UC Law SF Students Help Close Gap in Access to Justice

Flanked by Professors Ascanio Piomelli and Gail Silverstein, 20 graduating students in the social justice lawyering concentration were among those honored at UC Law SF’s Social Justice Celebration in May.

UC Law San Francisco students provided more than $5.6 million in free legal assistance last year, helping clients with cases ranging from child welfare to tenants’ rights, while advancing social justice and making a difference in their communities.

Through clinics, externships, and pro bono work, students provided more than 56,000 unpaid hours of legal work, benefiting nonprofits, public agencies, and individual clients.

“We are so proud of the important work our students accomplished this year,” said Gail Silverstein, Associate Dean of Experiential Learning, Faculty Co-Director of the Center for Social Justice and Clinical Professor of Law. “Their work has helped narrow the access-to-justice gap, and we hope it inspires them to keep finding ways to serve others throughout their careers.”

UC Law SF students earn academic credit through in-house clinics, field-placement clinics, and externships. The Center for Social Justice also supports student organizations and individual students doing pro bono public interest work in the community.

Students who engaged in public-interest work over the last year were recognized at a Social Justice Celebration in May.

Tussanee Reedboon ’24, who started a pro bono project to educate young people about the law, plans to work for the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office.

Tussanee Reedboon ‘24 was one of six students to receive a Nancy Stuart Public Interest Award, which recognizes students committed to social justice work. The award comes with funding to help recent grads with bar exam preparation. She was also named winner of this year’s AT&T Pro Bono Award. She plans to serve as a post-bar clerk with the Los Angeles Public Defender’s Office.

Reedboon launched the Law Empowerment and Access Project (LEAP), a pro bono project in which UC Law SF students lead legal workshops at middle and high schools to empower youth interested in law. At the celebration, she said she was impressed by her fellow students, who supported public interest causes so strongly, despite the demands of law school.

“You still found time to advocate for people who needed it,” she said. “I encourage you to never lose that ability to endure and fight.”

Brooke Harris ’25 has led multiple projects to help LGBTQ+ individuals with legal issues, including applying for asylum and creating advanced health care directives.

Twelve students also received Social Justice Achievement Awards, which recognize outstanding work to advance social justice and serve the public interest.

One of the recipients was Brooke Harris ’25, co-president of OUTlaw, an LGBTQ+ student advocacy group at the school. Harris created a new pro bono project to help LGBTQ+ individuals with advanced health care directives. She also worked with fellow OUTlaw members to continue a program that helps people change their names and gender markers. Additionally, she led a group of students assisting LGBTQ+ asylum seekers during spring break.

“These pro bono projects help empower individuals to live authentically, seek safety and protection from persecution, and assert control over their medical care while fostering autonomy, dignity, and peace of mind within the LGBTQ+ community,” Harris said. “I am incredibly proud of this work.”

Sasha Nasir ’24 says she is excited to use her legal education to help protect the rights of workers and students who are pregnant or caring for family members.

During the celebration, 20 graduating students in the social justice lawyering concentration were also recognized. Among them was Sasha Nasir ’24, who plans to work with attorneys at UC Law SF’s Center for WorkLife Law. She will help the center defend the rights of workers and students who are pregnant or caring for family members, thanks to a fellowship from the Legal Services Funders Network.

Through the concentration seminars and required classes, Nasir said she learned about different career paths and approaches to social justice lawyering, along with practical skills, such as client-centered advocacy and negotiation techniques.

“The concentration allowed us to explore what this profession means to us and what it means to be a social justice lawyer,” she said. “It also provided a much-needed sense of belonging and community. I’m excited to collaborate with the Center for WorkLife Law to advance gender, racial, and economic justice for those who are often marginalized and overlooked.”

Find a full list of honorees from the 2024 Social Justice Celebration here.