LASOC-CLS Paralegal Mary Lozano recalls a recent time she was in a local market and one of the employees asked her if she worked at the legal aid Norwalk Domestic Violence Clinic. When Mary replied yes, the woman said she would never forget her face because Mary helped her about 10 years ago. “She told me that after I helped with her restraining order and divorce, she filed a self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act for immigration relief, which was granted. Her immigration status was adjusted and now she is working in the market and making a life for herself and her children. Our work truly makes a critical impact and changes lives.”
Mary’s work with us began in March of 1999 when she joined LASOC-CLS as a full-time paralegal hired specifically to provide legal services to victims of domestic violence on the newly awarded County of Los Angeles CalWorks grant contract. Though she had just recently received her paralegal certificate from Cerritos College, Mary had significant experience in law as a legal secretary in the private sector and at a public interest law firm. “Through my previous work at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, I knew I wanted to work in the community. When the opportunity came to work at LASOC-CLS, I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
“In the beginning the work was almost overwhelming,” she remembered. “At the time we had one attorney and two paralegals working on the CalWorks cases. In a one-year period our unit assisted with around 200 restraining orders at our Norwalk Domestic Violence clinic and about 200 in Compton under our CalWORKs DV program. We were busy!” After the first year, the county extended the contract to two-years and then to the current three-year periods.
Now, almost 20 years later, Mary is just as enthusiastic about her work as when she started. “I think the CalWorks DV program is an important program and I am passionate about what I do for our clients. The CalWorks contract not only allows us to help our clients with issues like restraining orders but also with their other legal needs. With this program, we can offer them the wraparound services they need to stabilize and change their lives. Our CalWORKs DV program is a team of advocates who care deeply about our clients and I am proud to be a part of this team!”
The work with victims of domestic violence can be intense and exhausting. “But, when I see and hear about the positive effect we make in the lives of our clients, I am always reminded of why I have been doing it for all these years.”