They didn’t plan to attend the same law school, but it happened that four Half Moon Bay High School graduates started their legal pursuits together at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, in San Francisco.
One of the four, Natalie Moyce, has since transferred to Stanford Law School, but the other three women, Miranda Holeton, Paula Pastuskovas and Emilia Shelton, are now halfway through law school at Hastings. Each has aspirations to go into public interest law.
Holeton wanted to go to law school with the intent of helping people and the planet. Her interest is in environmental law, and she’s been working to help the Coastside already. Last summer, Holeton worked at the California Coastal Commission, and, before law school, she was a park ranger stationed mostly at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.
“We grew up in this beautiful place and grew up with so much privilege. We feel this responsibility to utilize that privilege for good and harness it,” Holeton said. “Growing up in this amazing place kind of instilled that in us — that we have this responsibility to give back.”
Holeton and Shelton serve on the Hastings Public Interest Law Foundation board, a student-run nonprofit that provides summer stipends to law students who are interning in the public interest sector.
The university doesn’t provide summer funding, which Holeton said makes it difficult for students who want to get experience in this field to work without pay during the summer.
“Not only do we all want to go into public interest law, we want to make sure our peers have the freedom to go into public interest law,” said
Holeton, who serves as gala chair on the board. The annual gala is the main fundraising event each spring. “The real aim of the organization is to make it so students don’t
have to choose between pursuing their passions or paying rent.”
Shelton, who is one of the organization’s presidents, is in the social justice law concentration at Hastings with dreams to eventually work at the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Most of these public interest positions that students pursue over the summer are unfunded. The organizations that you work with generally aren’t able to pay you until you’re a full attorney,” Shelton said. “... (Hastings Public Interest Law Foundation) is able to help balance that out.”
During their first year, Pastuskovas and Shelton, who have been close friends since junior high, were placed in all the same classes. They said it was helpful to have each other for support.
Pastuskovas decided she wanted to go to law school after working for six months at the California Rural Legal Association helping with landlord-tenant and employment issues and working for a law firm in between college and attending Hastings.
She’s currently working as a paralegal at a regulatory food law firm and is hoping to stay working in regulatory law.
“I like the fact that there are these laws out here, whether internationally or domestically, and helping companies get compliant with those laws and follow them,” she said. “It’s hard to navigate the jargon. ... It’s nice to be able to work with people to adhere to these laws.”
For Shelton, law school wasn’t an immediate decision. But after interning at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and AmeriCorps’ program City Year, she saw how it could give her opportunities to help others.
“Those experiences were formative in deciding that law school is the best way I can use my skills and abilities to create positive social change,” she said.
Law school and serving in public interest law has its unique challenges. Shelton said it’s important to maintain perspective.
“Sometimes, day to day ... it can feel disheartening if you lose a case or if things aren’t going well with a specific client,” she said. “I think keeping a focus on the bigger picture, that you’re doing this because you want to make the world a better place in whatever capacity you’re able to, I think helps keeps you going.”
The Hastings Public Interest Law Foundation’s annual gala will be on Feb. 21, 2020. To donate or provide items for the silent auction at the gala, email email@example.com.