by Eliza Schafler
Eliza Schafler is an MHAS Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

Yesterday, our own MHAS attorney Ian Magladry moderated a continuing education workshop for attorneys at the LA Law Library, one of a series of workshops on pro bono volunteering and legal skill-building. This workshop was entitled, “Effective Pro Bono Representation: Understanding the Perspective of Low-Income Clients and Strategies for Working with Challenging Clients.”

The panelists included Tai Glenn of Levitt Quinn Family Law Center, Karen Henry of Davis Wright Tremaine, and Nisha Vyas of Asian Americans Advancing Justice. They shared powerful insights into extreme poverty and the hard decisions that come with it – such as whether to pay for rent or the funeral of a loved one. They discussed the difficulty of planning for the future when each day brings unexpected challenges, and the current crisis of language access for Californians with limited English proficiency. They dispelled the myth that there is one “right” and “wrong” way for people of all cultures to respond to challenges. And finally, they led a conversation on the importance of respectful listening, a lesson that is useful for attorneys and volunteers in all fields.

This panel was a wonderful reminder of the perspective that legal services providers should bring to the table. And for me as a participant, it was also a reminder that our clients not only challenge us, but also inspire us. Every day, they show incredible strength in the face of obstacles that no one should have to encounter. They fight inner battles that outsiders cannot understand. And they keep going despite the realities of uncertainty and hardship.

In this way, our reflection on poverty was also a celebration of human resilience.