ICLC Fellow Spotlight: David Aigboboh, USC Irmas Fellow (2016-2017)

About David Aigboboh

I’m originally from Bakersfield, California. Because I grew up in a smaller city, before working at ICLC, I was largely unaware of the types of issues that many Angelenos struggle with every day, like homelessness, displacement through gentrification, and inadequate access to public benefits.

Why did you apply to be a fellow at ICLC?

I spent my second summer of law school with the Homelessness Prevention team defending evictions. I was frustrated to see that our clients were living in terrible slum conditions and struggling to hold the landlord accountable for failing to provide a habitable rental unit.

The first client I met as a law clerk was man living in a former dentist’s office in Watts. When I visited the client’s “home” with ICLC’s tenant organizers, I learned that the examination rooms had been illegally converted into rental units. None of the units had running water, lighting, power, or refrigeration. Our client was using a charcoal stove to cook indoors and there was a severe bed bug infestation throughout the building. Seeing conditions like that made me want to represent tenants in affirmative cases against their landlords.

I applied to be a fellow at ICLC because I was near the end of my summer as an ICLC law clerk, and I knew that I wanted to continue my work.

What was your fellowship project?

My fellowship project involved working with the Homelessness Prevention team to file affirmative cases based on habitability issues and expand the work that ICLC does.

What are your key takeaways from this past year working at ICLC?

My key takeaway from ICLC is that there is a greater more need for free and low-cost legal aid than there is available. Even though I was largely free to choose my own cases during my fellowship, I was forced to turn away potential clients simply because I had limited time and resources to spend on each case. I don’t pretend to have a solution to the dire need for legal aid in Los Angeles, but I can imagine how much better the world would be if every attorney devoted time to public interest work at some point during their career.

What was your greatest accomplishment at ICLC?

I think my greatest accomplishment was winning the trust of my clients. I’m still a very young attorney and learning what it means to practice law. On top of that, in many instances, I had to work around a language barrier to communicate with clients and reassure them. Yet my clients felt that they could trust me with the most important details of their lives, such as births and deaths, immigration status, and terminal illness. I don’t take that trust lightly.

What advice do you have for aspiring ICLC fellows?

My first piece of advice is to work at ICLC as a summer clerk if at all possible. There is no substitute for the whirlwind of experience and knowledge you gain in such a short amount of time at ICLC. A summer clerkship will reveal promising areas for a potential fellowship to expand the scope of ICLC’s services. My second piece of advice is to remember that working in the public interest sector is an amazing opportunity. Unlike many new lawyers, public interest fellows are able to visit court early and often and make an enormous direct impact on their clients’ lives.