Sonya Passi

The Family Violence Appellate Project: Founding a Nonprofit as a Law Student

Sonya is a 2L at UC Berkeley School of Law

I must begin with a shout out to Ms. JD. As a result of people reading my first blog post six weeks ago, I met a very inspiring survivor of domestic violence, heard from two attorneys interested in working on a pro bono case with FVAP, and received our first case referral. In case you doubted the reach and influence of Ms. JD and your own blog posts, doubt no more.

In the last six weeks the FVAP team has accomplished a tremendous amount. We have hosted two very successful board meetings, filed our 501(c)(3) papers with the IRS, created a website (, held our first brown bag lunch, launched a fundraising campaign, and organized a launch party!

This entire process is at once incredible and terrifying: incredible because I am working with an extremely talented and passionate team; terrifying because I do not want to fail our clients, my team, or myself.

I hope other law students read this blog, but my message applies to everyone: don’t be afraid to be afraid. Venture into the unknown and do so with the belief that you can achieve anything. You are a woman and a (soon-to-be) lawyer. That combination alone makes you invincible.

Last week, I met a very special young lady who told me that her mother was a victim of domestic violence. When her parents finally divorced, the judge awarded her father joint custody despite knowledge of his abusive behavior. Her father abused her and her siblings whenever they were with him. They were young children, and the constant mistreatment severely affected her oldest brother, who then in his adolescence assumed abusive behavior towards her, her other sibling, and mother. She said that if only the Family Violence Appellate Project had existed back then, her mother might have been able to appeal their case, and she and her siblings could have been safe.

If ever I doubted the impact that FVAP would have, I no longer do. Her story inspires me to work hard every single day and I hope it inspires you to support us:

Thank you for reading.



Wow, you rock Sonya! Way to lead!


Our group is just starting a DV program and I know how much goes into this.  So impressive that a law student is doing this much.  Keep the updates coming!

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