50 for 50 Spotlight: Lorella Hess (JD ’15)

The Pepperdine Waves’ motto is ‘Purpose, Service, Leadership.’ I’m trying to live into that spirit…”

Lorella Hess is an associate attorney at the Ventura Law Offices of Vanessa Frank, a community-centered law firm that focuses on family-based immigration and removal defense. As an immigration attorney, Lorella works to keep American families together and helps immigrants secure or maintain legal status in the United States. Lately, she explains, a major part of her role is to also push back against gratuitous official cruelty and bullying. President Jim Gash describes Lorella as an alumna with a “big mind but a bigger heart.”

Lorella got her start in immigration work through an internship with the well-known immigration lawyer Judy Wood (JD ’81) who actively recruits interns from Pepperdine. Her first full-time job in the field was with a firm founded by another alumnus, Robert Reeves (JD ’79). Lorella continued to witness the power and scope of the Pepperdine alumni network during my first year in practice, and when she needed someone to put her in immediate contact with a compassionate federal judge, then Professor Danny DeWalt (now the University’s Chief of Staff) connected her to Judge Andre Birotte, Jr. (JD ’91).

Describing herself as an “atypical student (older, more liberal, and less Christian than many of her classmates), Lorella expressed her gratitude for the influence and guidance of Professor Jeff Baker from the Community Justice Clinic, Judge Judge Bruce Einhorn who taught Asylum Law, and Jim Gash who led the Global Justice Program in Uganda. Lorella also credits celebrated attorney Judy Wood as an important mentor and friend.

This Saturday, November 2, Lorella will be a part of the Asylum Advocacy Conference organized by the Law Office of Vanessa Frank and co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara and Ventura Colleges of Law, the Ventura County Bar Association, and the Immigrant Legal Defense Center. Because all California lawyers need CLE credits for Legal Ethics and Elimination of Bias, the firm is serving the legal community by offering those credits in a timely and engaging format. Lorella says, “The Waves’ motto is ‘Purpose, Service, Leadership.’ I’m trying to live into that spirit with the CLE conference in Ventura this Saturday. We have marquee speakers who headline national immigration law conferences, up close and personal just a few miles up the coast from Malibu.”

Lorella explains that the conference also holds a larger purpose in the legal community–educating attorneys and others on the basics of asylum law (often misrepresented in the public square) and inspiring more pro bono work on behalf of asylum seekers, most of whom are without any professional help in courts where their lives are on the line. Having a lawyer presenting the case, she explains, can make a huge difference, particularly for someone who is traumatized, alone, undereducated, or all of the above.

Pro bono mentoring is available for attorneys who normally practice other areas of law and want to serve an asylum client. Lawyers who don’t feel called to do this work themselves can meet their pro bono obligations by making a financial contribution to organizations that provide free/low cost legal services—and will be able to connect personally with several such organizations at the conference.

With Judge Einhorn as a member of the keynote panel and a special screening of Judy Wood’s biopic, Pepperdine Law will be well-represented at this weekend’s Asylum Advocacy Conference, and Lorella hopes to see a big turnout.

For full details on the conference, visit www.vanessafranklaw.com/asylum-advocacy-conference