New York Fellow and Berkeley Law Professor Jennifer Chacón doesn’t have a lot of free time these days, but that hasn’t stopped her from making access to justice a priority in her life, whether its as a co-author of a textbook about immigration and social justice, a leader in the AALS Section on Immigration, or a member of the ABF Board of Directors. The Stanford and Yale graduate has dedicated her career to improving the law and its administration, embarking on research projects that have seen support from organizations such as the Russell Sage Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Professor Chacón is a veteran of the University of California system, where she has been the Senior Associate Dean for Administration at UC Irvine and a professor at the Berkeley, Los Angeles, Davis, and Irvine campuses. In addition to her role as an educator, which won her the UC Davis School of Law Distinguished Teaching Award, Professor Chacón has also held a number of advisory positions, most notably with the Barack Obama campaign and transition teams as an immigration expert.
What does being a Fellow mean to you?
Being a Fellow means being part of a professional community of lawyers who care about improving access to justice and who are committed to supporting scholarly inquiry undertaken to promote that goal.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and I still make frequent trips there every year to visit my parents and other family members.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in law?
Growing up, I didn’t have a full sense of the range of professional options available to people who completed higher education. I was a high school debater, and teachers told me that I should consider law school. I took a couple of law-related undergraduate courses that convinced me that I was interested in law, and so I applied to law school. But even as I was applying, I knew that I wanted to pursue an academic career. I wanted to read and write about law, and to teach law students. So, after 5 years of clerkship and law practice, I entered law teaching. Some days are hard, but I’ve never regretted that decision
If you hadn’t pursued a career in law, what would you have done?
I like to think I’d be a professional singer. I sang a lot when I was young, but my dad always told me to keep my day job. So here I am.
What do you do in your free time?
I love this idea that I might have “free time”! As a working parent with a relatively new puppy, most of my time is spent triaging my duties as a teacher, researcher, writer, community member, and parent. Some days I am good at this. Other days I am not. I try to stay fit for this challenge by running (slowly), swimming (slowly) and lifting weights. I make time to do volunteer work – legal and non-legal. And I make sure to sneak in at least a little bit of fiction reading every day. I frequently dream about watching TV, but it doesn’t happen very often. When it does, it is usually with my kids, so I’m basically limited to kid-friendly TV. The Great British Baking Show has been a winner for the whole family.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
It’s been a real pleasure to serve on the ABF Board and to learn about the important work that ABF faculty are doing every day.