For Rochelle Krebs ’09 JD, the path to a career in public interest law was not typical. It wasn’t until several years after graduating with her law degree from Notre Dame Law School that she began practicing full-time in civil legal aid, helping survivors of domestic violence in the region of Seattle. Now, she is qualified to use the law school’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (PARL), which helps her pay off her student loans while she pursues a career in public interest law.
As a student, Krebs was interested in human rights law and was drawn to Notre Dame Law School by the opportunity to interact with the Klau Center for Civil and Human Rights. Krebs embarked on a career in public interest law and was honored as the 2009 recipient of the Conrad Kellenberg Award for community service while studying law.
During the winter break of her 1L year, she participated in Galilee, a unique immersion program in which Notre Dame law students meet with lawyers from government agencies and non-profit organizations to learn about on the legal challenges facing the poor and excluded. Krebs, originally from Washington state, competed in Seattle. She had the opportunity to meet with Washington Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu ’93 JD, who was then a trial judge in the King County Superior Court.
Krebs remembers Yu telling the Galilee group that there was a need for high quality family law attorneys. The judge said many parties in family law cases have to represent themselves.
“Back then I thought ‘I’m not going into family law’, and now I’ve ended up doing just that,” Krebs said.
However, this did not happen right away. After studying law, she and Jeffrey Caffee ’09 JD, whom she met at Notre Dame, returned to the Seattle area and started their family. There, Caffee began his career in litigation and eventually opened his own personal injury law firm, while Krebs stayed at home with their two sons. Always dedicated to serving the public interest, Krebs has provided over 1,500 volunteer hours to low-income immigrants and domestic violence survivors.
It wasn’t until 2017, more than eight years after graduating, that Krebs was employed full-time as a lawyer with the Eastside Legal Aid program. The non-profit organization provides free civil legal aid services to low-income residents of eastern King County, Wash., And low-income survivors of domestic violence throughout the county. by King. Krebs advises on a variety of family law matters relating to domestic violence, including representing clients in family violence protection order hearings, drafting parental protection plans and divorce petitions, and advising self-representing clients.
In addition, she provides practitioner training and sits on a Committee of Legal Aid Partners in conjunction with the King County Attorney’s Office which helps bridge the gap between civil legal aid services to make them more accessible. to survivors of domestic violence.
Krebs was aware of the law school’s loan repayment assistance program and knew that Notre Dame supported work-life balance, family values, and those who serve in nonprofit organizations. But in 2017, the LRAP program was limited to 10 years immediately following graduation. She wrote to her former legal clinic professor, Bob Jones, Associate Dean for Experiential Programs, about making RRAP available for a full 10 years to any graduate who has worked in qualifying public service work, little it doesn’t matter how long ago they graduated. The law school accepted and the program now supports alumni for the 10 years an eligible graduate works in the public interest, not just the 10 years immediately following graduation.
“It’s wonderful to have the LRAP program and I’m grateful for it,” Krebs said. “It’s a fantastic benefit and a great relief.”
By alleviating her concerns about her monthly student loan payment, LRAP helps Krebs focus on the important work she’s doing. “I ended up doing human rights law,” she said. “Everyone has the right to be free from harm and the right to be a safe parent. These are the two human rights.
She said most domestic violence survivors have ongoing legal needs that last for years. Protection orders need to be renewed and parenting plans need to be changed. Often, the abuser will have more financial resources and misuse the justice system, forcing survivors to return to court repeatedly to defend or enforce their protection orders.
Krebs plans to continue to guide her clients through the complex legal system and to continue to offer all possible help to the survivors she serves.