Chi-Ser Tran

Hometown: Philadelphia

Undergraduate school: NYU

Job: Community Legal Services, Employment Unit

Student groups

During my time at Temple Law, I was a Vice President of Temple’s Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA) chapter and a Chair of the Immigration and Human Rights committee of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). To me, having a well-rounded law school experience meant pursuing opportunities outside of the classroom. These experiences enabled me to connect what I was learning in the classroom with reality. For example, one semester, our APALSA chapter screened a courtroom reenactment of two Supreme Court cases involving Asian Americans who sought U.S. citizenship but were questioned about their racial qualifications for naturalization (Ozawa and Thind). As another example, another semester, our NLG chapter recruited law students to work with HIAS and other immigration organizations to provide free citizenship application assistance to legal permanent residents seeking to naturalize. Three years of law school can really fly by, especially if you keep yourself busy with things that are interesting.

Experiential opportunities

Clinics were the best part of my law school career. During my 2L year, I participated in the Social Justice Lawyering clinic at Temple’s Sheller Center for Social Justice. I was able to represent two low-wage workers who experienced wage theft from their former employers and successfully recovered unpaid wages, unauthorized paycheck deductions, and unpaid travel time. I also worked on advocacy projects with two community organizations – a youth group at Asian Americans United to develop a handbook challenging the impact of the Pennsylvania Keystone Exams on Chinese immigrant high school students, and the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition to create advocacy material for in-state tuition equity and state financial aid for undocumented students. During my 3L year, I participated in the Community Lawyering Clinic with the Temple Legal Aid Office. I met with individuals seeking legal assistance at Liberty Resources Center, a community site run by and for people with illnesses and disabilities to enable individuals to live successfully and independently in the community. I represented two individuals at federal hearings and successfully obtained disability benefits after the Social Security Administration wrongly denied their initial benefits. I was even able to secure five years of back pay for one client. On my very last day of class, I represented one of the clients at a hearing, and we won. I could not think of a more perfect way to conclude my law school career. In each of these clinics, I had the guidance of two incredibly dedicated, talented, and wise faculty supervisors: Professors Jennifer Lee and Spencer Rand.

Volunteer and service experiences

During the November 2014 PA gubernatorial election, I supervised a multilingual exit poll project at a poll site close to Chinatown. There were many excited Limited English Proficiency (LEP) elderly voters. I met an elderly Chinese American couple who were both so excited to be voting for the very first time. The husband told me that the wife had always been deterred from voting because her English was not very good. Unfortunately, that is not uncommon among LEP Asian Americans. Thankfully, there was an interpreter at that poll site to help them. However, not all poll sites that need interpreters have them. This experience meant a lot to me because this was the kind of work that affirmed my desire to go to law school. It also reminded me that we have a long way to go in improving access to resources for LEP and low-income communities.

Favorite memory

I really enjoyed the first semester of my Integrated Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP) class with (now) Judge Mia Perez. It was extremely valuable to have a practicing attorney critique and coach us on our oral advocacy and courtroom demeanor every week. I loved being on my feet and learning where I could improve as an advocate. Mia was demanding, but that was because she knew our potential. It made me better.