THE WREN COLLECTIVE, LLC
Strategic Advising for Social Change
We live in a time where change is badly needed but difficult to achieve. True impact requires expertise and commitment. The Wren Collective provides both to clients who want to take the bold action needed to radically transform the criminal legal system.
STRATEGY & CAMPAIGNS
We design full-throttle campaigns to achieve change. We craft messages, identify those who can effectively communicate them, and determine how and when they should be delivered. We will show you which levers need to be pulled to obtain radical transformation, and then we help you pull them.
We design ballot initiatives and legislation and provide the research and strategy necessary to get them passed. We help clients throughout the process, tracking amendments, identifying whether proposed changes will harm the client’s goals, and developing strategies to oppose these modifications when necessary.
We provide a rapid response strategy in a crisis, helping to mobilize those voices that can help combat an attack.
RESEARCH & POLICY
We perform deep, evidence-based research to identify the solutions that will help our clients achieve their goals. We write position papers, reports, policies, and white papers, and then distill them into clear messaging to help you push for change.
We help place stories in all forms of media—print, digital, radio, and television—to get our clients' message to the widest audience possible.
As long-time criminal defense lawyers, we can provide specialized media and strategy support for your litigation.
The Wren Collective is a strategic advising firm that provides our clients with significant substantive knowledge, experience, and an unparalleled work ethic. We are lawyers and policy experts who deploy our considerable criminal justice system expertise to provide communication, policy, legislative and campaign support.
We are not your ordinary firm:
We are deeply client-centered. We are a boutique firm that is entirely focused on achieving our client's end goals—meaningful change. We are selective so that we can give our clients as much time and attention as they need.
We believe subject matter expertise matters. Successful communications and policy work requires people who understand both how things do and should operate. We have that expertise.
We believe hands-on experience is critical. We have been in the trenches, both in courtrooms and on campaigns. We understand how to create targeted and effective advocacy.
Jessica Brand, Founder
Jessica Brand is a criminal justice expert with significant experience in policy and political communications. Previously, she served as the Legal Director at The Justice Collaborative, heading a team of attorneys, researchers, journalists, and media strategists that worked to reduce the harm caused by the deeply flawed criminal justice system. In that job, she advised elected officials across the country as they tried to proactively implement meaningful change, while leading communication strategies to roll out policies to safely shrink incarceration levels and supervision in their jurisdiction. She also led teams in responding to crisis situations, and worked with media to soften the groundwork for criminal justice reform.
Jessica previously worked at the Texas Defender Service in the capital trial project, where she consulted with trial teams in death penalty cases across the state of Texas and conducted state-wide trainings on understanding mental health and performing capital defense investigation. Prior to that, Jessica was a staff attorney in the appellate division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. She also served as a member of the forensic practice group, and she continues to train lawyers across the country on litigating the admissibility of forensic evidence. Following law school, she clerked for Judge Michael McConnell on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
Jessica has been published in Slate, CNN, and The Appeal, and been featured on NPR and CSPAN.
Jessica graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2007, and summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2004. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas Defender Service and the University of Pennsylvania Platt House Performing Arts Alumni Council.
Prithika Balakrishnan has over a decade of experience as a public defender, trial attorney and advocate. A Bay Area native, she served as a San Francisco Deputy Public Defender for over twelve years before joining the Wren Collective. She handled life-cases, sex crimes and homicides, conducting over 30 jury trials to verdict. She also managed several of San Francisco’s mental health collaborative courts, which are lauded as national models of evidence-based, treatment-focused strategies for addressing mental health and addiction as root causes of criminality.
Prithika is also a legal educator, having taught at Berkeley Law School since 2017. She teaches Criminal Law and Ethics and Advanced Criminal Trial Practice. She is devoted to developing, mentoring and inspiring the next generation of criminal justice lawyers.
Prior to her service as a public defender, Prithika was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras, Central America and a union organizer for UNITE HERE, representing San Francisco hotel employees in contract disputes with multinational corporations.
Prithika earned her B.A. in History and Economics from Stanford University in 1998 and her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2009.
Julia Brown is an experienced attorney with a background in criminal law and immigration policy. Before joining the Wren Collective, she directed advocacy for the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Maine's only nonprofit provider of immigration legal aid. Her achievements included passing legislation that opened up a pathway to a green card for Maine noncitizen youth, leading state-wide public education and advocacy efforts in response to anti-immigrant federal policies, and spearheading the organization's media and communications strategies.
Prior to her move to Maine, Julia was an attorney at the Georgia Resource Center, where she represented death-sentenced clients in their state and federal habeas post-conviction cases. She litigated these cases in state and federal courts, including appellate courts and the Supreme Court of the United States. Julia also built up clemency cases, talking with victims’ family members, jurors, community members, and expert witnesses, in order to advocate for her clients’ lives. She has a deep understanding of the criminal legal system, and all its failures and injustices, from this work.
Julia obtained a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a J.D. from New York University School of Law. After law school, she clerked for Justice Brian Morris of the Montana Supreme Court.
Mariam Hinds is an experienced criminal defense attorney and litigator. Prior to joining the Wren Collective, she served as a team leader and supervising attorney in the Criminal Defense Practice at The Bronx Defenders. In those roles, Mariam provided client-centered representation to indigent clients charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses and supervised new attorneys in their first and second years of practice. She also oversaw a holistic, interdisciplinary team of attorneys, advocates, social workers, and investigators who practiced in criminal, family, immigration, and civil courts. As a public defender, Mariam has led trainings on criminal procedure, trial advocacy, bail applications, mitigation, and legal ethics. Following law school, Mariam served as a law clerk to the Honorable Cheryl L. Pollak of the Eastern District of New York.
Mariam has researched, published, and contributed to articles on solitary confinement and the unintended consequences of California’s Realignment legislation.
Mariam received her J.D. from Stanford Law School where she was the recipient of the Gerald Gunther Prize for outstanding performance in Constitutional Law: Fourteenth Amendment and the John H. Ely Prize for outstanding performance in Juvenile Justice and Social Policy. Mariam holds a B.A. in Psychology from Yale University where she graduated cum laude and with distinction in her major. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Yen Mai has an extensive background in criminal trial practice at one of the busiest courthouses in our country, the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court in Miami. In her time as a public defender, Yen tried over a dozen jury trials to verdict and counseled hundreds of clients facing mandatory minimum sentences imposed under the Florida Sentencing Guidelines. Yen handled felony criminal cases from beginning to end and is acutely aware of the intricacies and obstacles inherent in our country’s criminal justice system.
Yen spent several years prior to her legal career working with the Refinery Leadership Partners, a Canadian-based change management firm. At the Refinery, Yen supported cutting edge leadership develop and cultural transformation programs through client management and business development.
Yen received her J.D. from Tulane University where she was a recipient of the Heckman International Law Scholarship and a Merit Scholar. While at Tulane, Yen founded the Women in Law Society. She also clerked at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and the Louisiana Supreme Court.
In addition to her coursework and internships, Yen worked at a federal criminal law firm in New Orleans where she focused on creating immigration-safe defenses strategies for clients fighting concurrent federal criminal charges and deportation. She earned her B.A. from the University of Oregon.
Amy Weber has over fifteen years of experience in criminal justice litigation and advocacy work. Prior to joining the Wren Collective, Amy was a Senior Attorney at the Justice Collaborative, where she partnered with elected prosecutors to design and implement significant criminal justice reforms driven by data and research, while considering political feasibility, timing, and strategies for optimizing expansive change. Before her involvement in designing and supporting new criminal justice policies, Amy provided litigation assistance and constitutional briefing to attorneys handling capital, juvenile life-without-parole, and nonviolent life-without-parole cases across the country. Amy contributed to many significant victories, including the Delaware Supreme Court decision invalidating the State’s capital punishment law and a successful challenge to the first true juvenile life-without-parole sentence imposed in Florida following the State’s legislative response to Miller v. Alabama.
Prior to her work litigating these constitutional criminal issues, she spent nearly a decade as a trial, training, and appellate attorney at the public defender’s office in Miami, Florida, representing clients in all phases of Florida criminal proceedings. She made significant changes to the office’s felony training program that are still in effect today and regularly trained lawyers in the Miami community. Amy has also served as a law clerk for Judge Janet C. Hall of the District of Connecticut, a staff attorney in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement, and an analyst at the Congressional Budget Office.
Amy obtained a B.A. from Cornell University in 1996 and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 2002.