The California JusticeCorps Launches New Initiative at Cal
What is JusticeCorps?
Funded through an AmeriCorps grant, JusticeCorps is a collaborative project of the California Administrative Office of the Courts; the Superior Courts of California, Counties of Alameda, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Mateo; select UC & CSU campuses; and many community-based service providers.
Student interns provide individualized services to self-represented litigants, often in their own languages.
JusticeCorps members commit to serving 300 hours in the self-help centers and receive approximately 30 hours of training as well as a $1,000 education award when they complete the program.
Cal Students Ismael Chinchilla (BA English and Rhetoric May 2008) and Genevieve Sublette (BA English May 2008) are in the first class of JusticeCorps at Berkeley.
Career Center (CC): How did you hear about JusticeCorps and what attracted you to the program?
Ismael Chinchilla (IC): I attended one of the information sessions held on campus. I was drawn in by the fact that JusticeCorps members would mostly be assisting low-income litigants who would greatly benefit from the service.
Genevieve Sublette (GS): The JusticeCorps Coordinator came to my Legal Studies: Government and the Family class to recruit people who might be interested. It immediately interested me because of the opportunity to help those less fortunate by using the skills that they are unable to obtain due to matters beyond their control.
CC: What do you do as a JusticeCorps member?
IC: I assist people in family law, small claims, and criminal matters. Our main responsibility is to help alleviate the congestion that exists in the Bay Area courts. I help people correctly fill out their court forms and inform them of the necessary steps to continue their case. In small claims cases, I encourage plaintiffs and defendants to resolve their disputes in out of court agreements when possible.
GS: I inform self-represented litigants of the rights and opportunities they have. I assist them in filling out forms and provide them with the information they need to file their claim. I also attend court proceedings, in which I draft the order the judge gives. This is probably my favorite part of JusticeCorps because I am able to see firsthand what happens in the courtroom, and be directly involved in the process.
CC: What do you like about the work?
IC: It's very rewarding work. Most of the people we assist are lost in the legal system. The work is also very diverse; members assist in cases that cover a wide range of issues. In addition, we have excellent support from staff who are there to guide JusticeCorps members when they become entangled in a complicated case.
GS: I love being surrounded by people who are on the same path I am and are happy to be where they are. Everyone's energy contributes to such a positive atmosphere, and I look forward to going to work every week. Through our training, the leaders created a friendly sense of community among all JusticeCorps members. This not only opens me up to a new group of people, it helps us be much more efficient and productive in our work.
CC: What are some drawbacks?
IC: The only drawback is that JusticeCorps members must hold back from giving legal advice and must only provide relevant legal information to clients so that they can make an informed decision. Often clients come to JusticeCorps members and ask them, "What do I do?!" and our typical response is," I can't tell you what to do, but I can tell you what you CAN do."
GS: I would definitely advise people to make sure they have enough time to make a full commitment before joining JusticeCorps. I think the hardest part about this internship is having to cut people off when they start telling you every little detail about their case while at the same time portraying a caring and proactive attitude.
CC: How do you think this experience informs your academic life and/or has influenced your career plans after you graduate?
IC: JusticeCorps has validated my decision to pursue law school after graduating from Berkeley. The program has also exposed me to a side of the legal system that is in dire need of attention. I feel that being exposed to this as an undergraduate has helped me immensely as a person and will help me even further as an attorney.
GS: Whether or not I choose to pursue this career path in the future, I now know much more about what I want in a job and what to look for in accepting a job offer. Through JusticeCorps there have been so many opportunities, such as community service days and hearing about new internships, and this wide array of opportunities energizes and excites me to do more and more new things. A legal background is useful for so many different careers, and I know that in the future I'll rely on the skills I've learned no matter what job I choose.
Applying to JusticeCorps
The application process consists of a paper application, a group interview, and a 10-minute personal interview. Ismael and Genevieve offer some tips for how to be a competitive candidate:
- Be personal and honest throughout the application process. Be yourself in the interviews and focus on showing what it is that prompted your interest in the program.
- Provide evidence of your strong commitment to social justice.
- A general interest in law is good, but not paramount.
- Start the application early so you can do the most thorough job possible.
- Don't stress out. JusticeCorps is a fun, positive experience, and every step of the way is new and exciting.
Recruitment timelines for the 2007-08 academic year have yet to be determined, but will likely be published either late Spring semester or early Fall.
Subscribe to the CalCorps Public Service Center's e-newsletter for information about deadlines for the next recruiting cycle.