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Young lawyer wins Jack Berman Award

Seth Levy’s “day job” and his extensive pro bono work fulfill different, but necessary, aspects of his life.

Seth Levy

At Davis Wright Tremaine in Los Angeles, the 28-year-old graduate of Cornell University and the University of Southern California Law School feeds his academic interests in intellectual property and science, especially research into curing diseases. His heart is filled when he does his pro bono work with the HIV/AIDS Legal Services Alliance, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center and the Alliance for Children’s Rights.

For that commitment, Levy received the California Young Lawyers Association 2005 Jack Berman Award of Achievement for Distinguished Service to the Profession and the Public.

“I work with a lot of people on a pretty regular basis who devote their lives and careers to this kind of work, so to be honored for the small amount I do is just humbling,” Levy said.

The 13-year-old award was renamed in 1994 for San Francisco lawyer Jack Berman, whose extensive pro bono work earned him the admiration of colleagues and clients. Berman was killed in the July 1993 mass shooting at 101 California Street.

Levy said he was “bitten by the pro bono bug” when he was in law school and realized he wanted to do something clinically based, much as he had done as an undergrad engineering student. At first, he helped with client intake at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center’s Legal Services Department, drafting pro per documents such as simple wills and petitions for name changes.

“Early on, even as a student, you find you have skills and tools available to you to provide services to a community that desperately needs it,” said Levy. “It almost seemed irresponsible not to do it.”

As the years have passed, Levy has helped a client with an autoimmune disease who lost his private insurance get state benefits. He successfully represented two people living with HIV/AIDS in administrative proceedings to appeal the denial of their Social Security benefits. He took hopeful parents through the complicated process of finalizing the adoption of foster children from the Los Angeles County foster care system. He counseled clients regarding domestic partnerships and coordinated the preparation of petitions for domestic and workplace violence temporary restraining orders.

At the same time, Levy seeks to add to the volunteer legal forces in Los Angeles by recruiting and supervises volunteer law students and by hosting continuing education classes.

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