MoForever Alumni News - Winter 2019

MoForever Winter 2019 | 20 PRO BONO UPDAT E children’s advocacy and to complete a three-year integrated children’s fellowship at Loyola Law School. Today, Leecia is senior director of legal advocacy and child welfare at NCYL, where she directs impact litigation that transforms the public agencies that serve low-income children. Prior to joining NCYL in 2004, Leecia was an associate in the MoFo San Francisco Litigation Group, and spent three years focusing almost exclusively on Williams v. State of California , a pro bono class action resulting in a landmark settlement that provided nearly $1 billion to improve California’s public school system. Leecia says that her time at MoFo “played a pivotal role in developing my skills as an attorney, in particular, the core value of building a case early and preparing each case to create the strongest possible likelihood that we will win at trial.” Leecia also noted that during her time at MoFo, she saw firsthand the commitment to client-focused advocacy. “A big takeaway for me from the Williams case was the importance of amplifying the voices of our clients,” said Leecia. “When people hear directly from youth about their challenges, struggles, hopes, and dreams, it has a much greater impact than just having their lawyer talk and make legal arguments.” Multiple Strategies The cases NCYL takes on come from local communities experiencing major challenges in some aspect of the child-serving system, such as foster care or delivery of mental health services. When NCYL accepts a request to get involved, its legal team typically spends months working in tandem with community leaders to find the root of the problem and develop a strategy that leads to resolution, using a number of different tools. Sometimes, there’s an issue with the law: Either a legal standard doesn’t exist or a law needs to be altered to fix unintended consequences. If the relevant laws are good, NCYL may recommend a media strategy to inform the community about what’s going on and create a call to action. When the analysis of the problem suggests litigation, it becomes a USING IMPACT LITIGATION TO TRANSFORM CHILDREN’S SERVICES LEECIA WELCH, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF LEGAL ADVOCACY AND CHILD WELFARE, NATIONAL CENTER FOR YOUTH LAW