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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

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?

7. What's your preferred mode of transportation?

Car, car, car. Anyone who lives in LA who answers differently is lying.

8. What's your favorite movie or TV show that's based in LA?

I recently rented all of the episodes of "The Shield" from Netflix and stayed up way past my bedtime watching. The show is great - it's a cop show based on the infamous Rampart station, which happens to be the station that services my neighborhood. There's a bunch of shots of the hills where I live. I kept annoying my boyfriend Josh by pushing the pause button every time they showed a scene from our neighborhood.

9. Share your best celebrity sighting experience.

When I first got to LA, I was in a sporting goods store in Brentwood. As I was browsing for various rollerblade accessories, I noticed Angela Lansbury in a beautiful sunhat across the store. We just so happened to make purchases at the same time, and I gawked at her totally hardcore, even though you're not really supposed to do that. She saw me gawking, and then she winked at me! I then went home and called everyone I knew to tell them what happened.

10. What's the best place to walk in LA?

What is this "walk" of which you speak? Uh, I love to walk around the reservoir in the middle of Silverlake. Sometimes there's coyotes hanging out on the grass by the reservoir, which is pretty neat. I also get to pass the dog park and fantasize about a life when I have time to own a dog.

11. It's 9:30 pm on Thursday. Where are you coming from and where
are you going?

If I'm not at work (sad, but true), I'm on my way from said work to Koreatown with friends for some hot BBQ action followed by drinks in a bar with big red booths and Foreigner on the juke box.

12. If you could live in LA during any era, when would it be?

If I tell you that this is a dumb question, will you be offended?

13. What's your beach of choice?

This is so cheesy, but I love Manhattan Beach. The beaches in Malibu are just too windy, and Santa Monica and Venice - well, you know, been there, done that. Manhattan Beach has really nice sand, the waves are great, the water feels warmer, and I can take the 105 Freeway to get there. The area surrounding the beach itself is really creepy - too many frat boys all grown up.

14. What is the "center" of LA to you?

Café Tropical on Sunset at Parkman. It's a Cuban bakery with really strong coffee, guava cheese pies, and ham and cheese croissants.

15. If you were forced to live in a neighboring county, which would you choose?

If I were forced to live in a neighboring county, I would curl up into a little ball and die.

16. What is the city's greatest secret?

The 2 Freeway. No one is ever on it, which is fine by me because I use it to get to work. Is it sad that a freeway was my answer to this question? I was going to talk about some restaurants in Monterey Park and San Gabriel, but I'm not so sure they're really secret anymore.

17. Drinking, driving. They mix poorly, and yet they're inexorably linked. How do you handle this conflict?

Oh, dear. When I was single this was more of a problem. Now my boyfriend and I make deals about who gets to drink. If I have to go hang out with his friends, I get to drink, and vice versa. There are also some bars within stumbling distance from my home. The margaritas at El Conquisador are really quite tasty.

18. Describe your best LA dining experience.

This is really an impossible question, it's like choosing among children. I can give you my best take-out experience without a problem: Every other Saturday, there are movies in the Hollywood Forever cemetery, which are projected onto the side of a giant building in the cemetery (I think it's a mausoleum). Before the movie, hordes of hipsters gather on the lawn to eat and get really plastered, while listening to tunes from the dj. A couple months ago, we brought take-out from Papa Cristos on Pico and Normadie. It's a Greek restaurant across the street from a giant Greek Orthodox temple. They have a deli counter with tubs of olives and a meat selection that makes you want to cry. They have a take-out counter and also a restaurant that isn't fancy. We ordered sizzling feta with tomatoes, little octopi, spanikopita and meat pies, lamb chops off the grill, and souvlaki plates. Some olives and Greek wine and we were good to go. After gorging myself, I fell asleep about five minutes into the movie. Heavenly.

19. What do you have to say to East Coast supremacists?

Bite me.

20. Do you find the threat of earthquakes preferable to the threat of hurricanes and long winters?


21. Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?

Hanging out with my East Coast supremacist friends.

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