Chris Kissel

Public Interest Fundraiser Celebrates & Supports Making a Difference

Chris Kissel
Chris Kissel '20

My name is Chris Kissel. I applied to Loyola Law School, Los Angeles because of a persistent feeling that I could make an impact in my community.

After my first year, I applied to work for the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Everything about the first day of my summer job was exciting. I was even excited to see the California state seal hanging in the conference room, and the picture of the governor framed on the wall. Just by walking in the door, I felt like I’d taken a significant step toward my goal of making a difference.

That is not to say I wasn’t a little intimidated. The department is responsible for protecting civil rights in California — not just housing and employment rights, but the entire spectrum of statutorily protected rights, including fair treatment at doctor’s offices, grocery stores, and restaurants. The attorneys there are impressive, and they take their work seriously. It’s one thing to daydream about being a civil rights lawyer; it’s another to watch as the first assignment lands in your email inbox.

But in 10 weeks at the department, I worked on California’s first-ever housing discrimination regulations, dug into the law, and helped attorneys as they litigated issues such as discriminatory hiring practices at a restaurant and unfair rental practices for an apartment. I went to hearings, sat in on meetings with opposing counsel, and worked on papers that were ultimately filed with the court.

The more I became involved, the more I could see myself working there for real someday. If walking in the door felt like a major step forward, I felt, upon walking out, that I actually knew something (albeit a tiny something) about what being an advocate for the under-served actually entails.

But here’s the bottom line: I simply could not have taken this job if I had not received a summer stipend from Loyola’s Public Interest Law Foundation.

PILF is an entirely student-run organization, and every year, it awards a number of students with stipends so they can do unpaid government or non-profit work, like my job at the department. Without a stipend, this work would simply not be possible. (In fact, I still had to take a second job at night, just to pay the rent and buy groceries.)

Without having the experience of doing this work at some point in law school, students might be less likely to ultimately choose public interest law as a career. That is not only a loss for those students, who lose the experience of doing meaningful work in immigration, criminal justice, civil rights, environmental law or any other social justice-related field. It is also a loss for the world outside our school.

Loyola is jam-packed with smart, diligent, creative future lawyers. Our communities need them.

In an effort to support this important work,  Loyola will host the Public Interest Law Foundation’s 26-Annual Auction Night. The vast majority of the funds that support summer stipends, like the stipend I received last summer, are raised in this single night. This fun community event helps students overcome the financial obstacles that stand in the way of doing important work.

But even if you don’t attend,  you can support PILF at any time, and know that your support will help students get valuable experience, and perhaps even provide our communities with a desperately-needed public interest attorney.

The work we do at Loyola matters.