Berkeley Law’s student body is a community of young professionals whose passions and talents help make this an incredibly vibrant place to learn the practice, purpose, and power of law for the public good. This page is a glimpse at some of our amazing students in their own words and through submissions from members of our community. Nominate someone for a spotlight by emailing rdeletto@law.berkeley.edu.

Ari Chivukula ’21 & Marta Studnicka ’21

Co-founders of the Legal Automation Workshop, a new Student-Initiated Legal Services Project

Ari: My background is as a software engineer. I spent four years at Facebook and a year working at the Pentagon before law school. Berkeley Law has a large technology law contingent, but they’re mostly focused on application of law to technology. I see a big opportunity in the field of applying technology to law.

I wanted to start the Legal Automation Workshop (LAW) because there was an obvious need for support among the Student-Initiated Legal Services Projects (SLPs). 

Marta: So, I am not a software engineer. Unlike Ari, My background is in biochemistry, and I got involved in computer science when I started working for a healthcare software company. But I worked with the East Bay Community Law Center’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) clinic last spring and it seemed like I was filling out the same form or entering the same information over and over again. So when I heard Ari was working on launching a legal automation SLP, I was like, ‘yeah, I’m in!’

Ari: LAW officially launched this fall, but we’ve already had a few clients. I worked with EBCLC’s Name and Gender Change Workshop to build an online workflow that eliminated a bunch of repetitive paperwork. So now, assuming you enter the correct information initially, all of the forms will be consistent and correct without having to scroll through dozens of pages and enter it manually. They are now able to process the most common cases about twice as fast as before the digital system. 

Marta: We have a whole bunch of SLPs that are interested in developing legal automation to help streamline the big processes which take up a lot of the students’ and lawyers’ time that could be better spent on substantive work. 

Ari: We want to be conscientious of the sustainability of the work we do in terms of both LAW participants and the organizations that we’re assisting. Ideally we can turn a digital solution over to the client when the project is done. Students don’t have to have a software engineering background to participate in LAW, but some familiarity with coding definitely helps. 

Marta: It’sthe type of thing that a hobbyist software engineer or hobbyist developers, as I like to call myself, can do and can both learn from it and get exposure to some skills that they might not otherwise have been able to show on their resumes. It definitely stood out for me during OCI. 

Ari: Legal automation makes a lot of lawyers nervous because I think they see it as a form of replacement. I don’t think legal automation is going to replace human judgment or human creativity in the near future. But it can free up time to enable lawyers to focus more on the creative elements and hopefully break the incredibly unhealthy culture of working long hours.

Marta: In our case, it’s really about streamlining and giving non-profit/pro bono lawyers the ability to actually get to know their clients and the time to do some of that more substantive work, as opposed to sitting there and typing up a form.

Ari: We’re really excited for the first cohort of students to join LAW. The number of people with STEM backgrounds—computer science or otherwise—at Berkeley Law has grown significantly, so we are betting on a groundswell of talent to help support other SLPs and potentially expand to other universities. 

I see automation of many processes in the law through technology as an inevitability, just as a matter of efficiency. There’s an opportunity as these systems are rebuilt to create more transparency. The risk is that if people are not there advocating for social justice as that adaptation takes place, then it’s going to be steered by whoever has the most money. What is built will be not just something as opaque and hard to interact with as the current system, but something that is even worse because you will have AI running rampant. 

Marta: That’s why it’s critical to get more people who have STEM backgrounds involved in the legal profession. There’s a lot of people making decisions about tech law and policy that don’t understand it. Starting that conversation about the application of technology to law needs to happen in law schools, and especially at law schools like Berkeley where public interest is at the forefront of a lot of students’ minds.

Ari: Students should join the legal automation workshop because they’re passionate about the potential for technology to have a positive impact on law, and specifically a positive impact on peoples’ lives. Learn more about LAW at legalautomation.rocks.

Sibylle Rost LL.M. ’19

sibylleGermany
Hybrid Option LL.M., Class of 2019

I always wanted to get an LL.M. But right after law school, I didn’t have the money, and then I had children, plus I was looking for employment. I always wanted to get my LL.M. here at Berkeley Law, because it is one of the best law schools. So I was really excited when I saw the hybrid option. For me, it was  the only possibility because longer than three months away from home would not have worked. So I applied.

My 7-year-old cried when I got the admission and said, “I don’t want you to go.” The 4-year-old and the 7-year-old both clung to my leg when I was on the way to the plane. So, leaving was really hard.

How did [the online courses] fit in my everyday? Somehow they did. [Professor Bill Fernholz] did live lectures and office hours every week, as well as occasional skill sessions. Students attended the office hours just to keep in touch, or to have something clarified. After work I had to pick up my kids and race home to be in time for the live sessions. My kids often came into my little office, in need of immediate attention. But mostly I could follow along just fine. [Professor Fernholz] wanted us to succeed. He wanted us to understand. And I see now how the classes fit into each other. I can see that what I learned in his class was not only Fundamentals of U.S. Law, but also fundamentals of case law and the IRAC system. My experience is that you really learn how to talk about the law, how to find a solution in case law, the system and logic.

It is good to be here [for an on-campus summer semester]. If you want to have a degree from a  good law school, you want the experience at that law school in residence as well. It is nice to meet in person the people you already spent some time with on the screen. You get impressions about their home country, their culture and their background. I enjoy that. Besides studies, there is often some other fun stuff going on.

We are 34 hybrid option students. It is a more or less close-knit group. We are the second round of hybrid students, so we are kind of like pioneers. What I like about the LL.M program in Berkeley is that the professors and the staff from ADP are really nice and everybody tries to take good care of us. We only get a few weeks to learn what they normally teach over a semester, so it’s really intense. They make sure that we are feeling well, that we can follow along, that we get it.

[Being back in school] is interesting, but it is totally different than the first time. It is not like you are fresh from high school and open-minded and eager to see what life can give you—because you already have a part of it. It is a different mindset, you have other responsibilities. This time I rarely skip a class because it is such a short amount of time to succeed.

Just go for it, and take it seriously. You have to work for it. But sure, you are also supposed to have fun and enjoy your stay. It depends on each person, how they want to use it. If it is just an excuse to spend a summer in California, okay—but that would be a really expensive experience! Be open to the people around you, take advantage of the fact that everybody is supportive.

David Kavtaradze

Georgia
General Counsel, Equfin
Professional Track LL.M. Class of 2019

I have worked in the banking sector in Georgia for over 10 years. Five years ago I became the general counsel at Liberty Bank, one of the biggest banks in Georgia. Being a lawyer in the banking industry is a very challenging job because you have a lot of interaction with the regulators and government scrutiny and it is a very conservative and competitive market. It’s sometimes difficult to balance between the personal life and the office.

I am a workaholic and I have a son who is six years old. I chose Berkeley, and especially the Professional Track LL.M. program, because it is so convenient. I can still work most of the year and even part time while I am in Berkeley.

The biggest benefit I have received at Berkeley is the opportunity to look outside of Georgia and compare myself to lawyers from around the world. Georgia is a very small country. When I came here and sat in class with lawyers from China and India, I realized that I am a good lawyer on a larger scale and that I could work in any kind of legal system. It gave me a lot of confidence.

After my first summer at Berkeley it was hard to go back to doing the same work I had been doing for 10 years. The conventional banking system will not be the same in 5-10 years because new technology and digitalization of products is changing the industry. Banks are not keeping up with innovation. So I decided to change jobs and join a finance technology (fintech) company. They do peer-to-peer business, everything is based off of software and digital verifications, which is a big change for me.

I will also be a GC at my new company, but I will be doing much different work because as a digital, multinational company, I will have to work with lawyers from all over the world. One day you are negotiating a deal with a lawyer in Spain, and the next you have some issue in Lithuania. You need a lot of managerial skills on top of legal skills.

The Professional Track is really great for people who have been working a few years. The age of the students is higher and we all bring so much real world experience. We learn a lot about each other’s countries and develop contacts from across the world. This is already benefiting me in my new job. I can call my classmates about issues regarding other legal systems, and if they can’t help me themselves, they can refer me to someone who can.

I will graduate with the Business Law Certificate. I am taking Cybersecurity, which will be crucial in my new job. It has been very interesting to take business law courses to compare my experience in Georgia with law in the U.S.

Reo Wang

Korea
In-House Legal Specialist, Google, Singapore
Professional Track LL.M. Class of 2020

I was born and raised in Seoul, Korea. I majored in law in university. When I graduated, the pass rate for the bar exam in Korea was very low and people could study for years and still not pass. So I decided instead to start my career as a paralegal in a law firm. I worked in the IP department and managed clients’ trademarks and domain names. After five years I joined the in-house legal team at Google in Seoul.

I spent next four years happily working on various matters including procurement deals and supporting advisory work. I was becoming comfortable in my role and wanted to push myself. So I decided to apply for a position at Google’s Asia Pacific headquarters, located in Singapore. I’d never lived abroad on my own or worked in an English dominant environment. But I wanted to specialize in commercial contracts work in a more international, diverse environment covering multiple countries.

Now, in Google Asia Pacific legal team, I support business teams through negotiating, reviewing and drafting commercial contracts. Some of my work is on hardware partnership, where I work on contracts with telcos, distributors, and retailers. I also support travel partnership deals where I work on contracts with airlines and hotels. I support Google marketing teams too, especially when they engage external agencies for their marketing campaigns.

I like contract work because I get to be a part of a business by helping the business teams to seal their deals with a contract. I also get to see how Google as a company interact with various parties to make the business run. I like helping the business team reach their goals.

I decided to pursue the LL.M. degree in Berkeley because I wanted to study U.S. law in California. California law is a big part of my everyday life, working in an in-house legal team of a tech company based in Silicon Valley.

Further, I chose Berkeley because the professional track allowed me to enjoy a nice balance between work, study, and networking. Studying and connecting with fellow LL.M. students and professors full time for three months, and being able to keep my career up for the rest of the year, is a very attractive arrangement as a professional.

I knew that Berkeley Law would offer me sophisticated and high quality education. Currently I am pursuing a business certificate and focusing on the bar courses, and I am thoroughly enjoying every lecture. Classes are small and allow easy interaction with all students and professors. Professors are always open to students’ questions and discussions. I know it will make me more confident in my work when I return home.

Oluwadamilola (Dami) Thompson

Nigeria
Venture Capital Attorney, Nonprofit Founder
Professional Track LL.M., Class of 2020

I work at EchoVC Partners, a venture capital (VC) fund in Lagos, Nigeria and we invest in African and Africa-focused tech startups. Many of these startups have HQs in the US. One of my reasons for coming to Berkeley Law was to ensure that I have full knowledge and understanding of US laws to enable me advise our fund and portfolio companies.

As VC is still nascent in Africa, and there are not many lawyers and entrepreneurs experienced in venture capital transactions. This has made the investment process very challenging.

So I co-founded a not-for-profit – Ventures Dialogue – where we educate founders, lawyers and investors and train them on how to fundraise and build a business in Nigeria’s unique consumer market. In Nigeria, an entrepreneur first has to provide his own ecosystem to thrive and then rely on the government for other perks. So essentially, everything you need for your business to survive is dependent on you. But this has proved very challenging and overwhelming for entrepreneurs. So we decided to create a support system for entrepreneurs by providing mentorship, business and legal advisory services, investment opportunities, skill-based trainings to entrepreneurs to help them scale their businesses at no costs!! As a lawyer, I also offer free legal services and trainings in my spare time to founders.

Nigerian entrepreneurs have an incredible drive that inspires me to want to do whatever I can to support them. It’s an amazing feeling to help a business that is trying to solve an important problem succeed. Helping to pay it forward means a lot to me and encourages me to do more.

Coming to Berkeley Law was an opportunity for me to develop myself and enable me give back to my community. I couldn’t afford to take an entire year off work, as that would cause some disruption to the internal processes at our fund. I knew that if I was going to take time off work at all it had to be worth it. Berkeley Law is the only law school that has a masters degree program focused on venture capital financing and offers the two-summer LL.M. program. So Berkeley was the only option for me, and I only applied to Berkeley Law.

I am thoroughly enjoying my experience here. It has been challenging and fulfilling at the same time. The education system is very different from back home. Here, you are encouraged to have an opinion and required to bring forward counter-arguments where your thoughts do not align with that of your professors. But this is not the same in Nigeria, as many professors think it an affront to be challenged or have thoughts different from theirs. That mind-shift and audacity has made a huge difference in my thought-process. Also, the broad spectrum of courses I am taking here at Berkeley Law have helped me be more insightful and will absolutely help me become an even better corporate lawyer as they encompass global real-life issues. I am looking forward to going back home to make a bigger difference!

Samantha Hamilton ’20


Samantha Chariz Hamilton
is one of 14 law students and early-career attorneys chosen for the 2019 Law Program of the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) to participate in a two-week program in Germany and Poland this summer, which uses the conduct of lawyers and judges in Nazi-occupied Europe as a way to reflect on ethics in the legal profession today.

Now in its tenth year, FASPE provides a unique historical lens to fellows in five fields (business, journalism, law, medicine and seminary) in an intensive course of study focused on contemporary ethical issues in their professions.

FASPE studies the perpetrators to emphasize the essential role of professionals and to ask how and why professionals abandon their ethical guideposts. The FASPE Law program examines the role of lawyers in the Nazi state, underscoring the reality that moral codes governing the legal profession can break down or be distorted with devastating consequences. With this historical background, the Law fellows are better positioned (and more willing) to confront contemporary issues.

“I am looking forward to interrogating the value systems of German lawyers, but more importantly, my own,” said Hamilton. “The FASPE fellowship promises to analyze history not merely from an academic perspective, but also through personal and communal introspection. I am eager to immerse myself in all that the fellowship has to offer”. After completing the FASPE fellowship, Sam will spend summer 2019 working at the American Civil Liberties Union’s national office in New York City with the Speech, Privacy, and Technology project.

*Excerpted from FASPE press release.

Justin Brooks ’21 & Serena Nichols ’21

Justin Brooks is a graduate of Morehouse College (2018); Serena Nichols is a graduate of CSU Sacramento (2018). Both are members of Berkeley Law’s chapter of Law Students of African Descent and co-founders of the podcast, Blacklisted. They recently recorded a conversation about race and identity as part of the Henderson Center’s 20th anniversary oral history project with StoryCorps (audio coming soon).

Serena:  The transition into law school was pretty startling. There were a lot of things in class that I wanted to talk about—social issues and the way the law affects people of color—but there wasn’t time. We had to filter it all down into one bland objective “rule.” So I felt kind of disillusioned.

Justin:  Same.

Serena: I still really liked it, especially the people I was meeting, but it was hard. And then Justin approached me about doing a podcast.

Justin: I wanted to start a podcast because I had a lot of people reaching out to me with questions about law school and what I did to get to Berkeley. I think the barriers to entry for black students are really high and, especially coming from my background—growing up in Mississippi and going to Morehouse for undergrad, a place like Berkeley can be isolating.

One day in class Serena made a comment , and I thought she’d be a great person to talk about these very pressing issues that get cast aside in the 1L curriculum.

This was early in first semester. We got together to brainstorm and recorded the first episode of Blacklisted then and there.

Serena:  One of our central ideas for the podcast was to fill the gaps of what we were missing in the law school classroom; to talk about the real world issues of race and identity that underlie basically every case we read.

We also wanted to give advice to incoming students of color. Like, what do we know now that we wish we knew coming in? What’s the application process like? What is 1L really like? What classes did we take? What is it like interacting with law professors? We’re in a really good position here as students at a great law school. So, I feel like we have valuable information to share, because law school is a mystery to many people of color.

Justin: Where I’m from, for black and brown people, our experience with the law is one that’s always negative. I didn’t know what contracts or trusts and estates were. I just knew crime happened in my city. I knew justice was different based on your skin color. And so I came to law school hoping that I could make it better for us. Maybe become a professor and have an early impact on law students who are going to run our country and create policies and initiatives that will help communities of color.

I want black students who are thinking about law school to listen to Blacklisted and see themselves in me. To be encouraged that they can do it, too. I also think it’s important just to contribute to the archive of black students at Berkeley Law. We want to have something accessible for years to come, for future students to look back and say, “What were they experiencing in 2019?”

We’ve recorded three episodes so far, about 40 minutes each. We wish we could do them more frequently, but it’s hard to find time.

Serena: We were totally naive about what goes into making a podcast. It’s not just hitting record.

Justin: There was a huge learning curve; figuring out what microphones to use, where to record, what software to use to edit, how to make it sound cohesive. Early on we were over-editing because we were like, “Oh, we don’t want to say this,” or, “I don’t like how I sound.” Now we’re just talking candidly to our audience. I think that’s what they really want to hear anyway, our authentic insight.

Serena:  It’s kind of weird to think of our classmates listening to these intimate conversations where we are being really vulnerable. But I think a lot of people struggle in law school and just don’t want to be the ones to say it. So, I hope Blacklisted can be a source of camaraderie for all our classmates, and law students at other universities, too.  

Justin: In future episodes we definitely want to get more students involved. We hope future students will want to take it over when we are gone, so it’s a legacy that keeps going.

Listen to Blacklisted here. If you’d like to get involved, contact Justin and Serena.

Randall Winston ’21

Hometown: Redlands, CA
Education: Harvard ’05, UVA ’11
Affiliations: Ecology Law Quarterly; Tenants Rights Workshop; Board Member, The Capitol Area Development Authority

I came to law school a bit further down the professional line than most of my classmates. I graduated from Harvard in 2005 with a degree in government and worked on the Hill for former Senator Kennedy and the former Secretary of Defense. I had studied abroad in Copenhagen and became inspired to study architecture, but didn’t know anything about the discipline. So I spent two years in Beijing, China working with a developer. It was the run up to the 2008 Olympics, so the city was rapidly urbanizing and many of the world’s leading architects and urban thinkers were there.

While I was working on my masters at UVA, I interned at a firm called Foster and Partners. They were designing the new Apple campus in Cupertino, and we spent a lot of time thinking through how flows of energy and water and air could contribute to a more sustainable environment.

During that time, I was part of a multidisciplinary team that participated in a competition for rethinking how to clean up the Alameda freight corridor (a heavily-trafficked 20-mile freight rail that connects the national rail system near downtown Los Angeles to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach) from an architectural perspective. Our team ended up winning. That really solidified the connection between public service, policy, and architecture for me.

After that, I went to work in Governor Jerry Brown’s office with his environmental team on green buildings and their contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as part of California’s ambitious climate goals.

The opportunity became available to head up the Strategic Growth Council (SGC), which focused on how the state can achieve more sustainable land use. It was really an ideal combination of my interests with a focus on achieving ambitious public policy goals. I was thankful to get the appointment.

I joined the SGC at a time when a lot of innovative environmental policies were just getting off the ground. California has a cap and trade system, which puts a price on carbon and emitters pay to pollute on a pathway that reduces emissions over time. My agency received a portion of those funds to invest in affordable housing and sustainable communities.

What was innovative about the SGC’s work was not just funding affordable housing in a silo, but thinking about its connection to more sustainable uses of the land. Like how can we better fund buses and transit? biking and pedestrian infrastructure? co-locate jobs and recreation so people have access to opportunity near where they live?

During my tenure, many of my colleagues were attorneys. Both of my immediate bosses, the Governor’s chief of staff and the Governor himself, had a legal background. Seeing the degree to which their legal skills aided them in negotiations with a whole range of stakeholders in lawmaking and policymaking made me realize I needed these invaluable skills to be a more effective policy maker.

It’s been a challenge transitioning to being a student again and to the first year curriculum. We’re being taught the fundamentals of how to think about and apply the law, and sometimes there’s a hunger to jump ahead and get to the real world application. But it’s refreshing and humbling to take a step back and challenge your own assumptions and look at things from a new perspective.

In the workplace, I had to think about a dozen different issues an hour, often without much time to be very thoughtful. Here, there is much more synthesis taking place. I appreciate the critical distance afforded by being in school and being amongst brilliant peers that are passionate about many different things. I’m strengthening not just my ideas, but my ways of thinking about ideas; I’m becoming a better thinker.

Janani Ramachandran ’20

Hometown: Fremont, CA and Bangalore, India
Education: Stanford ’14
Affiliations: Founder, BRAIV; Artistic Director, Womxn of Color Collective; Student Board Member, Family Violence Appellate Project

After college I worked at a community health clinic in Washington, DC. My initial role was as a case manager for pregnant and new mothers. But I quickly realized that a large number of the women that I worked with were domestic violence survivors. Many of these women were ready to leave their abusive relationships, seek legal protection and custody of their children, but almost never had a lawyer to guide them through the complicated maze of court processes.

So, I started helping them find resources. I liaised with court social workers, hospitals, and shelters, and helped them apply for restraining orders in family court. Eventually, the health clinic I worked for recognized my passion for supporting survivors of domestic violence and supported me in starting an advocacy program. Through that program I trained medical staff to recognize the impacts of domestic violence, developed screening tools, connected with local government agencies and advocacy groups, and designed educational materials to raise community awareness.

But even with the support of health clinics and advocacy groups like the one I worked for, the lack of legal resources, especially for immigrant and low-income survivors, made it incredibly challenging for these women to escape abusive environments and get the protection they needed. This is what inspired me to apply to law school and pursue domestic violence law as a career.

Professor Nancy Lemon, who has done groundbreaking work in domestic violence law, was one of the reasons I wanted to attend Berkeley Law. She has been an incredible mentor  and has connected me to various people in the local domestic violence space. This includes Family Violence Appellate Project, founded by former Berkeley Law students, for which I am currently a Board Director.

My desire to bring innovative energy into the domestic violence field inspired me to start BRAIV (Berkeley Resistance Against Inter-Partner Violence) this year.

In my work before law school, as well as during my summer internship at Bay Area Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Unit, I recognized that most survivors are forced to attend court hearings, an intimidating and foreign world, completely alone. After years of abuse, they are often isolated from social networks when their abusers manipulate and sever their connections to family and friends. In contrast, abusers often have private counsel and bring in a whole posse of people, partly just to intimidate the victim in court. Abuse of the litigation system can stimulate a re-traumatizing, second cycle of abuse that happens after separation, when the victim is simply trying to get a civil stay-away order, that does not involve criminal prosecution, or to get partial custody of their kids. The fantastic team of BRAIV students is currently focused on organizing court watches to enable law students to attend these trials and be present to support these survivors in court.

Another goal of BRAIV is to promote court accountability. There are numerous survivor-friendly laws in California. But the reality is that a lot of family law judges and court administrators aren’t familiar with many of these laws, or misapply them, and ultimately are not able to prevent the litigation abuse that happens in courtrooms. BRAIV is also working to raise awareness on domestic violence within the law school community. We organized a host of events for DV Awareness Month last October, and are planning several on-campus trainings this semester.

Ultimately, I want BRAIV to be an advocacy group that recognizes the importance of intersectionality. This includes focusing on supporting what survivors want instead of criminalizing and punishing abusers. Recognizing that traditional ways of seeking support for survivors are very different when you’re a woman of color, when you’re queer, when you’re poor, when you don’t speak English. Batterers can be women; victims can be men. Maybe the best solutions don’t even need to involve courts at all, or instead involve more community voices. Many victims end up being unfairly incarcerated for crimes their abusers force them to commit under duress. There’s a whole world of complexities that relate back to domestic violence, in which we, as diverse, creative law students and future lawyers, can truly make a difference.

Raija Ojanen ’18

Home Country: Finland
University: University of Helsinki
Profession: Legal Advisor for WWF Finland

I graduated from law school in Helsinki, Finland in 1986 and made a long career at one of the top law firms in Finland. My focus area was helping international clients and real estate investors establish business in Finland. Over the course of the years the firm grew from six lawyers when I started to nearly 60 today.

I always wanted to do an LL.M. in America, but I had a young family and the firm kept me busy. I almost gave up hope. But then I turned 50 and my daughter was off at college. When we came to California for a vacation in 2015, I made an appointment with the admissions office at Berkeley Law, just to see if it might still be a possibility.

The opportunity to do it over two summers (Professional Track) is a very good fit for me. It’s an incredible experience to go back to school at this stage of professional life and fun to be around people from 40 different countries. I’m learning so much, not only about U.S. law but also from the cultures and varying legal backgrounds of my classmates.

When I started the LL.M. program last summer I was still a partner at the firm. So, I took securities regulation and other business courses. But for several years I had represented the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as a pro bono client. I’ve always been interested in environmental issues, but sitting in your office, flipping papers and writing email, you don’t get the full sense of what is happening to the planet and how urgent climate change is.

Because of my work with WWF, I also took environmental law. It was interesting to learn how the environmental matters are regulated in the U.S. That gives perspective on the different ways to approach environmental law issues and the use of natural resources.

Every time I took the BART I saw these huge Earthjustice posters: “The Earth needs a good lawyer.” It was like they were talking to me, and I kept thinking, ‘Hmm… that’s what I want to be when I grow up.’

Just a few weeks after I got home following last summer session I learned that WWF in Finland was hiring their first in-house lawyer. I remembered those signs and thought, ‘is this is it?’ I applied and was happy to find that my business law background worked to my benefit. Promoting environmental matters within an NGO requires cooperation with companies and the government. Being able to speak the language of the corporations and government officials is an asset.

So, I started in January at WWF. The work is very different. As a corporate advisory attorney you are taking the law as it is and applying it to the client’s case. But at an NGO lawyers are more like lobbyists. It’s all about changing the policies, being able to tell the lawmakers that the status quo is not sufficient and laying out a path from the present to the desired situation. It requires a new mindset.

My first summer here at Berkeley was a good exercise for changing my way of thinking. Finland is a civil law country, so learning the common law forced me to turn my head around and think in another way. This summer I’m taking a class on public policy and problem solving. It goes right to the heart of what I’m doing now at WWF and gives me the tools to structure proposals for solving environmental issues.

I feel like I’m living the cliché that “life starts again at 50.” I did one career, the mandatory stuff, now I can choose what I want to do. That includes taking leave for two summers and coming here for the LL.M. program and riding a bike to school every morning.

People keep saying it was courageous to make such a big change after 30 years. To me it feels like I got very lucky. Being in the saving of the world business is so inspiring that it doesn’t even feel like work. It is all about working together for a future where people and nature are in harmony.