Member Highlight: Gowri Krishna

Tell us a little about yourself and the educational or career path you took to get to where you are now?

I love the work I do! I went into law school knowing that I wanted to do social justice work, but wasn't sure exactly what that would be. After a series of internships, I knew what I *didn't* want to do (namely, litigation). I took a community economic development (CED) clinic in my final year and found my passion in working with communities and groups. 

After law school, I started in the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, where I worked on transactional matters for groups organizing towards systemic changes. I had the opportunity to teach in various CED clinics for a number of years before coming back to the Community Development Project to supervise attorneys working with non-profits, cooperatives and other grassroots organizations.

What specifically drew you to working with social enterprises and democratically-led organizations, such as cooperatives?

While my colleagues down the hall from me toiled away on wage-and-hour cases where employers had cheated workers out of wages and had inflicted other abuses on their workers, I was drawn to a model of business that sought to curb those practices, namely worker cooperatives. Workers running their own businesses and setting the terms and conditions of their own work represented the flip side, and a possible solution, to worker injustice. Also, my work early on focused on low-wage, immigrant workers, an especially vulnerable population for whom cooperatives hold even more potential for just work and worker control. 

What do you find to be the most challenging about being a lawyer [or law student, legal apprentice, or other legal professional]?

Aside from the challenge of working within a system that often does not favor vulnerable populations, functioning "in the grey" can be challenging. We can do as much research as possible, but sometimes there isn't a clear answer to questions our clients have. We're left presenting them with options and talking about the risks, but it's hard not to answer their questions with certainty. This is a challenge in any type of lawyering, but feels more pressing when the question at hand concerns one's ability to care for herself and her family.

What do love most about being a lawyer [or law student, legal apprentice, or other legal professional]?

I love: being challenged to think creatively to meet clients' goals; learning material to get to a point of understanding where I can break it down for clients so that they easily understand; seeing groups and individual members of groups grow and make positive changes for themselves and others.

What are some of the needs you see in your community that you are hoping to address through your work?

The best part of being a lawyer who works with a range of organizing groups is that my colleagues and I get to support efforts on a number of different fronts--economic, racial and social justice. In this way, our work addresses many of the salient issues affecting our community.

What, if anything, would you change about the legal profession or legal community if you were in charge?

Removing the barriers to entry and the barriers to sustainability and success for people whose backgrounds are not ones the legal professional traditionally favors.

Who is your ideal client or what is your ideal project?

My ideal client/project is one that involves high levels of collaboration and creative thinking with other lawyers, organizers/developers, and clients, where we build in space throughout the project to evaluate what is working well and what we could improve and emerge in the end with a shared sense of success. 

What do you like to do when you are not practicing law [studying, or working]?

I like to take my dog, 2-yo son and husband to off-leash hours (before 9am) in Riverside Park on the weekends (warning: eat bagels at your own risk--especially if you ride in a stroller!).

What are your “go to” resources and current sources of inspiration you can share with the Next Legal community?

Other coop/CED lawyers! The coop work in particular is pretty specialized, and it's been exciting to meet other coop lawyers and form communities with them to help each other learn and better our work. I highly recommend joining or creating networks or working groups of others in one's field.