Legal Career Paths During COVID-19: Non-Profit Organization Perspectives

June 17, 2020 @ 12:00 pm 1:15 pm

This program offers no MCLE credit. You must register in advance to participate.

Across the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyday life, caused thousands of deaths, and unleased unprecedented economic stress not seen since the 2008 Great Recession. These economic conditions have had an impact on the legal profession. Private law firms and in-house divisions are instituting pay cuts and reducing staff; local, state, and federal agencies are facing severe budget deficits leading to furloughs and hiring freezes; and non-profit legal organizations are seeing dwindling contributions and grants.

For attorneys and recent law school graduates, this economic uncertainty will present serious challenges to securing and/or retaining employment or a practice. What effect will this pandemic have on the legal profession? How should practitioners and recent law school graduates prepare to avoid career setbacks? What are lessons learned from previous economic recessions?

In this first installment, join practitioners from the non-profit sector for a discussion about how to navigate through these uncertain times.


  • Eddie Ahn, Executive Director, Brightline Defense
  • Jennifer Ganata, Staff Attorney, Communities for a Better Environment
  • Byron Chan, Associate Attorney, Earthjustice
  • Aruna Prabhala, Senior Attorney, Center for Biological Diversity

Paulina Torres is a graduate of UC Hastings College of the Law. She went to law school with the hopes to advocate on behalf of our marginalized communities who continuously suffer from social and economic inequalities. She participated in direct legal services clinics such as the General Assistance Advocacy Project and the Legal Advice and Referral Clinic. She is also passionate about the racial disparities in our criminal justice system and spent her 1L summer at the California Appellate Project, where she worked on death penalty cases. During her time at Hastings, she gained experience in environmental law while interning at Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office in the Land Use department. During her last semester, Paulina served as extern for Judge Garrett Wong at the San Francisco Superior Court.

Paulina grew up in Los Angeles and has a deep understanding of how our environmental laws and decisions disproportionately affect certain communities, often low income and communities of color. She is thrilled to work at the intersection of the social justice issues she cares so deeply about: the environment, racial injustice, and economic inequality. Paulina most enjoys her work because she has the opportunity to advocate alongside our fierce organizers and community members in Kern County who tirelessly fight for environmental justice. Paulina primarily works on our Pesticides campaign.

Eddie Ahn is the Executive Director of Brightline Defense and has been engaged in policy and legal advocacy since 2009. Prior to being a nonprofit attorney, he was an AmeriCorps member, serving as an afterschool programmer in Oakland’s Chinatown. While working toward his law degree, he continued to teach art and public speaking workshops for youth and worked on civil justice and environmental issues for the Assembly Judiciary Committee in Sacramento. His workforce development expertise and analysis of federal constitutional law has also assisted multiple municipalities in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.

In 2017, Eddie was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee to the SF Commission on the Environment, which sets policy for the SF Department of Environment and advises the City and County on environmental matters. On April 25, 2018, he was appointed by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon to the SF Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), a state planning and regulatory agency with regional authority over the Bay Area. He also serves on the board of Mission Housing Development Corporation, a nonprofit affordable housing developer.

Eddie has received his J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law and his B.A. from Brown University. He is also a member of the California State Bar.

Jennifer Ganata joined Communities for a Better Environment in September 2018. Previously she worked at Communities for a Better Environment from 2007 to 2012 as a youth organizer and a legal fellow. She transitioned from doing environmental justice work to housing by starting her housing career at Eviction Defense Network. Before returning to CBE, Jennifer was a senior staff attorney at Inner City Law Center where she did eviction defense and land use.

Jennifer has a deep interest in connecting her passion for environmental justice and housing in order to defend frontline communities’ right to housing and a better environment. She believes that organizing is key to helping move our communities away from investing in an extractive economy.

Jennifer has a BA in Ethnic Studies and a minor in Urban Studies and Planning from University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Jennifer received a JD from City University of New York (CUNY), where she was trained through the Adult Defender Clinical program and an LL.M from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a focus on Critical Race Studies. She is a member of the National Lawyers Guild in Los Angeles.

Byron Chan is an associate attorney with the California regional office. He is based in Los Angeles, California.

Prior to joining Earthjustice, Byron was a litigation associate with Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy in Los Angeles, where his practice focused on complex commercial litigation in federal and state court.

Byron received his J.D. from NYU School of Law, and his B.A. in History and Peace & Conflict Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

Aruna Prabhala is the Urban Wildlands Director and Senior Attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity where she works to protect habitat for endangered species and limit sprawl. For her work against Newhall Ranch, a proposed megadevelopment in Southern California, Aruna won the “California Lawyer Attorney of the Year” award, along with other Center attorneys.

She graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and double-majored in biology and journalism as an undergraduate at Boston University. Before becoming an attorney, she worked in Washington, D.C., on science-policy issues.