Category Archives: Inside NWJP

Inside NWJP: Patricia Laguna, Legal Assistant; Welcome Chris Ferlazzo

Patricia LagunIMG_9141a, our legal assistant, has been on the front lines of NWJP for seven years. As a former client, Patí is uniquely qualified to serve as the primary liaison between NWJP and current and former clients. Patí is a jack of all trades, engaging in duties ranging from conducting initial client interviews, managing communication with the vast majority of clients, and educational outreach to the community.

Patí is a longtime advocate for the rights of working people. She worked as a family service worker and as a parent involvement coordinator at the Oregon Child Development Coalition’s Migrant Seasonal Head Start program. In addition, Patí worked with indigenous populations at the Indigenous National Institute in Oaxaca, Mexico. She also served as a producer of educational programming in Mexico City

Patí loves working at NWJP because she is passionate about helping the most vulnerable communities of workers educate themselves about their rights. She is devoted to helping to empower clients to defend their rights. In addition to wanting clients to win their cases, Patí wants to see clients become community leaders and organizers.

In other staff news, we have hired Chris Ferlazzo as Program Administrator

Chris is the newest member of our staff, and comes to us from Portland Jobs with Justice, where he worked as an organizer and fundraiser for 14 years. Before that, he worked in the Central America solidarity movement. Chris is charged with the general administration of the organization, including fundraising, communications, and operations.

Inside NWJP: Welcome to Our Summer Law Clerks!

photo 1We’re excited to have four law clerks with us at NWJP this summer!

Cecilia Anguiano was born and raised in Racine, Wisconsin but is now a rising 2L at Lewis & Clark Law School. She is interested in immigration and employment law, as well as rock climbing, traveling, running, and hiking. She says she’s had an amazing experience at NWJP because of the myriad opportunities it presents for client contact. Another law clerk, Aubrey Jones, is a rising 2L at Yale Law School. Aubrey grew up in Portland and is excited to be back in Oregon for the summer. Working at NWJP, she feels lucky to have met a great group of lawyers in the Portland area who are passionate about workers' rights. In her free time, she enjoys running, baking, and practicing Muay Thai kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Kelsey Peddie, a rising 2L at Lewis & Clark Law School, is from Lake Oswego and chose to clerk at NWJP because she’s interested in pursuing a career in employment law. She has enjoyed clerking at NWJP because it’s given her opportunities to engage with and work on many different stages of litigation and advocacy work. Her interests include yoga, running, food, and Duck football. Last but not least, Melissa Vollono is a rising 2L student at Willamette University College of Law. Originally from Connecticut, she considers Portland to be her home. She is very excited to be a summer law clerk at NWJP and most enjoys the opportunity to research cases relating to labor law and employment contracts. Her interests include running, reading, politics, and trying new restaurants. We are very grateful to them for their support!

NWJP hosts law clerks year-round, and we love to help mentor law students who are interested in advancing the rights of low-wage, immigrant, and temporary workers. Contact Deputy Director Corinna Spencer-Scheurich at corinna@nwjp.org or 503-525-8454 for more information about how you or someone you know could join us!

Inside NWJP: Meet former law clerk & attorney, Eduardo Herrera

By Lindsay Jonasson, Interim Program Administrator

We had the pleasure of hosting Eduardo Herrera as a law clerk back in 2012 and caught up with him last month to see where his career has led. After graduation, Eduardo started his own immigration and criminal defense firm in Gresham, Oregon to help meet the need for high-quality services for low-income, immigrant, and Spanish-speaking clients and their families. Looking back, he remembers his experiences at NWJP as particularly formative: “I credit my time at NWJP for helping me discover my passion and purpose of serving vulnerable communities and for that I will always be grateful.”

Born and raised in a working class neighborhood in Pasadena, California by immigrant parents, Eduardo was the first member of his family (and neighborhood) to go to college. He majored in History with a minor in Education at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) before spending several years as a middle school teacher. He later earned his JD at Lewis & Clark Law School, which is when his path first crossed with NWJP. He is now a partner at the firm he helped to found, Northwest Immigration & Criminal Defense LLP.

Congratulations, Eduardo, on your successful law practice and commitment to serving low-wage workers!

[pullquote align="full" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]“I credit my time at NWJP for helping me discover my passion and purpose of serving vulnerable communities and for that I will always be grateful.”

- Eduardo Herrera[/pullquote]

Part of NWJP's mission is to help increase the availability of legal assistance for low-wage, immigrant, and contingent workers. One strategy to do this is to work with law students to develop skills and interest in doing this work.

People who “eat” together…

by Corinna Spencer-Scheurich, NWJP Deputy Director
Photo by Lindsay Jonasson

For the last three years, NWJP has hosted regular brown-bag lunches for employment attorneys who seek justice for low-wage and contingent workers. Employee Advocates Together (or EAT) organizes (almost) monthly lunches that provide Portland-area attorneys a chance to develop community, meet face to face, and solve problems together.

Discussion topics and training sessions give legal services, solo and small-firm attorneys peer support and education on the nuances of representing low-wage workers in employment disputes. Recently, Ed Harnden, Managing Attorney of Barran Liebman, an employer-side employment law firm, met with EAT to talk about emotional distress damages from the perspective of defense counsel. On another occasion, Judge Michael Simon joined us to talk about representing low-wage and non-English speaking workers in federal courts, as well as updating us on federal rule changes. The Regional U-Visa Coordinator from the Department of Labor called in to train us on immigration relief for wage theft victims. Other training sessions have touched on collection on judgments, updates on new laws, legislative advocacy on behalf of low-wage workers, settlement agreements and their tax implications, fighting retaliation and arbitration through the NLRB, and deconstructing important case wins, like that of the Del Monte Fresh workers.

By working to strengthen local low-wage worker advocates, NWJP hopes to improve access to high-quality attorney for workers and to expand the resources that low-wage workers have in Portland. Plus, you can’t beat the company of passionate and dedicated workers’ rights attorneys for a weekday lunch.

If you are interested in joining us, please contact Corinna at corinna@nwjp.org.

Inside NWJP: Meet our law clerk Leila Wall

Leila

Leila is a Lewis & Clark Law School third-year law student who has been a legal extern with us since September. While at NWJP, Leila has written complaints for federal court and BOLI, drafted discovery requests, and lobbied at the State Capitol. She has particularly enjoyed working with clients and researching new areas of the law with which she was previously unfamiliar.

[pullquote align="right" cite="Leila" link="" color="#cc2e2e" class="" size=""] I look forward to whatever the future holds thanks to everything I've learned at NWJP.[/pullquote]

Leila says that being a law clerk at NWJP has been her favorite part of law school. “My two semesters at NWJP have provided me with invaluable legal experience and ignited passion in an area of the law I didn’t know I was interested in.” Leila believes that externing at NWJP has allowed her to positively impact people’s lives, and she is thankful for the opportunity to reconnect with the type of work that made her want to become a lawyer in the first place.

In her free time, Leila enjoys cooking, baking, doing arts & crafts, and practicing yoga. She is an avid explorer of the outdoors and will happily spend hours recounting her favorite hiking destinations. When her schedule allows it, she does freelance graphic design work for nonprofit organizations.

After she graduates in May, Leila hopes to continue supporting and educating workers in the Pacific Northwest so they are able to assert their rights. “I am grateful for all of the knowledge I gained during my time here, and for the kindness and generosity of the entire NWJP staff.” We are grateful for her hard work, indelible smile, and willingness to take on the challenges we threw her way. We are sure she'll achieve anything she sets her mind to accomplish.

 

 

Inside NWJP: Meet Shannon Garcia, future attorney-at-law

Shannon
Photo courtesy of Shannon Garcia

Have you ever read The Awkward Yeti? It's an online comic strip featuring Heart (a carefree, magic-loving dreamer) and Brain (a logical, reality-embracing cynic). Hosting Shannon Garcia, a Lewis & Clark Law School student who clerked with us for a year and a half, was like having our very own Heart in the office.

Shannon is passionate and enthusiastic about making a difference in people’s lives through her legal work. As legal extern and volunteer, she’s participated in all aspects of wage-and-hour and discrimination cases, investigated claims, drafted federal complaints, researched obscure areas of the law, and participated in trial preparation. She also kept us thoroughly entertained with her sunny disposition and amazing sense of humor.

Image captured from www.theawkwardyeti.com
Image captured from www.theawkwardyeti.com

Shannon believes that the work she has done while at NWJP has positively impacted low-income communities and has helped her to remain focused on the altruistic reasons that propelled her to pursue a legal career in the first place.

This month, Shannon is graduating from law school with a Global Law certificate and she hopes to continue working with communities in Oregon that are experiencing poverty. Regardless of what her future holds, we know one thing is certain: she will continue being the Heart wherever she goes.

Go forth and do justice, Shannon!

Inside NWJP: Meet Marcus Swift

by Marcus Swift, NWJP Staff Attorney

Marcus Swift
Photo courtesy of Marcus Swift

“Whirlwind” is the word I use to describe my first nine weeks as the newest staff attorney at Northwest Workers’ Justice Project.

I stepped into our office on the 11th floor in downtown Portland in late-August for my first day of work.  I did so as a brand new lawyer ready to finally practice law.  As a law student I had the privilege of working at a legal aid office, a public defender’s office, DACA workshops, and an immigration clinic. I interviewed clients, filed motions, and appeared in court. It was valuable practical experience, but it does not compare to raising your right hand and swearing an oath to the Constitution and becoming a member of the bar.

I arrived at NWJP a week before law clerks started the fall semester, five weeks before our annual event, and six weeks before our entire office moved nine floors below. So, in other words, there was a lot going on.

In that short time, I’ve sent my first demand letter to an employer. I’ve interviewed potential clients. I’ve attended our annual event where generous people donated, laughed, ate, drank, and listened to great speakers. I’ve drafted a federal complaint. I’ve learned from other lawyers in Portland and across the country about topics like collections and properly drafted pleadings. I’ve counted on clerks for great research. I’ve turned to coworkers and supervisors for advice. I’ve lobbied lawmakers to raise the minimum wage. I’ve participated in meetings to discuss strategies to combat wage theft. I’ve carried boxes and moved furniture. And I’ve become part of an amazing team, all in only two months.

What I have seen at NWJP is a staff full of friendly, passionate, hard working people who do an incredible amount of work with limited time and resources. I have witnessed an organization that does so much important work in so many areas, and does so with an efficiency and effectiveness that I have rarely witnessed at larger organizations. And it’s all done without any state or federal funding.

I have also met (and been honored to represent) dedicated, courageous, hard working clients who want to care for their families, participate in their community, and be treated with the same dignity and respect that is afforded to others; people who want a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work; people who believe that employers should follow the rules.

It’s been a whirlwind, to be sure. It’s also been incredibly enriching, rewarding, and exciting. And I know the newness will wear off and some of the rose coloring will fade out of my glasses. There will be rough days and frustrating losses. The justice system will not always seem so just. But I have no doubt that NWJP will still be doing so much, for so many, with so little. And I will be proud to be a small part of it.