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Cancer patients are this lawyer’s pro bono focus

Health issues aren’t always the thorniest concerns of cancer patients. Legal rights frequently come into play in such areas as insurance, employment discrimination, child custody and estate planning. As an extern with the Cancer Legal Resource Center (CLRC) during her Loyola Law School days, Christine Hayashi learned of the legal issues facing cancer patients, their families and caregivers and health care professionals and helped people work through them.

Christine Hayashi

After getting a law degree in 2000, Hayashi joined the staff of the CLRC, a joint program of the Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC) and Loyola Law School. She opened her own practice in special education in 2002, but still volunteers and is a member of DRLC’s board of directors. In her own practice, she advocates for children with disabilities and their parents who need special education services in the schools.

For her “outstanding contribution to the legal profession and to the public,” Hayashi, 51, received the Cali-fornia Young Lawyers Association 2006 Jack Berman Award. The award, which goes to a new or young lawyer, was renamed in 1994 for San Francisco lawyer Jack Berman, who was killed in the 1993 mass shooting at 101 California Street. 

The externship was so satisfying, she accepted a job at CLRC. She’d get calls from cancer patients whose bosses wanted to fire them when they returned to work after medical leave. She tried to help people whose insurance companies or doctors turned them down for procedures. “You feel good knowing you are helping the community,” Hayashi said.

Law is a second career for Hayashi, who was a teacher and principal at both elementary and middle school levels prior to law school. Already armed with master’s degrees in education and educational leadership, law school seemed a natural fit.

Besides running her own practice focusing on special education, Hayashi teaches school law and administration — online and in the classroom — at California State University, Northridge.

“When I got into law, what I wanted to do was to combine my education background with my legal background. Becoming an attorney for children with disabilities kind of meshed them both together.” She also is teaching the next generation of school principals. “I’m utilizing all my past experience,” Hayashi said.

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