Yanin Senachai recently joined APALC’s litigation team as a Skadden Fellow. The Skadden Fellowship is awarded to recent law school graduates who wish to devote their professional lives to providing legal services to the poor and those deprived of their civil or human rights. Yanin’s two-year fellowship project will focus on combating wage theft, labor exploitation and human trafficking of Thai low-wage workers through direct representation, civil litigation and policy advocacy.
We talked to Yanin about her background and why she wanted to work at APALC:
Please tell me a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Thailand but immigrated to the United States with my parents and brother when I was three. I grew up in the Crenshaw district in Los Angeles. I completed my undergraduate work at Stanford University. Upon graduating from college, I worked for non-profit organizations that provided help for Asian American victims of domestic violence for 7 years. At the Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, I supported a national network of Asian American community advocates in sharing and enhancing culturally competent strategies for addressing domestic violence.
Why did you choose to work for APALC?
I believe that the Asian Pacific American Legal Center is great at helping Asian American communities. In addition, I thought that I had a special connection with APALC’s work. After completing my freshman year at Stanford, I met Julie Su, a former Skadden Fellow and then a litigator at APALC. At the time, she was representing 80 Thai garment workers who were victims of trafficking and working in a sweatshop in El Monte. Julie inspired me because she not only held the traffickers in that case accountable, but she also sent a powerful message to an industry that would exploit people for cheap labor.
Why did you choose a career in law (in particular, litigation)?
I wanted to work in a field of law that met the qualities and skills that I brought from non-profit work. In addition, I wanted to work in an area of law in which I felt I would be able to help bring about change on the systemic level; meaning, after litigating a case, I wouldn't have just helped my client, I would have also eliminated a harmful policy or practice that was hurting others as well. As for my passion in law, APALC inspired me to pursue a career in social justice by ensuring that victims receive restitution for the harms that they've suffered. After working for non-profits for seven years, I felt that going to law school would enable me to provide concrete remedies (such as restraining orders and restitution for unpaid wages) to victims of domestic violence as well as all those who have been exploited.
Do you have any advice to students who are pursuing public interest legal careers?
I want to make clear that non-attorneys are just as important to social justice work as public interest attorneys. Non-attorney advocates are better equipped to voice the concerns of the community. Attorneys can then work with these advocates to successfully serve the community. For students interested in a legal career in public interest, I think they should shadow a public interest attorney for a day, in order to assess if they are truly interested in that line of work and what lawyers do in the day-to-day.
As a Thai American, are you involved in the Thai community? If so, how do you plan on staying involved?
I have strong ties to the Thai community in Northern California. There, I worked with Thai advocates who worked to organize helping Indian Ocean tsunami victims. In Southern California, I attend a temple and Buddhist monastery in San Diego.
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