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The LAist Interview: Lauren Teukolsky, Public Interest Lawyer

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The legal world in Los Angeles conjures up images of shiny glass Bunker Hill skyscrapers populated by Arnie Becker-type sharks shuffling around in perfectly tailored Hugo Boss suits and Gucci loafers, all the while servicing their big-money, high-profile clients. Some might also think of the sleazy Larry H. Parkers of the world who guilelessly peddle their personal injury services on daytime television.

Los Angeles is also home to many of a special breed -- the public interest lawyer -- who represent those who might otherwise lack access to legal resources. Do-gooder attorneys like Lauren Teukolsky, associate at the highly-regarded local civil rights and employment firm Hadsell & Stormer, make those nasty lawyer jokes that most of us make without a second thought seem hackneyed and cliché.

1. Age and Occupation:

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28, lawyer

2. Where are you from?

Ithaca, NY

3. How long have you lived in Los Angeles and in what neighborhood do you reside?

7 years, Silverlake

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4. As a public interest lawyer, your professional life is probably at least a little bit different than what’s depicted on "LA Law," right?

It’s true that I work in a funky building in Pasadena with Jimi Hendrix posters on the wall and a lava lamp in the conference room, and also that I get to wear jeans to work. That being said, my professional life sometimes bears an unfortunate resemblance to a TV show. We sue corporations a lot, so I spend much of my time in high rise buildings downtown being yelled at by really mean high-powered attorneys who feel demeaned by a young female attorney making objections on behalf of her client. Hmm…..maybe there’s an idea for an “LA Law II.”

5. That phrase “public interest” is tricky. What does it mean to you?

I don’t get too philosophical about it. I see a big part of my job as trying to keep corporations honest. A few of my friends are public defenders, and they enforce the constitution and try to keep the government honest. I have friends who do Legal Aid work who provide representation for people who are too poor to afford it otherwise. I have friends at the ACLU who bring strategic lawsuits to enforce principles that I happen to agree with. All of these are examples of public interest work.

6. What motivates you to keep fighting the good fight and not selling out to the corporate Man?

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I have way too much fun in my job to even think about going to work for the Man. Plus, my rich friends let me swim in their pools and eat their food, so who needs the Man?