Tuesday, May 17, 2016

John Rafael Perez ’16

I decided to attend Yale Law School because I wanted an expansive legal education. Beyond just learning the statutes and the case law, I wanted to get a better sense of the societal implications of our laws and legal systems. I think Yale has been a great environment for me to get from step 1, which is what the law actually is, to step 2, which is what the law could be and how we can use the law as a tool for good.

I’m involved in two clinics here at the Law School. The first is the Ethics Bureau at Yale. We try to promote ethical practice in a field that sometimes gets consumed with the winner-takes-all mentality. What we do is we advocate for people who have been victims of lawyer negligence or lawyer misconduct. We advise government offices and corporations about the most ethical ways to carry out their duties. Just this semester, actually, we went to oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court for a capital case, and I personally helped write the amicus brief for that case. It was really gratifying because I sometimes think that lawyers forget that legal ethics matter and just seeing the Supreme Court sort of solidify principles of legal ethics into constitutional jurisprudence was just a phenomenal experience. I am also part of the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, where I work primarily on development issues. Development is very close to my heart. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Philippines. And so I’ve been grappling in Lowenstein with a lot of difficult tensions: the tensions of development-induced displacement, the tensions of the issues of minimum living wage in Asia. Lowenstein has given me the opportunity to see that the law has broader implications even beyond the borders of the United States, and that my role as a lawyer can affect people who are miles away. And that’s been really exciting.

I’m also part of the Speak Up Now What committee, which was created by Yale Law Women to collect data and interview professors and students about diversity, participation, and full representation here at the Law School. At the end of that, we were actually able to submit some recommendations to the administration about how they can increase participation from women, students of color, and students from different socio-economic backgrounds. But we’ve also been able to talk about the way that professors are hired so that there can be a wide array of mentors for the very diverse community that we have here at the Law School.

So I think what’s most unique about my fellow law students is that they think very deeply about things and aren’t afraid to speak up. So it’s funny that I’ve learned so much about myself not only from being in conversation with my good friends but also from being across the table from somebody who fundamentally disagrees with me but has thought very deeply about the issue. I think it’s made me a more nuanced thinker. I can more easily acknowledge complexities and, I think most importantly, I’ve learned how to connect to people who are different than I am, how to connect to people with different values and who come from different backgrounds.

A student perspective on clinics, human rights law, and student organizations at Yale Law School.