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Public Interest Boot Camp 2017


Speaker(s): Eliza Hersh, Jeanne Nishimoto, Nicholas Levenhagen, Nicole M. Perez, Protima Pandey
Recorded on: May. 31, 2017
PLI Program #: 212500

Jeanne L. Nishimoto is the Pro Bono Training Coordinator at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), where she oversees the development of legal trainings for pro bono attorneys. Prior to becoming the Pro Bono Training Coordinator, she worked for five years as a LAFLA staff attorney, focusing on housing and eviction defense, government benefits, and civil rights.

Ms. Nishimoto earned her J.D., cum laude, from the University of Michigan Law School, where she served as an executive editor to the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform and participated in the school's advanced clinical program. She received her undergraduate degree from Amherst College.


Protima has been an advocate for gender justice and is the newly appointed Director for the Office of Women’s Policy at Santa Clara County. Working for the County Executive, her office works to bring a gender lens to policy decision-making, building a pipeline to leadership, and demand equity in governance. Prior to that, she was the Managing Attorney and Regional Counsel for Immigration at Bay Area Legal Aid, where she started as a staff attorney litigating on family law and immigration cases for survivors of domestic violence, as well as allied legal relief in areas of public benefits, housing preservation, and economic justice. Most recently she co-counseled on a precedent setting case in California, Kumar v. Kumar, a complex immigration and family law cross-over case. She also led the firm-wide post-graduate Fellowship program to shepherd and develop fellowship proposals through the national selection process. She is also one of 17 lawyers nation-wide appointed as a Commissioner to the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence to work on issues impacting delivery of legal services to survivors, where she is also a litigation skills faculty. She also serves as faculty for Practicing Law Institute in San Francisco, training on issues relating to housing rights for immigrants and representation of domestic violence survivors in family courts as well as on understanding personal bias, working with diverse populations, and on domestic violence awareness. Being passionate about giving back to the legal profession, Protima has served as the Chair of San Mateo County Bar Association's Diversity Committee (2014), has been integral to the work of BayLegal's diversity initiative, and the Racial Justice Initiative. Prior to joining BayLegal, Protima was the Public Policy specialist for California Partnership to End Domestic Violence in Sacramento, California where she worked on legislation and advocacy on behalf of agencies serving survivors and their families.

Education: Washington University in St. Louis, School of Law, 2001; National Law School of India University Practice Areas: Family Law, Immigration Law, Housing protections for DV survivors.

Bar Admissions: California, 2003; India, 1999

Awards: South Asian Bar Association Northern California Community Impact Award (2014), South Asian Bar Association Northern California Foundation Public Interest Attorney of the year (2012), Woman of Color Scholarship from National Network to End Domestic Violence (2007)


Nicholas Levenhagen is an Elder Fraud Attorney at Bet Tzedek, representing low-income seniors and adults with disabilities in real estate and consumer fraud matters.  Nicholas first joined Bet Tzedek in 2012 as an Equal Justice Works fellow with the Holocaust Survivors’ Services team, representing Holocaust survivors in public benefits appeals, reparations matters, housing matters, estate planning, and elder abuse litigation. He also worked with partner law firms and agencies in other major U.S. cities to coordinate the delivery of free elder law services to survivors nationwide through Bet Tzedek's Holocaust Survivors Justice Network.  In addition to his work at Bet Tzedek, Nicholas serves as a board member of the Legal Aid Association of California (LAAC), is a Lecturer in Law at UCLA School of Law, and is a regular volunteer with the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s legal services department.  Nicholas earned his B.A. from Hamline University and his J.D. from Boston University School of Law.


Eliza is a 2016 Soros Justice Fellow and Visiting Scholar at Berkeley Law School's Center for the Study of Law & Society. From 2006 to 2016, Eliza was a clinical instructor and directed the Clean Slate Reentry Legal Services Practice at the East Bay Community Law Center, which is a teaching clinic of Berkeley Law School. The Clean Slate Practice developed innovative strategies in criminal, consumer rights, and administrative law, as well as policy advocacy and impact litigation that empowered people to overcome barriers to employment, education, housing, and civic engagement following contact with law enforcement.


Nicole is the managing attorney of the Veterans Justice Center at Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) is the first place thousands of people who have low-income turn to when they need legal assistance for a crisis that threatens their safety, security or shelter. We take care of the most vulnerable people in our community: people who are unhoused, unemployed, working poor, domestic abuse survivors, victims of torture and human trafficking, elderly, disabled, and Veterans of Los Angeles, by providing free life-saving legal services. We also provide free legal education, outreach, and self-help assistance to litigants and community members, allowing for additional access to justice. Founded in 1929, LAFLA celebrates its 90th anniversary this year and continues to strive to achieve equal justice and address systemic poverty through direct representation, impact litigation, and community empowerment. With five neighborhood offices, three domestic violence clinics and four self-help legal access centers, LAFLA serves communities as diverse as East Los Angeles, the Westside, South Los Angeles, Pico-Union and Long Beach.

As a disabled woman from a marginalized Latino community, Nicole has dedicated her career to fighting for economic and racial justice. At LAFLA, Nicole works passionately alongside Veterans with low-income and/or disabilities to advocate for government benefits, prevent Veteran homelessness and access civil justice. With a law degree and Masters in Social Work, Nicole practices holistic advocacy for Veterans and their families, utilizing the support of pro bono, community, and social service partners. Nicole obtained her graduate degrees in Law and Social Work from UCLA, her undergraduate degrees in Social Welfare and Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley, and her “degree” in life skills from her kind and hardworking single father Fred Perez. Nicole began her legal career as a Skadden Fellow in homelessness and government benefits advocacy at LAFLA. She is also an Adjunct Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School where she founded and continues to teach a veterans justice practicum to upper-level law students.