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Fellow Focus: Patrick McDonell

We are thrilled to welcome Summer Law Clerk Patrick McDonell, who joins LAFLA as part of the Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship Program. The program provides grants for law students pursuing public interest summer law positions. Patrick, who is a rising 3L at the University of Michigan Law School, shared some insight into his background and career aspirations, and how LAFLA fits into his professional trajectory.

Which undergraduate school did you attend?
Santa Clara University

What is your background in the public interest law/social justice space?
I worked as a paralegal in the Human Right to Housing project at the Public Justice Center in Baltimore. That was where my desire to be a public interest litigator was born. I had a few other stops before and during law school – teaching English in Peru, assisting researchers at the World Justice Project, and working on housing policy at the National Housing Law Project. In law school, I have loved my time as a member of the Civil-Criminal Litigation Clinic which focuses on a broad range of direct legal services, much like LAFLA!

Why did you choose to intern at LAFLA this summer?
Last summer, I interned at the National Housing Law Project (which many housing advocates might recognize as the publisher of “The Greenbook”). I loved the organization but missed working directly with clients. As an extrovert and hopeful future litigator, I wanted to find an organization that focused on direct services and could give me solid litigation experience. LAFLA aligned perfectly with those desires.

What have you been working on at LAFLA?
I am working with the Measure H attorneys on a variety of cases preventing the loss of housing and helping people overcome barriers to housing. Cases that I have worked on so far have included eviction defense, expungement, and domestic violence restraining orders.

Why are you drawn to a career in public interest law?
I love that public interest work centers human relationships – each public interest organization that I have experienced has felt like a family and has fostered meaningful relationships and powerful advocacy with its clients. Public interest attorneys also get bigger utility belts than most. They not only represent clients but are also active in policy work, community organizing efforts, and connecting people to resources.

What are your career goals?
I hope to become a housing attorney back in my home of Sonoma County. The North Bay has many of its own struggles with the affordable housing crisis and homelessness. I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to learn different advocacy approaches and strategies from the attorneys here at LAFLA.

Thank you, Patrick, for serving at LAFLA this summer and helping our clients with housing-related matters. We look forward to learning more about your work at LAFLA, and your future in public interest law!

You can read more about our 2020 law clerks in our previous blog post.