By Galen Patterson
On the morning of May 19, dozens of people gathered at the Arcadia Public Library and waited patiently under a canopy and gloomy sky.
The people talked in low mumbles, waiting to be ushered into the auditorium, where 20 tables provided a close-proximity platform to double the amount of attorneys to give free legal advice. This is Arcadia’s annual Law Day.
This year’s Law Day was a partnership between the city and the Arcadia Chinese Association. Members of the ACA wore green vests and staffed the event along with city representatives like Vanessa Guerra, an administrative intern for the City Manager’s office.
Guerra came early to set up. She arranged the sign-in area under the canopy. She arranged pamphlets and set up tables. When the volume of prospective clients became too much, Guerra helped with the flow of citizens to attorneys.
Among the attorneys providing free legal consultation is Councilwoman April Verlato. Across the room sat Christine Wood, an attorney with Best, Best and Krieger. Wood fell backwards into law school, having first worked in the media industry, working for media publications by consulting with newspapers. When she saw the declining number of print publications, she became a paralegal and went to law school.
Now that Wood is a legal professional, she uses her skills to help in ways she can make an impact. “I love being able to help people,” said Wood. One of Wood’s favorite parts of her current career is being able to work with the government on local levels and help them operate more efficiently. In this way she doesn’t just help one person, she has the ability to help our society.
For hours, people discussed various sticky situations, which the attorneys can decide to take up as a cause of their own. In one corner, two people explained to an attorney that their neighbors make too much noise on a continuous basis. The attorney suggested that they notify the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, because the city they live in doesn’t have its own police department.
Wood says that although she will not disclose what she spoke about with people, she has noticed a prevailing theme of rental disputes between landlords and tenants.
Around the room, Mandarin-speaking attorneys hear the grievances of Mandarin speakers, a thoughtful service provided by the city.
Both Wood and Guerra agree that Law Day in Arcadia is an invaluable service to the community. “It’s important for people to have access to the law,” said Wood. “I think it’s great,” said Guerra, “Its helps the community and helps people answer questions for free.”