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Young lawyer honored for variety of pro bono work

Natalie Prescott

Natalie Prescott, a native of the Ukraine who came to the United States nine years ago, earned three degrees and became a California lawyer, received the 2008 Jack Berman Award of Achievement for Distinguished Service to the Profession and the Public.

The award, created in 1992, 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 1993 mass shooting at 101 California Street. The award recognizes the public service of a young or new lawyer.

Prescott, 28, clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez before recently joining Latham & Watkins in San Diego to work on appellate litigation and insurance cases. After joining the bar in 2006, she worked at DLA Piper.

“I am very honored,” Prescott said of being named recipient of the Jack Berman award. “I’m just extremely thankful and appreciative and hope it encourages other young lawyers . . . I’m just very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had, especially being an immigrant.”

Prescott, who grew up poor in the Ukraine and went to a journalism school for teen-agers, thinking she would go into journalism, got a full scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi. She then went on to get a master’s degree from Tulane University and her law degree from Duke University. She met her husband, a fellow Ukrainian, at Duke, and they have one daughter.

Prescott’s public service runs the gamut, from representing victims of Hurricane Katrina and indigent Nigerian immigrants to advocating on behalf of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and accessible municipal records. In seeking asylum for an immigrant she says was tortured by the Nigerian government, she took the case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Prescott also represented four immigrant children who were trying to reunite with their parents in the United States as well as the County of San Diego in a conservatorship case. In addition, she donates time and money to Meals on Wheels. In the South, she represented abused women, AIDS patients and drug and alcohol abusers.

“Living in the states, I think you can help a lot of people if you just know the law because so many people are taken advantage of because the process is so complicated,” Prescott says, adding that some of the same reasons that attract people to journalism attract them to the law.

“Natalie Prescott’s service to the profession and her drive to help indigent clients are a shining example for young lawyers,” said her commendation from the California Young Lawyers Association and the State Bar.

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