What is it about being a law school professor that inspires or motivates you?
As a public interest attorney, I used to say that I saved the world one client at a time. I see my role now as raising up attorneys to take on that same mantle and go out into their communities to do the same. I see a lot of myself in my students. The whole reason I went into public interest practice was because I witnessed how my mother, as a limited-English proficient immigrant woman, had difficulties navigating the legal system when she was trying to escape an abusive marriage with my father. I wanted to make sure, as an attorney, that I could help people in her situation feel less helpless. So many of my students over the years have similar stories. Lots of them are the first in their families to graduate college, let alone go to law school, and they want to go back to their communities to provide much needed legal services. I want to do everything in my power to equip my students to accomplish those goals.
When students ask you what they should read outside the required textbooks and other law-related books, what do you suggest?
Please read something by James Baldwin. I remember how, reading his works as an undergraduate English major, Baldwin resonated with my core and helped solidify the social justice values and beliefs that I would take with me into a decade of public interest practice at a major civil rights organization in Los Angeles. Everyone needs to read The Fire Next Time, where he calls for self-awareness, conciliation, and unity if our nation is to survive. It is eerie how Baldwin's words from fifty years ago are particularly relevant now, as I cannot remember when our country has been so fractured across race, religion, and nationalism. Giovanni’s Room is still one of my favorite novels, but it is also a bit more personal as it helped me process the feelings of isolation, inadequacy, and guilt that I was struggling with at the time I read it in college. Needless to say, I read it again during law school.