Access Law Career Pathway 

Background 

For over 50 years, Access has tailored its youth, workforce development, and legal services to the unique, changing, and intersecting needs of recently arrived refugees, economically unstable adults, survivors of domestic violence, and at-risk youth who do not have a healthy support system or face predatory behavior from “caring” adults. Although the Access legal program originally focused on marginalized immigrant survivors of domestic violence, its focus on screening for sexual assault revealed that most of those adult survivors have also experienced human trafficking by their significant others.   Access also realized that human trafficking impacted youth involve in its Workforce Development program. 

The Law Academy Access developed is designed to create a support system for survivors while also giving them a real opportunity to grow their network and develop positive relationships with trusted industry leaders who can help them build or regain the confidence that the trafficker tried to destroy. 

Law Career Pathway Goals and Program Design 

The Access Law Career Pathway was created in 2019 at Futures Without Violence’s Promoting Employment Opportunities for Survivors of Trafficking Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, with a goal of exposing young adults and survivors, especially within underrepresented groups, to the law and law enforcement career fields. Many survivors have experienced terrifying and traumatizing encounters with law enforcement and have grown up believing that they not a reliable resource for their safety and wellbeing. 

Survivors of trafficking are often stigmatized because they are blamed for their victimization.  Despite this , many survivors want to pursue a career in law and law enforcement in order to positively impact their community. The Access SAVE Legal Network and Youth Workforce Program wanted to address these fears and desire by exposing youth to credible law officers, community resources, and career development opportunities in the law career field. As a result, Access sought community partners that aligned with the overall goals of the program. These goals include:  

  • Creating safe environments for marginalized communities to build better relationships with law enforcement. 
  • Educating survivors on self and community advocacy. 
  • Building capacity among young survivors on law/legal support in community. 
  • Promoting work readiness skills such as public speaking, networking, and interview prep and job retention.

Law Career Pathway participants met twice a week for five weeks. Each week, participants explored themes and challenges in their community that could involve some aspect of law and/or law enforcement. This allowed participants to see dynamic career opportunities within these fields. It also allowed survivors to explore personal battles they face as they seek self-sufficiency and healing. The themes explored during the five-week pathway were as follows: 

Week 1: Law and Mental Health 
Week 2: Healthy Relationships & The Criminal Justice System
Week 3: Substance Abuse Prevention & Intervention
Week 4: Self and Community Advocacy  
Week 5: Work Readiness 

After graduation, participants have the opportunity to join Access’ paid internship program which offers 120 hours of hands-on experience. An example of an internship placement linked to the law career pathway could be a security guard intern position, which leads to stable employment opportunities with a security company. In addition, a case manager also provides supportive services such as assistance with transportation, professional interviewing attire, and work clothing/tools. Participants receive stipends when they complete work readiness training, participate in a job search/job fair, secure a job, meet job retention benchmarks, and receive a promotion. 

Supportive Services & Work Readiness  

Access case managers are trauma-informed and implement a human-centered design approach to assisting participants with their educational, employment, and occupational goals.  

During the eligibility process, case managers address the program’s privacy and confidentiality process by explaining the Universal Participation Agreement form, Multimedia & Communication Release form,  Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Policy, and Complaint Procedures.1 This discussion occurs during orientation to address concerns of the participant and provide a clear and detailed overview of program’s services and expectations. 

The case manager also identifies potential barriers to employment by completing an objective assessment plan, which explores academic levels, employment history, work readiness, certifications, transportation, childcare, housing, and other supportive services needed to successfully obtain employment. Participants complete a interest assessment through Career Coach to help them explore industries and occupations that match their career interests.

Lastly, an Individual Service Strategy plan is developed to identify career goals linked to employment, education, and occupational training. For example, participants could add the Career Law Pathway as their occupational goal and seek employment in the same career field.  

Participants are involved in a series of traditional work readiness units that will prepare them for the workforce. The first unit includes resume building, cover letters, references, job applications, and mock interviewing. The second unit covers professional skills such as interviewing attire, communication, code of conduct, equal employment opportunity rights, and sexual harassment prevention and awareness. Upon completion, participants earn a work readiness certificate which indicates that they are ready to move on to the next step. After the work readiness phase, participants receive additional case management and mentoring support toward their employment goals. 

Partnership Approach

To develop and obtain strong partners for the Law Career Pathway program, Access first determined the structure of service delivery. This structure includes: 1) identifying the length of program; 2) the times for live classes/engagement; 3) topics to be covered each week; and 4) a comprehensive list of empowerment-based ways that partners can engage with clients. This list includes but is not limited to: guest speaking, resource sharing, public health demonstrations, certification courses, campus tours and more. Access uses a detailed list of organizations with best practices and tools that support the overall themes and goals identified. These organizations receive time during the live classes to teach, provide resources, and develop interactive ways to engage program participants in weekly topics and enhance their skills and experiences.  

Access utilized collaborative and community-based trainings, certificates related to county-wide public health initiatives, as well as entry level credentials related to law and the law enforcement career field to help identify program partners.   

Leveraging Community Collaborative Networks 

Access is an active participant in countywide collaborative networks such as the San Diego Domestic Violence Council, Human Trafficking Task Force, Transitional Age Youth Network, Behavioral Health Council and more. These networks meet monthly and have allowed for Access to maintain a deep understanding on the collective goals of our community. Therefore, in choosing organizations to partner with on this pathway, Access selected organizations that are active in similar networks and whose goals align with the four identified goals of the Law Career Pathway.   

Example: During the Substance Abuse & Prevention Week, Access identified Social Advocates for Youth (SAY San Diego) Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs program to teach about the opioid epidemic, effects of alcohol and marijuana on the brain, and current legislation and task forces addressing these topics in the community. Through their network, Access invited San Diego based DEA agents, chemists, and investigators who are dedicated to understanding drugs and their impact in the community. Under program guidelines, these legal career professionals were expected to share their career trajectory (barriers and successes) with participants and provide information about entry level programs, positions and volunteer opportunities. They also shared community resources for those struggling with addiction and recovery. Partnerships such as the example above allow for a warm hand-off to opportunities in the field that can help build participants’ resumes and enhance their network. 

Access partnered with San Diego District Attorney’s Office and San Diego Police Department Multicultural Division to engage in critical conversations about the impact of law enforcement in the community. This allows survivors to share their narratives and experiences with law enforcement and become empowered as leaders.  

Community-Based Trainings & Certificates 

Due to robust public health initiatives, there are many community-based trainings and certificates available in San Diego that match Access’ identified themes. The San Diego-based National Conflict Resolution Center has an Art of Inclusive Communication certificateBystander Intervention & Anti-Harassment Training, and other programs that promote community-based conflict resolution. The San Diego Suicide Prevention Council offers a suicide prevention certificate for QPR (Question, Persuade and Respond) Institute, a nationally-recognized training in the field. Access also partners with the American Red Cross for CPR/First Aid certifications. All of these trainings enhance participants’ skills by providing robust and tangible additions to their resume. Access wants young survivors to walk away with self-advocacy and community advocacy skills that are transferable to their work-life, are beneficial during times of crisis,  competitive in the labor market, and also enhance their healing process.  

Higher Education Partnerships

Many participants, especially survivors, have never believed that college, law school or certificate programs were accessible to them; however, Access believes that it is incredibly important and impactful to show survivors the programs firsthand. Access partners with University of San Diego Paralegal Program and California Western School of Law to plan interactive college tours. Survivors learn about the admissions process, participate in mock trials, and learn about special projects within these institutions such as the California Innocence Project.  

Entry Level Credentials 

Access wants to ensure that immediately after the program, participants can find employment and competitive pay in law and/or law enforcement to ensure economic stability. We partner with Citywide Protection Services in San Diego to provide Phase I, II and II guard card certifications to program participants. This certification is recognized by the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. For the participants whose criminal background do not allow for this certification, Access utilizes the internal legal team as well as community partners to identify qualifications for vacatur.  

Program Outcomes and Impact 

At the end of the program’s first year, 20 participants earned four credible certificates and Guard Card Level III security credentials. The Law Career Pathway is successful because participants receive exposure to diverse law and law enforcement career options. Participants also learn about work readiness and are provided opportunities to practice those skills through class engagement and assignments. Most importantly, participants receive entry level credentials and certificates to ensure employability after the program. Many programs often separate life skills from work readiness, or are very particular with what trainings are considered beneficial for resume building. Access strives to be creative and engage community partners in the process of educating and supporting our clients. Participants have continously provided feedback and expanded resources to address their current obstacles, and are empowered to see themselves accessing and thriving in the law and law enforcement career field regardless of their unique stories and experiences.