The Pro Bono Spotlight honors volunteers and the important work they do to help Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA fulfill its mission of serving communities in need. In this edition, we recognize Angelique Nguyen-Le, who has been an amazing volunteer with the Litigation team since 2017. She has volunteered over 125 hours with the organization and is still currently volunteering. Angelique has a master’s degree from UCI and is currently working in Orange County.
During her time with Advancing Justice-LA, she has completed various litigation support work, including crucial document review, and researched literature and reports to bolster the team’s T-visa applications to secure immigration relief for survivors of human trafficking. We asked Angelique to discuss her involvement with Advancing Justice-LA.
1. How did you learn about Advancing Justice-LA?
I first heard about Advancing Justice-LA from a former colleague, Alice Li, who currently works in the impact litigation department as a paralegal. She described the main case she was working on and I felt her compassion and enthusiasm for the clients in the case and knew that I had to be a part of the team. I later learned that my mother had actually volunteered when Advancing Justice-LA was originally known as Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC). I thought this would be a great opportunity to continue our family’s involvement with the Asian Pacific Islander community.
2. What prompted you to get involved?
Working with Advancing Justice-LA has helped me to feel more connected to the API community and to feel like I’m making a difference. It’s also helped me feel that I’m actively working against insensitive comments (on more than one occasion) where people have called me “not a real Vietnamese” simply because my Vietnamese language skills are roughly equivalent to that of a toddler’s. While I don’t think that volunteering for Advancing Justice-LA makes me any more or less Vietnamese, it does make me feel more a part of the Asian community in general. Volunteering also allows me to help give representation to those who would otherwise remain voiceless. And that’s something I can do without needing to speak much Vietnamese.
3. What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience as an Advancing Justice-LA volunteer?
I have always been interested in the legal field but had very little experience with it. Although both my parents are attorneys, neither really wanted to talk about work at the dinner table. Volunteering with Advancing Justice allowed me some insight into how litigation works. Knowing that I was interested in the legal field, my supervisor John Trang tried to involve me in as many different legal processes as physically (and ethically) possible. From my experience volunteering for Advancing Justice-LA, I’ve learned multiple aspects of being an attorney such as the sisyphean task of completing paperwork, the fact that there usually isn’t a “smoking gun” piece of evidence, and that the opposing side can be really uncooperative to say the least. Although my time at Advancing Justice-LA has pushed me away from being a litigation attorney (I really dislike arguing) I think I’m still drawn to the legal field. Without volunteering, I never would have gained the valuable insight on the different types of law and how well they fit my career goals.
4. Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly tell about your experience volunteering?
Prior to volunteering, I was aimlessly searching for employment. I honestly didn’t believe I could balance a job search with volunteering, but the staff at Advancing Justice-LA have been immensely accommodating. For example, I’m currently volunteering remotely which allows me to contribute without having to commute. This is incredibly helpful because I am wheelchair bound and unable to drive to LA. My disability sometimes makes me feel like I’m taking in more resources than I’m able to contribute, but Advancing Justice-LA staff have never made me feel this way. Volunteering allows me to help others; it is also satisfying to be appreciated by the organization for my work. Plus, I get to do all this while hanging out with my dog and without having to change out of my PJs (usually).
5. What advice would you give other individuals who want to participate in volunteer or pro bono work at the organization?
Volunteering with Advancing Justice-LA is incredibly rewarding and the people you get to work with are considerate, appreciative, and knowledgeable. Not only that, but you’re also able to improve the lives of many people and make the world a better place, all while gaining valuable experience. It does take time and effort but most worthwhile things do!