SACRAMENTO, Calif. (September 5, 2023): The New Lawyers Section (NLS) of the California Lawyers Association (CLA) has announced Monica Valencia, an attorney, and Air Force Veteran as the recipient of the 2023 Jack Berman Award of Achievement. The prestigious annual award recognizes a new California lawyer (in their first eight years of service) for distinguished service to the public, judiciary, or legal profession. The 2023 Jack Berman Award of Achievement will be officially presented to Monica at a special reception on Friday evening, September 22, in conjunction with the California Lawyers Association Annual Meeting being held September 21-23, 2023, in San Diego.
From Echo Park in Los Angeles, Monica is a first-generation Latina who was interested in advocacy of immigrants from a very young age. Destined for success, Monica, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at 18 years old, and was determined to not only support her family but also become financially secure. Monica was the first in her family to attend college, graduate and receive higher education, which included earning her Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree at the University of San Francisco School of Law in 2017.
Today, Monica is a lawyer, clinical professor, non-profit director, activist, and artist. She is the Managing Attorney for the Removal Defense Unit & Student Legal Services Department at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) in Los Angeles. Monica also manages two distinct legal services teams that provide effective and intentional legal services to college students in both Southern and Northern California at the community college and Cal State University levels. As a defender, she also provides superb legal services to asylum seekers who are fleeing systemic persecution and violence around the world – with a focus on LGBTQ persecution and violence against women.
Monica considers herself a “Rebellious Lawyer” – a descriptor she prefers to use – rather than a traditional lawyer, and teaches her staff to practice under this model that is focused on perpetual learning from others and growing as people. She also teaches her law students under this model at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco where she is the Immigration Clinic Co-Director and adjunct professor.
When asked by the selection committee what receiving the Jack Berman Award of Achievement means to her, Monica Valencia said: “The spirit of this award is what speaks to me most because it speaks to Jack Berman’s consciousness and integrity. I read that some of Mr. Berman’s friends described him as having ‘a very open heart and a very strong conscience.’ And if this is what people remember about Mr. Berman, then I can only stand before this committee and the entire legal profession and say that I am proud to be of service to the most in need with the biggest open heart and consciousness. I will never stop fighting or being the conscience of every space that I take up.”
“The New Lawyers Section of California Lawyers Association is a beautiful representation of honoring the past, while inspiring the future,” said Jeremy M. Evans, President, California Lawyers Association. “In honoring Monica, the New Lawyers Section solidifies that their goal is to empower, motivate, and recognize the contributions new lawyers are making to drive the profession forward.”
NLS first established the Jack Berman Award of Achievement in 1992 in memory of Jack Berman, a new attorney who performed outstanding service to both the public and profession before he tragically died in a shooting in San Francisco. The award honors his dedicated service to issues of concern to the profession, especially to its new lawyers. More information about the award is available here.
About California Lawyers Association
Established in 2018 and headquartered in Sacramento, California Lawyers Association is the statewide voluntary bar association for all California attorneys. CLA’s mission is to promote excellence, diversity, and inclusion in the legal profession and fairness in the administration of justice and the rule of law. Visit us at www.calawyers.org to learn more about CLA or follow us on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
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