Closing the Opportunity Gap and Making An Impact

UC Berkeley Professor and Founder of Bay Area Legal Incubator Increases Justice and the Diversity Pipeline for the Legal Profession

From Left: Nelida Almeida-Bryant, SRA Scholar and UC Berkeley Senior; Cynthia Chandler, UC Berkeley School of Law Professor and Director of BALI and Lizet Rivas Villanueva, SRA Scholar and American University Sophomore.

 

Internships are a key part of the college-to-career experience. Data shows a majority of employers believe that internship experience is of paramount importance when they consider recent college graduate job candidates. Paired with a strong resume, high-level internships can be the make-or-break key to landing the career-ladder jobs that lead so many first-generation college students to success.

We had the opportunity to sit down with one of our most dedicated internship partners and change-maker, Cynthia Chandler, Adjunct Professor for the University California, Berkeley School of Law and Director of BALI, Bay Area Legal Incubator, an Oakland-based, social-mission, legal incubator launched by the Alameda County Bar Association to accelerate the launch of affordable, community law practices.

Ms. Chandler has been an SRA advocate for over 10 years, having hired 15+ SRA interns and aspiring law professionals and proudly shares this message with potential employers: “If you want a go-getter, hire from Students Rising Above!”

 

BALI’s mission is extremely powerful and seems like you do incredible work. What do you do and what was your inspiration behind founding BALI?

Cynthia: In short, I am a fairy godmother: I help entrepreneurial attorneys from disenfranchised communities realize their dreams of building innovative, visionary, and sustainable community law practices that have social impact. More specifically, I am launching and building a social mission legal incubator to accelerate the development of law practices with community impact.

How did you hear about Students Rising Above and what excited you about the organization?

Cynthia: I first heard about Students Rising Above over 10 years ago through a friend and previous colleague and have since hired over 15 SRA interns over the years. I’ve always run nonprofits that have served similar under-resourced communities; working with SRA students felt like an extension of the organization and it has been a perfect fit since day one.

What has your experience been working with Students Rising Above?

Cynthia: Completely positive! I have never encountered more professional, capable and dedicated undergrad law interns as SRA scholars. It’s such a joy to mentor this amazing group of young people and also know that each and every student that comes through the door is highly capable and passionate about pursuing a future in the legal profession.

What surprised you in working with this group of students?

Cynthia: I have hired over 600 interns over the last decade and each and every time I work with Students Rising Above, I am pleasantly surprised by the caliber of talent – all SRA interns come prepared, professional and eager to learn. I think this really speaks to not only the dedication of each SRA scholar, but also invaluable professional development training and skills they are receiving through Students Rising Above.

Have you seen any results across your organization as a direct result of these internships?

Cynthia: I’ve been able to rely on SRA interns to take the lead in developing efficiency systems. Because of their familiarity with tech, they’ve helped build key infrastructures, as they embrace technology at a more rapid pace.

What does Diversity and Inclusion mean to you?

Cynthia: It means including these important values at the core of decision making and organizational structure. We need to be deliberate in building organizations that foster a more diverse and inclusive culture from its foundation.

Why do you think organizations like SRA are important to our future leaders? What is the impact?

Cynthia: If you don’t have legacy connections, it’s hard to get your foot in the door from the very beginning. Students Rising Above opens entry points for our future leaders and helps them flourish in higher level institutions and career paths once they’re there.

 

We are proud to partner with hundreds of corporations and organizations in and around the Bay Area and beyond, offering our students internship opportunities in diverse industries. Follow us on the SRA Blog to see where our students are landing fulfilling internships this summer!