2014 Dan Bradley Fellow

Each year, LAAC offers the Dan Bradley Fellowship to fund law students who want to spend their summer working at a LAAC member legal aid organization. The Fellowship is awarded to outstanding students who want to pursue a career in public interest law and who want to spend their summer working in a rural area or on a rural issue. The Dan Bradley Fellowship not only gives law students the opportunity to explore a career in legal services, it offers legal services programs a new source of dedicated and energetic summer staff.
More about the Dan Bradley Fellowship

Following is the 2014 Dan Bradley Fellow:

Sylvia Tsai

UC Davis School of Law ’16
Legal Services of Northern California

Sylvia Tsai, 2014 Dan Bradley Fellow

Interning at the Foreclosure Prevention Advocacy Project of Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC) as a Dan Bradley Fellow was an extremely rewarding part of my legal education. Due to the specialized nature of the project, it exposed me to an entirely new subject matter that I had not learned in law school. The internship encompassed three main task areas: Client Intakes, Community Outreach, and Legal Research. Since a lot of our clients live in rural areas, most of the client intakes were done through the phone.

By listening to the clients’ stories and distilling the important information, we attempted to see what could be done for them. Sometimes we could take active steps to help clients prepare answers, apply for housing vouchers, or even negotiate a settlement with the opposing party. However, at times, all we could do was to advise clients the cruel reality that they had to make a plan to move out of the house they grew up in and had been living in for 40 years.

In retrospect, client intakes taught me how to embrace humanity and vulnerability in the most dire situation. They were very intimate because it was a human being calling to seek help with his/her life. When a person bought a home, dreams were invested into this home. It was not just a house, but a projection of a happily-ever-after for a family. Foreclosure was like a dream-wrecking hurricane that shattered everything. So much vulnerability and sadness was present every time I conducted a new intake. Within the 10-week internship and the more than a dozen of intakes, these real life stories educated me and made me a different person. I learned to be more attentive to the subtle messages beyond mere words, and to present myself in a professional yet sympathetic manner.

As for the outreach, LSNC participated in the Help for Homeowners Event sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Treasury at the Sacramento Convention Center in July, making us available to the community. Clients came from various rural counties within 80-mile radius of the city, and we conducted intakes, counseled, and gave out fliers to educate homeowners about their rights.

Legal research back at the office was also a major component of my internship. Questions came up as we tried to find the laws that applied to the clients’ situations, such as: Would a deed in lieu of foreclosure or a short sale affect our client’s social security benefits? Why did the bank pursue a breach of contract civil suit against our client instead of foreclosing his home? What could we do if our client, a nice old man in his 80s, accidentally signed a contract under penalty of perjury and later realized that he mistakenly believed a fact to be true? Sometimes an ideal answer could not be found within the allowed time frame, making legal research the most challenging part of my internship this past summer. Yet it was also the most rewarding when an answer emerged after I scavenged through pages after pages of laws.

The fellowship was a major encouragement in my endeavor in the public sector. Serving the community, especially reaching out to the rural areas, not only exposed me to the big picture of public service, but also taught me invaluable lessons about life.