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My Impact: A Conversation with 2011 Equal Justice Works Fellow Lan Diep

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My Impact is a new conversation series from Equal Justice Works, using interviews with alumni to shine a light on what’s possible with an Equal Justice Works Fellowship. For our first installment, we caught up with Lan Diep, 2011 Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Mississippi Center for Justice and current San José City Councilmember.

As an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Mississippi Center for Justice, Lan Diep helped Vietnamese fishermen, small business owners, and others whose livelihoods were affected by the 2010 BP Oil Disaster. The son of Vietnamese refugees, Lan was uniquely situated to articulate the needs of the community in a way that nobody else was doing. Now, as a city councilmember in San José, California, he is working to build a stronger and more inclusive city by focusing on economic development, building affordable housing, improving transportation options, and smart land use.

Lan spoke with us about his journey to law school, and shared how he became an “accidental Fellow,” serving as the only Vietnamese-speaking attorney in the entire state of Mississippi following the BP Oil Disaster. Lan also shared insights about graduating law school during The Great Recession, the parallels he recognizes with the COVID-19 pandemic, and advice for standing out in the current economy.

To learn more about becoming a 2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow and kickstart your public interest law career, visit here.

Community Lawyering is a completely different beast. It doesn’t matter what school you came out of, what your GPA was, or what your LSAT score was. Can you win the trust of the community you’re trying to serve? Can you connect with them either through language or culture? Or just a willingness to listen? Bringing their guard down and entrusting in you their fears and their problems.

Lan Diep /
2011 Equal Justice Works Fellow

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow