Monday, March 26, 2018

Learning Outside of the Classroom By Attending Extracurricular Events, Panels and the Dean's Book Club Discussion

On campus, career development and personal development go hand in hand

I started attending extracurricular events pretty much the first day I landed at Loyola. I was anxious to be part of a community of lawyers and future-lawyers. When, about three weeks after school started, I got an all-campus invite to an evening panel featuring Loyola professors, I marked my calendar.

I’m constantly in awe of the intelligence and experience of my professors. But what really resonated at that panel, which centered on a discussion about institutional discrimination in the American criminal justice system, was how important their work is to the community. In particular, I listened as my criminal law professor Priscilla Ocen and Loyola professor Kathleen Kim discussed the overlapping injustices faced by those subject to our penal system, whether they’re stuck indefinitely in a municipal jail or doing forced labor at an immigration detention center. It reminded me, only a few weeks after I started law school, that intellectual inquiry in the field of law can make a significant impact on real people’s lives.

Several months later, I attended another panel that begged reflection about a lawyer’s role in the community. The panel hosted four Los Angeles Superior Court judges, each of whom talked about the work they each did to reach the bench. It was such an inspiring conversation, not least because it showed what a successful career dedicated to public interest can look like. One judge in particular, Roberto Longoria, is a Loyola graduate and had spent 14 years as a public defender. It was interesting to hear how he had continued the public service career he had begun as a passionate advocate by holding a position based on impartiality. Public service comes in many colors, I think, and part of entering the legal field is figuring out where you personally can make the greatest impact.

Finally, one of the events I have enjoyed the most at Loyola was the Dean’s Book Club – a book discussion hosted in February by Dean Waterstone about Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. There was little practical networking, or even much talk about law school per se – instead, it was a vigorous conversation about America’s deepest-rooted sins, and how we can address them via artistic expression, public policy, and, yes, legal work. It was a nice reminder that inside and outside the legal profession, one of the most important considerations is to stay thoughtful and critical about how and why the world operates the way it does.

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