-Nagy ’16, Stephanie Campos-Bui ’14, Ahmed Lavalais ’17, Alex Kaplan ’16, and Jeffrey Selbin of Berkeley Law’s Policy Advocacy Clinic after presenting the clinic’s findings on the negative impact of juvenile justice fees on low income offenders and their families to the Alameda County Public Protection Committee.

By Rachel DeLetto

On November 17, 2016, UC Berkeley will celebrate its third annual Big Give, a one-day online fundraising blitz encouraging alumni, friends, students, parents, faculty and staff to give back to Berkeley. This year’s Big Give theme is “The Berkeley Effect.” Just as the butterfly effect suggests that small actions can cause large, resonating effects, so too can small actions in support of Berkeley Law have a big impact on the law school and the world around us.

This got us to thinking: If an act as mundane and minuscule as a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a tornado hundreds of miles away, what then is the effect of Berkeley Law? Here are just some of the ways our community helps make the world a better place.

Legislative Victories

In 2016, two bills conceived within the halls of Berkeley Law by students were signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown: AB 2819, a tenant blacklist protection measure, and AB 2455, the Student Voting Act. Additionally, AB 816, the California Worker Cooperative Act, which facilitates creation of employee-owned and operated businesses, was shepherded into law by Sushil Jacob ’11, founding director of the East Bay Community Law Center’s Green-Collar Communities Clinic. California’s Fair Political Practices Commission also recruited our students to help revise and modernize the state’s Political Reform Act, the body of law that governs the state’s campaign finance, lobbying and election ethics.

Social Justice Stars

The law school’s Policy Advocacy Clinic (PAC) successfully persuaded Alameda County to become the first in the nation to repeal fees charged to youth offenders and their families in the juvenile justice system. The repeal came in the wake of a PAC report about the high harm of these regressive fees and immediately relieved 2,900 families of $2 million in juvenile debt. The Alameda County repeal has been cited by the 9th Circuit and the New York Times editorial board, both of which called for other counties to follow suit; Contra Costa County recently imposed a similar moratorium.

In a California capital punishment case, the Death Penalty Clinic (DPC) won a landmark opinion requiring a district attorney’s office to turn over documents that could prove that the DA sought the death penalty based on the unconstitutional factor of race. In cases in Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Texas and Virginia, the DPC’s work has been indispensable to prosecutors’ decisions to drop the death penalty as a possible sentence.

At the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC), attorneys and law students provided indispensable legal services to over 5,000 low-income East Bay individuals and families on a range of legal issues including immigration, public benefits access, eviction defense, reentry, consumer protection, homelessness and education access.

Student-Driven Advocacy

Berkeley Law supports 27 Student-Initiated Legal Services Projects (SLPS), each focused on a narrow issue of public interest, founded and operated by students. SLPS groups work with a range of clients, from undocumented immigrants, refugees, and low-wage workers to foster children and former prisoners. These pro bono projects offer students the chance to interact with clients right away, develop vital lawyering skills such as intake and interviewing, legal research and analysis and oral advocacy and the chance to help the disadvantaged.

Facilitating Innovation

Our business law programs and future private sector practitioners contribute significantly to the innovation ecosystem of the Bay Area. Startup@BerkeleyLaw—a joint endeavor between the Berkeley Center for Law and Business and the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology—provides students with exceptional training for startup work, delivers useful education and services to local startups and entrepreneurs, and further connects the campus with Silicon Valley. Startup@BerkeleyLaw recently partnered with 500 Startups, a leading global venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator, to host Venture Capital Deal Camp, an executive education program for investors and attorneys that drew participants from around the world.

Using Big Data for Good

Chris Hoofnagle (Faculty Director, BCLT) and Eduard Meleshinsky ’14
Chris Hoofnagle (Faculty Director, BCLT) and Eduard Meleshinsky ’14

Data analytics and new search technologies are helping increase efficiency and transparency in many legal areas. Law Professor Justin McCrary, director of UC Berkeley’s Social Science Data Laboratory, used data analytics to examine extensive information on arrests, violence against police and deaths in police custody in order to build a new website for California’s Attorney General. California now has the most comprehensive and user-friendly system in the nation for providing this kind of crime analysis.

Professor Chris Hoofnagle and Eduard Meleshinsky ’14 recent paper, finding consumers are easily fooled by ads masquerading as editorials, demonstrated another example of the power of data to inform and shape policy. Just a week after the paper was published, the Federal Trade Commission issued new guides on “deceptively formatted” ads.

Important Impact

This is just a small sample of what’s going on at Berkeley Law. To say the law school has an important impact on our community, California, the legal profession, and indeed the world, is an understatement. So, in celebration of Cal Big Give and the Berkeley Law Effect, we present a gallery of even more highlights from a year of tremendous and tireless work within our community. Click on the slides to read more. 


The Berkeley (Law) Effect