National Center for Youth Law

At the Center

5 Questions with Chris Wu, NCYL Alumni and Vice President of NCYL’s Board of Directors


What did you do at NCYL?  I was a Summer Law Clerk during the summer of 1982 and enjoyed my time so much that I stayed on through the fall. I worked with multiple staff attorneys on children’s rights issues across disciplines including Jim Morales, David Lambert, Abigail English, and Alice Bussiere. Retired Executive Director, John O’Toole, remains a close friend. One of my projects involved immigration research that was part of the lengthy groundwork for the Flores case filing, a case that is still incredibly important today to protect the rights of immigrant youth in federal detention facilities.

What is your favorite memory from your time at NCYL? While you may think that my favorite memory was playing on the NCYL basketball team in the San Francisco Lawyers’ League, a memory that stands out to me actually takes me back to my first day as a law clerk. I showed up in a full-on three-piece suit. My supervisor was running late, and I was left waiting in the lobby seeing all the other attorneys pass me by in much more casual attire (to say the least). I was happy to put the suit away for the summer.

Why is NCYL’s work important today? The work is without a doubt just as important now. The organization’s goal, and my personal goal too, of making a positive impact on children and families using the law and other tools is still relevant because there remain many unmet needs. For example, the Flores litigation that began in the 1980s and continues to today still sets the standards for how we care for children coming into the country. And of course, issues of child welfare, juvenile justice, education, health care and more are all connected and pertinent.

How did your time at NCYL influence your path? NCYL really helped launch my career in children and family advocacy. My experience in a clinical program at the University of Michigan Law School had sparked my interest in child advocacy. I found it fascinating how interdisciplinary children’s law is, the way it weaves together many fields. I have since been a staff attorney and executive director at Legal Services for Children, a supervising attorney at the Judicial Council of California, a director at Casey Family Programs, and now a principal court management consultant regarding child and family initiatives at the National Center for State Courts. I have also served on the Boards of Legal Services for Children and the National Association of Counsel for Children.  Practically my whole legal career has been in children’s law since my clerkship at NCYL!

How have you stayed involved with NCYL? It’s been my pleasure to be on the NCYL Board since the early 1990s, serve as the current Board Vice President, and donate to NCYL every year. I’ve watched the organization grow from a team of 8 to now a nearly 80-person team. I love working with the terrific board and staff through thick and thin. I’m proud to say that NCYL’s strength is its ability to tackle important issues in a thoughtful and timely manner.