Naomi Strand '97

Imagine a world where all people, regardless of income, education, or citizenship status, have access to quality legal counsel. This vision drove Naomi Strand ’97 to first apply to Seattle University School of Law, and eventually, to co-found Northwest Community Legal Advocates (NWCLA) in 2016.

“I saw a huge need that wasn’t being met: low-cost family law,” says Naomi, who started the Washington state non-profit in Seattle with her partner J. Engels. The organization provides low-cost legal services for family law, immigration, disability law, trusts and estates, and mediation services. “I believe everyone should have access to the law, and also an understanding of the legal system and their rights."

Some of the most critical services NWCLA’s attorneys are providing today are for immigrants. The firm handles issues regarding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), legal permanent residence, family-based petitions, naturalization, navigating public benefits and Immigration, and helping immigrant victims of crime. “This work is really all emergency,” reveals Naomi. “There is no middle ground.”

Undaunted by the crises nature of her job, Naomi loves doing the work and having the knowledge and skills to do it. “The law is a great tool and I love helping people figure out what to do,” she says. Naomi received her B.A. at Oberlin College, where she double-majored in English and Religion and minored in Women’s Studies. Initially, law was not her aspiration, but then she got a job as a paralegal and started volunteering with the ACLU, doing voting rights and election protection during the 2014 election.

“I realized to be effective in this kind of work it would be powerful to have a law degree,” says Naomi. “Literally, on the night of the 2014 election results, I decided to go to law school.”

Naomi transferred to NWS from public school in the 10th grade, and after she had been at the school a few weeks, she remembers thinking, “Whoa, they are not kidding around here – I have to do a lot of work!” Specifically, she recalls chemistry class with Renee Fredrikson as “being incredibly hard, but also fun,” and remembers (Humanities teacher) Daniel Sparler as “just knowing everything.” She and her friends would say, “Let’s see if we can stump him.”

Naomi points to the hallway guitars as one of her favorite elements of Northwest, crediting the school with being “both rigorous and also fun and playful.” Above all, she identifies her Humanities experience as the most valuable thing she carried with her into her profession. “I learned how to write, period,” says Naomi, who names Humanities teacher Suzanne Bottelli as a pivotal influence. “At Northwest, I got my foundation in how to express myself through writing, and I took that into college and the law.”