Gillian Sonnad is the Supervising Attorney for the Public Benefits, Health, and Education Team at Central California Legal Services. Prior to her position with CCLS, Gillian was a staff attorney with Legal Services of Northern California for over five years. Gillian earned her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 2008 with a concentration in Public Interest Law. Gillian has a profound passion for race equity work and recently co-authored the Clearinghouse Review article, Putting Race Back on the Table: Racial Impact Statements.
What’s a case or client or piece of advocacy that comes to mind as giving you particular personal satisfaction? Why?
My work with the Race Equity Project at my previous firm has been some of the most personally satisfying and influential work I've done. Learning, then teaching and training on the principles of race equity and seeing advocates, community, and even government workers utilize those principles has been immensely satisfying.
You just completed the inaugural class of the Shriver Center’s Racial Justice Training Institute. How will what you learned in that program change your practice?
I would like our programs to be much more connected and interdependent and to act as resources for each other.
The inaugural class of RJTI is a stellar group, and working with them for these many months has taught me that the fight for equality is being fought on all fronts in too many places to count. It has renewed my spirit and energy to continue this fight. In my practice I will call on the dedication, passion, and talents of the cohort and faculty when the fight becomes overwhelming.
If you were in charge, what’s one way (other than having more funding!) that public interest legal work would be different?
I would like our programs to be much more connected and interdependent and to act as resources for each other. Now that I've been practicing for a while and gotten to know wonderful people in other programs, it is clear that we all have a lot to offer each other in terms of expertise and support.
What is the biggest client problem you see in your practice right now?
I have only recently arrived in California's Central Valley, and from what I have seen thus far, issues of environmental justice and youth empowerment are paramount.
What’s one of your guilty pleasures?
Good red wine à la Olivia Pope.