Student Posts

The World’s Largest Democracy

This past summer I had the privilege of working for the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC) in New Delhi, India. Having previously studied abroad in India during my undergraduate career I had a strong desire to return to the world’s largest democracy with some legal knowledge under my belt. After receiving an offer to work with Ravi Nair, the Director of SAHRDC, and speaking with several past interns who thoroughly enjoyed their time under Ravi’s mentorship I applied for a work visa and upon receiving it bought a plane ticket. Overall the experience was remarkable. I learned so much working with Ravi and I was humbled to assist him in fighting for human rights, a fight Ravi has participated in since the 1960s.

Going into the summer I felt like I had a pretty solid handle of ongoing human rights concerns in India, but that could not have been further from the truth. My prior knowledge was focused on concerns regarding women’s rights, lingering elements of the caste system, and poverty, but I had never heard of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), anti-conversion laws, the insurmountable judicial delay plaguing the court system of India, the impunity government officials are granted under Indian law, the excessive use of force displayed daily in Kashmir and Northeast India, or Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s association with the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, which occurred under his watch as chief minister. I learned about all of these issues as I prepared reports to submit to the United Nations in preparation for India’s third Universal Periodic Review with the United Nations Human Rights Council. In addition to an official report submitted by the state itself, NGOs are also permitted to submit reports on a country’s human rights record to increase transparency.

By writing several of these reports in addition to various articles, I learned that although India is the largest democracy in the world, on the ground the country is anything but free or fair. Ravi had known this for a long time, and although he realizes he can only live to see so much change in his country he has dedicated his life and his personal inheritance to fighting for every bit of change he can achieve. Previously, Ravi received funding from foreign investors to support SAHRDC, but to receive this type of funding an NGO in India needs a license: a license that is issued by the government. Thanks to Ravi’s great work, the Indian government has rewarded him by taking away this license, which has left Ravi to use what he has left of his mother’s inheritance to run the organization. SAHRDC used to be housed in an office building, and Ravi used to have 10-15 employees. Today the SAHRDC is located in what is essentially two storage units and consists of Ravi, an assistant, and the interns who funnel in and out every couple of months. Ravi is one of the few brave individuals fighting for systemic change in the largest democracy in the world and I could not have been more honored to help him in this fight.


nicolelawlerheadshotNicole Lawler is a member of the Class of 2018 from Orefield, Pennsylvania. She graduated from King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, PA, in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Political Science, Theology, and Economics. This past summer Nicole worked at the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre in New Delhi, India. Previously, Nicole has interned at the Defenders Association of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project in Philadelphia. Nicole enjoys playing softball and traveling in her spare time.

Conversations with Practitioners

Vivian Kim

Conversations with Practitioners is our ongoing series in which we ask current practitioners about their careers.

1. What do you currently do?

I am an Assistant United States Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia. Our office is a little different from other U.S. Attorney’s offices. Since there is no D.A. in the District, the office also handles local crime. I specifically handle domestic violence misdemeanors in D.C. Superior Court.

2. What does your job entail?

I’m more like a local prosecutor than a federal prosecutor. I am in the courtroom almost every day in the mornings, handling status hearings, detention hearings, motions hearings, arraignments, sentencings, and trials etc. If there is a trial, I will be there all day. If not, in the afternoons I spent a lot of time talking to witnesses and victims. Because of the work I do, I encounter a lot of people who are in vulnerable and tragic moments in their lives; it is crucial that I take the time and care to speak with respect and clarity during this time. I also spend the afternoons gathering evidence, investigating, turning evidence over to defense counsel, getting ready for upcoming trials, and negotiating plea deals with defense counsel.

My job involves a lot of jugging talking to different people: the court, defense counsel, witnesses, and law enforcement officers.

3. What drew you to doing this kind of work?

I have been focused on this kind of work for a while. Straight out of college, I worked as a paralegal at the Manhattan D.A.’s office in the sex crimes unit. In law school, I was in the Prosecution Clinic where I handled domestic relations misdemeanors in Albemarle County.

A big part of being a prosecutor is connecting with people in difficult, tragic moments in their lives. This includes victims, victims’ families, and even the defendant. There is something about the deep personal level of domestic violence cases that draw me to them. As a prosecutor, I want to bring about the best resolution to a case and for all those involved: whether that is by dismissing a case, getting the defendant help, or incarceration, if the case warrants that. The discretion you have as a prosecutor is incredibly intimidating – there is a lot of responsibility there that you have to take seriously – but you have the freedom to know that this is where you can use your intellect, training, and heart to hopefully find a way to resolve what is happening.

4. What did you do in law school or immediately after law school that has helped you develop your career?

During law school, I was part of the first class in the Law and Public Service Program which played a great part in developing my passion for public service. The classes, especially the practical skills classes were great. I also appreciated the community of other like-minded students in the program who were committed to public service.

I also participated in the Prosecution Clinic. If someone wants to be a prosecutor, they should absolutely do it. It is an amazing clinic and you will get experience working one-on-one with great attorneys will take the time to train and mentor you. And it was my first opportunity to experience being a trial attorney, in the courtroom, advocating for victims as a lawyer.

After law school, I went to a firm for three years. If you go to a firm with the idea that you one day want to go into public service, be very intentional, which can be hard to do. I sought out white collar work, criminal investigations, opportunities to go to court, pro bono, and deposition experience to round out my trial skills and criminal law knowledge. It’s crucial to go to the firm with an eye to grow and learn – seek out mentors and assignments that will challenge you and help you become a better attorney all-around.

5. Do you have any advice for current law students who are interested in working in your industry (or law students in general)?

You should take as many practical skills classes as you can. I took Practical Trial Evidence with Judge Crigler, which I still use every day in court. I regret not taking any of the public speaking classes with Professors Saylor and Shadel. You want to practice oral advocacy in front of your peers, so when you’re in court you can walk in with more confidence and gumption. I also recommend taking courses that teach you how to tap into your heart in conjunction with your brain. It’s easy in law school to feel that you have to take all the legal theory courses – the “meat and potatoes” bar exam courses. That’s certainly true, and it’s good advice. But personally, I found the most rewarding courses were the ones where I was encouraged to consider human perspectives foreign to my own life experience and to tap into my empathy and compassion as well as my intellect and legal skills to truly advocate – courses like the Human Rights Clinic, Poverty and the Law, and the Prosecution Clinic.


Vivian KimVivian Kim is an AUSA in the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia. Prior to that, she worked at Morgan, Lewis and Bockius in New York. Vivian graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2012. She did her undergraduate degree at Princeton University.

Student Posts

A Common Bond

Most often what attracts us to different things – people, places, jobs – is a common bond. For me, I definitely share a common bond with the work that I want to do as an attorney. As the daughter of a biracial couple, I found myself naturally drawn to civil rights work. After all, it was civil rights litigation that allowed people like me to enjoy the freedoms that we now do. I find myself drawn to careers of fighting for the under-championed cause – not because I enjoy the fight but because I know the fight is worth it.

This common bond or shared interest definitely fuels my fire. I want to work through the hard parts or long hours because my identity is tied to those I want to help. And yet, there is a cost to that common bond. You’re not only dealing with your own issues – you’re also taking on the issues of others.

My two summer jobs during law school have both dealt with racial justice and civil rights. Both summers also had their fair share of tragedy for the Black community. It is an incredible privilege to have participated in civil rights work, and yet, it was flat out exhausting at times. Work wasn’t just about thinking about reforms and the best ways to do justice. In the background was the hurt of wondering how members of my family might be treated one day and the feeling of security slipping away.

So why do it? Why work in an area that is so closely tied to who I am? It’s not just about having the extra passion to get through the day. I could probably find another motivation to do my job. For me, it comes down to a combination of stubbornness and impatience. If I am unhappy with parts of the world we live in, I’m not going to wait for the change. I’m going to find a way to make the dream a reality.

And with perhaps foolish naïveté, I march on. The hard days aren’t any easier, and the hard days will come. But realizing why I want to do this work gives me the freedom to actually do the work. Part of the work is recognizing that I do share a common bond with the issues. Sometimes that means taking a little extra time to sit with things and to actively carve out space to process what’s happening around me. Sure, that adds another step to the process, but it’s worth it.

If there’s something that lights your fire – some common bond – don’t be afraid to make that your career. We need more people at the table who can shed light on reality. When you chase those passions, remember that work won’t just be a job. It’ll be a part of you, so make the time to take care of yourself. Let’s make change happen, and not wait for it to unfold.


Strickland

Amber Strickland is a 3L from Centreville, Virginia. After spending her undergraduate years enjoying small town America in the cornfields of Ohio, she joined the fight to end bonded labor in India while interning with International Justice Mission. When not reading for class, she can be found procrasti-baking or cooking.

Student Posts

A New Sense of Community

The sense of community at UVA Law played a huge role in my decision to come here. I wanted to learn from and make meaningful connections with my classmates. For me, the relationships I was going to build outside the classroom were as important as the professors teaching the classes. As I began 1L last year, I expected to feel integrally connected to the UVA Law community. Coming back for 2L, on the other hand, I knew I was going to feel out of place.

My next two years of law school will be fundamentally different than the vast majority of my classmates. Most 2Ls have locked down firm jobs for next summer—jobs that will almost definitely turn into $180,000 salaries after they graduate. It’s been fun to listen to my friends talk about flying all over the country, staying in fancy hotels, and sampling the lavish lifestyle at different firms. And don’t get me wrong—every time I hear about my classmates getting a callback or accepting an offer, I’m thrilled for them. But I’m an outsider during those conversations. I don’t relate, I can’t tell my own OGI stories, and all these firm names mean nothing to me. I don’t share these experiences with them.

When they ask me how my job search is going, it gets even more uncomfortable. Because as little as I know about OGI, I might know even less about my career search. Sure, I have a go-to answer to get myself out of the hot seat. I don’t really know what I’m doing though.

Thankfully, I’m not the only person at UVA braving the public service route. Recent conversations with my “no-G-I” friends and other LPS classmates have restored my sense of community and comfort. Our public service community is small, but strong. We are all venturing down very different paths, but we share a sense of solidarity. Importantly, I’ve been reminded that for some that path will include OGI and a short stint at a firm. I’m excited to continue to build relationships with my LPS peers, and I can’t wait to see the incredible things they’re going to do.

In the end, and thanks in large part to LPS, I know I have people supporting me, and people who I will support. My sense of community at UVA may have faded, but it has resurged different and more meaningful than before.


jbennie-headshotJeremy Bennie, a 2L from central Massachusetts, graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park. While there, he created his own major, called Leadership in a Diverse Society. Jeremy has interned with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil and Human Rights. He loves distance running and is currently training for his seventh marathon.

Conversations with Practitioners

Adam Heyman

Conversations with Practitioners is our ongoing series in which we ask current practitioners about their careers.

1. What do you currently do?

I am a public defender at the Legal Aid Society in the Criminal Defense Practice in Brooklyn, New York.

2. What does your job entail?

I represent low-income individuals accused of crimes, ranging from low level offenses to charges that carry a sentence of life in prison.  I meet my clients right after they have been arrested in criminal court arraignments and guide them through the entire criminal process, which can include trial.

3. What drew you to doing this kind of work?

From first grade to fourth grade I lived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, because my father was working for the United States Agency for International Development.  Being exposed to abject poverty made me realize that I wanted to spend my life trying to help those in need in some way.   Then, during the summer in between undergrad and law school, I interned at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia as an investigator.  In that role, I worked with an amazing public defender who drew me to this life-saving type of work.

4. What did you do in law school or immediately after law school that has helped you develop your career?

While not the typical public defender path, working at a large corporate law firm for two years right after graduating from law school trained me to be a better public defender because I was required to provide high-level client services in an extremely intense environment.

5. Do you have any advice for current law students who are interested in working in your industry (or law students in general)?

Prior to interviewing with a public defender office, make sure you have a compelling reason for why you want to do this type of work.  What is presently going on in this country within our criminal justice system is nothing short of the civil rights issue of our generation.  Make sure interviewers know how deeply you care about this fight.


Adam HeymanAdam Heyman is an attorney at the Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense Practice, in Brooklyn, New York.  Adam is a continuing legal education lecturer, intern supervisor and recruiter for the Legal Aid Society.  He also guest lectures at various law schools on his work as a public defender and criminal law.  In 2010, Adam took a six-month sabbatical to help run the nascent public defender system in Kathmandu, Nepal, as an international fellow with the International Legal Foundation.  Prior to joining the Legal Aid Society, Adam was a corporate lawyer at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld, LLP, in their Manhattan office.  He earned his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University, magna cum laude, majoring in Theology.  He also attended Oxford University, St. Peter’s College, studying comparative law.  He received his juris doctorate from UVA Law in 2003.

Conversations with Practitioners

Major Laura O’Donnell

Conversations with Practitioners is our ongoing series in which we ask current practitioners about their careers.

1. What do you currently do?

I am an active duty judge advocate and am currently the Director of the Professional Communications Program at the The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School. As part of that job, I am a professor of legal writing and public speaking. Further, I oversee the Oral History Program and the publication of the Army JAG Corps’ (JAGC) flagship publications, the Military Law Review and The Army Lawyer.

2. What does your job entail?

The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School is an ABA accredited L.LM. granting institution. Each year we have about 115 students attend the L.LM. program and one of their requirements is a scholarly paper. My main responsibility is teaching them scholarly, legal writing and overseeing this requirement of their L.LM. I also supervise three editors who select and edit the academic articles published in The Judge Advocate General’s Corps’ publications.

3. What drew you to doing this kind of work?

Since 9/11, I have always known I wanted to be in public service, but I wasn’t exactly sure where. After my second year of law school, I interned for the JAGC, and I knew that was where I wanted to go after law school. The combination of the people and mission make this the best fit for me. This is also the perfect job to combine a variety of skills and interests, and the environment is always changing, which definitely keeps life interesting.

4. What did you do in law school or immediately after law school that has helped you develop your career?

During undergrad and law school, I sought various employment opportunities to figure out where I wanted to be. I interned for the JAGC, Department of Justice, a Congressional Senator, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I also externed at state and local government offices. I spent time on a variety of activities throughout school so that I was well-rounded and would fit into any of the jobs I selected, or that selected me.

5. Do you have any advice for current law students who are interested in working in your industry (or law students in general)?

Do what you enjoy and take this time to explore who you want to be. Throughout my life, I have enjoyed running and being active, and I didn’t stop that in law school. In the end, I think that contributed to my selection to the JAGC. Examine what you like to do, then find a job that allows you to do that. For example, if you like traveling, make sure your job allows you to travel. If one of your goals is to contribute to society in a positive way, military service fulfills that; I cannot tell you how meaningful it is for me to put on my uniform and know that I am serving the people of our Nation (in my small way). I knew that government service, specifically the JAGC, was what I wanted, so when I joined, I didn’t have any doubts or regrets.


 

Major Laura O’Donnell, JA, Director of the Professional Communications Program and Associate Professor, Administrative and Civil Law Department. B.S., Manchester University, 2002; J.D., Valparaiso University School of Law, 2005; M.B.A., Indiana University, 2012; LL.M., 62d Judge Advocate Graduate Course,
2014. Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course, 2006; Editor, Military Law Review, The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2013-2014; Operational Law Attorney, Space and Missile Defense Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, 2012-2013; Trial Defense Service, Fort Carson, Colorado, 2009-2012; Trial Counsel/Operational Law Attorney, 3d Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, 2007-2009; Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii (Legal Assistance Attorney, 2007; Operational Law Attorney, 2006-2007). Member of the Bars of Illinois, the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and the United States Supreme Court.

 

Conversations with Practitioners

Aylin Skroejer

Conversations with Practitioners is our ongoing series in which we ask current practitioners about their careers.

1. What do you currently do?

I am an attorney at the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition, in the Mergers I division.

2. What does your job entail?

The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition enforces the nation’s antitrust laws. The antitrust laws promote vigorous competition and protect consumers from anticompetitive mergers and business practices, such as monopolistic conduct, attempts to monopolize, and conspiracies in restraint of trade.

There are four mergers divisions within the Bureau of Competition that examine potentially anticompetitive conduct in the context of mergers and acquisitions. The mergers divisions are segmented by industry. The Mergers I division where I work reviews transactions in health care-related industries, including branded and generic pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution, medical devices, and consumer health products, as well as matters involving scientific, industrial, and consumer products. The division has also been active in technology markets, such as those involving internet advertising and audience measurement services. With each case, we delve into a new industry to figure out who the market participants are and how competition works. Ultimately, we want to understand how U.S. consumers may be affected by the proposed transaction (for example, would prices likely increase? Would consumers lose one of only a limited number of options available to them?).

3. What drew you to doing this kind of work?

I was introduced to the FTC through internship experiences. In college, I was a paralegal intern with the Bureau, and in law school I was an intern in Mergers I for both my 1L and 2L summers. I loved the work and got a great feel for what life would be like as an attorney here. I was treated like part of the team and responsibilities included conducting interviews with witnesses, writing portions of our internal memos, reviewing internal company documents, and writing customer/competitor affidavits.

4. Do you have any advice for current law students who are interested in working in your industry (or law students in general)?

If you think you might be interested in antitrust law, I highly recommend that you take advantage of UVA’s antitrust law curriculum. You should also try to make the most of the summer and semester internship opportunities that are available. For example, you can get direct exposure to antitrust law through the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, a law firm, or a State AG’s office. Don’t be shy about reaching out to your UVA alum network at these institutions to learn more.

I’ll also note that, while our internship programs are unpaid, the Bureau of Competition is unique in that we hire heavily out of our 2L summer program. We’re looking for students that have demonstrated an interest in antitrust law.

 


Aylin Skroejer is an attorney at the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition. She is also the intern coordinator for Mergers I and is responsible for supervising, mentoring, and training interns in her division. Aylin is a 2009 graduate of UVA Law and a 2006 graduate of UVA, where she majored in economics.