Home Town: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Undergraduate Degree: B.A., Sociology, University of Vermont
Career Interest: Criminal Defense
Deborah Gettleman knew that she wanted to study law because she wanted to fight for change in the criminal justice system. What she found at King Hall is that she wouldn't have to wait until after graduation to do it.
Gettleman enrolled in the Law School’s Civil Rights Clinic, where she got hands-on experience advocating for indigent clients who have filed suit in federal court, and the Prison Law Clinic, where she provided legal services for clients incarcerated in the state prison system. “The learning curve is unreal,” she said. “You can take a legal writing class, but until you are writing a habeas writ to get someone out of prison, you just can’t imagine how the relevance of your work will push you to learn every minute rule.”
Gettleman came to the UC Davis School of Law from the University of Vermont, and like many newcomers to King Hall, she was surprised by the atmosphere of cooperation that prevails. “I was shocked at how supportive my classmates were,” she said. “You see The Paper Chase, and expect all law schools to be like that, but King Hall really isn’t.” She was also pleasantly surprised by her fellow students’ commitment to immigrants’ rights, prison reform, environmental justice, labor issues, and other areas of public service.
In addition to her work with the King Hall clinics, Gettleman was co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild , a national organization of legal professionals dedicated to using their law degrees to effect social change. She was also one of the founding board members of the UC Davis School of Law Humanitarian Aid Legal Organization (HALO) , which sent students to New Orleans, Louisiana and Biloxi, Mississippi to provide legal services to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Since graduation, Gettleman has continued to work for social change. Immediately after law school, she worked with public service organizations including the Clean Slate Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley and Uncommon Law in Oakland. In 2011, she joined Legal Services of Northern California, where she works as a staff attorney, providing legal advice and representation for rural, low-income, and senior clients regarding housing law, access to public benefits, consumer debt, and other issues.