She Is Noble
Read. Listen. Watch.

Stories of courage and compassion about women just like you.

Learn About the Campaign Official Rules
Brittany Stringfellow-Otey

How a lawyer found joy in one of the darkest places

Finding Worth And A Calling

by Larisa Kline

How many people go to work every single day and do something they feel called to do? Two years after graduating from Pepperdine University School of Law, Brittany Stringfellow-Otey was able to do just that.

It’s now been twelve years since Stringfellow-Otey was appointed the director of the legal clinic at the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles, and she says she still can’t believe she gets to do the thing that makes her heart the most joyful. “I am ridiculously lucky,” Stringfellow-Otey admits. Not only does she provide legal assistance to those in need, she is also a mother of four children (all under ten years old) and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Law at Pepperdine University.

Each semester, like her professors before her, Stringfellow-Otey meets her students down at the Union Rescue Mission and throws them headfirst into the work she loves. They are usually culture-shocked at the difference between wealthy Malibu and poverty-stricken Skid Row.

It is in the raw realness of her client’s lives that Professor Stringfellow-Otey is able to show her students the kind of work they may one day handle. She focuses on helping people re-enter society after traumatic or legal difficulties, but notes excitedly that each day holds something different. There are men recently released from rehab and jail who need their criminal records expunged in order for them to return to work. She assists mothers stuck in abusive relationships fighting for custody of their children. There are people facing homelessness who don’t know their rights or what benefits they can receive to help them out of poverty.

Stringfellow-Otey strongly urges her students that even if they do not head into the field, they should always stay connected and volunteer. “My goal is for poverty to bother you for the rest of your life,” she tells her students each semester. “I don’t want you to be able to walk the block to your office and not be completely troubled by those asking for money or suffering from addiction. I want you to do something about it, with your time and resources.”

While there are not many who pursue these types of jobs, Stringfellow-Otey believes they are some of the most important. Growing up she watched her mom work as a nurse and dad pastor a church on a low income, and witnessed the beauty of community. She remembers people donating everything from soup cans to cars—“People really are the hands and feet of God,” she stresses. She believes her parent’s unyielding love of the underdog and being surrounded by a culture that was excited about doing meaningful work is what inspired her to the position she holds now.

Although she sees a high burn out rate in attorney jobs and those working with the needy, Stringfellow-Otey says the benefits outweigh the sad subject matter. “The most rewarding moment,” she reveals, “is probably where someone who is so beaten down by shame or the difficulty of their life finally feels heard. They realize that they matter.”

Stringfellow-Otey is noble, because she helps men and women believe in their own dignity and worth, and she feels a strong loyalty to her cause. As she says, “I want to be an old lady working on skid row. I will always be here.”