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Public Interest Boot Camp 2018


Speaker(s): Eliza Hersh, Nicole M. Perez, Phong S. Wong, Protima Pandey, Salena G. Copeland, Tiffany Tsao
Recorded on: Jun. 1, 2018
PLI Program #: 244400

Phong Wong is the Pro Bono Director at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and has devoted her legal career to helping those in need. At LAFLA, Phong oversees the pro bono program and coordinates the outreach, recruitment and hiring of all volunteers. She works closely with pro bono partners including law firms, law schools, bar associations, incubator attorneys, and community groups to develop and implement pro bono projects and trainings. These projects include technology innovations such as remote videoconferencing clinics and the online Pro Bono Training Institute as ways to expand pro bono service. Before becoming Pro Bono Director, Phong worked on slum housing litigation, subsidized housing, housing redevelopment and access to justice issues. Phong started her career as a Loyola Law School Fellow with the Western Center on Law and Poverty and LAFLA, focusing on reducing access to court barriers and supporting right to civil counsel initiatives. Phong also teaches students about client-lawyer relationships and public interest law at UCLA.


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)


Salena Copeland is the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Association of California and spends much of her time coordinating statewide legislative and administrative advocacy, while also supervising a small staff who works to support the entire IOLTA legal aid community through trainings, online coordination and resource-sharing, and member discounts.

Her biggest recent successes are as a major organizer in the effort to increase the Equal Access Fund, a fund that supports nearly 100 California legal nonprofits. In 2016, the efforts resulted in a one-time $5 million increase in the funds at the same time LAAC and others successfully pushed for a repeal of a sunset on a separate $7-9 million/year fund. The following year, LAAC led a coalition to increase the funds with an additional $20 million ($10 million over two years), plus an ongoing set-aside of millions of dollars of class action residual funds to increase legal services for low-income Californians.

Salena, a Texan by birth, but Californian by choice, is a 2007 graduate of Stanford Law School, the 2016 recipient of the Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award, a former member of the State Bar of California Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, a co-chair of the California Commission on Access to Justice Rural Task Force, a member of the Amicus Committee of the Access Commission, an active member of the Bench Bar Coalition, and the 2010 recipient of the Bench Bar Coalition Legal Services Provider of the Year Award. She also serves on a number of statewide planning committees dedicated to improving access to justice for low and moderate-income Californians, including the Campaign for Justice. She lives in the East Bay with her partner, a fellow nonprofit attorney, and their children.


Tiffany Tsao joined LAFLA in October of 2017 and oversees all client intake and is responsible for the new online intake system currently in development at LAFLA.

Tiffany previously worked at Bet Tzedek Legal Services and began her career as an impact litigation fellow. Following her fellowship, she directed a community outreach project providing food pantry clients across Los Angeles County with legal advice and representation. By cultivating partnerships with social service agencies, she established holistic client services onsite at food pantries and was promoted to Director of Intake Services in 2014. Tiffany also served as the public service law counselor at UC Irvine School of Law, where she developed public interest workshops, administered fellowship projects and programs, and advised students and alumni.

Tiffany is dedicated to creating access to legal aid for clients, community partners, and advocates. She obtained her JD from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles and her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Irvine.


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.