On Monday, May 18, Fordham Law School will celebrate the accomplishments of the 565 members of the Class of 2020 in its first-ever Virtual Diploma Ceremony (stream the videocast starting at 11:00 a.m. here). Below, read about three outstanding members of the graduating class, featured as part of Fordham Law’s instagram series #futurefordhamlawyers.
Yazmine Nichols ’20
“I was born and raised in a low-income neighborhood in Brooklyn, where I experienced and witnessed a lot of injustice and consequently started asking questions about God’s goodness. I decided to study religion while attending Williams College and started doing a lot of work around mass incarceration inspired by ‘The New Jim Crow.’ During my senior year, I began to wonder, ‘How can I take this religious education and begin to speak about modern-day problems?’ That became the focal point for me in understanding human suffering because so much of incarceration has a personal suffering element. I intended to go to law school, but I wanted a more faith-based practical experience beforehand, so I went to seminary school. There, I studied how we use ethics and morality to address modern-day crises, especially the issue of criminalization. I received my Master’s in Theology and Ethics in 2017. While my educational journey may seem random, it made the most sense for what I wanted to pursue at Fordham Law. I’ve taken some amazing classes here, geared toward exploring relationships between religion and law. Fordham is a place where people do not shy away from talking about the connections between the two disciplines. I believe that law is about learning how to work within systems of power and how to use the language of power in ways that can help people. Theology and religion can be the counterforce to legal discourse or, at least, the reflective lenses that elucidate its shortcomings. Law without morality, to me, is empty. As for what I’ll do next, I’ll be working in civil rights. Plus, I’m in the process of writing a book: ‘Faith, Politics, and Law: Responses to 21st Century Crises,’ which will include theory work and interviews. I’m excited to have it published by winter 2020!”
Andrew Kim ’20
“Growing up, I knew I wanted to build a career around public service. I was motivated and influenced by my personal experiences—seeing my two immigrant parents navigate their way through the different systems and seeing my older brother struggle when venturing out into the world. He didn’t graduate high school, and as the younger one, something felt off because I knew how brilliant my brother was. I worked with Teach for America for four years after graduating from college and got the sense of just how vast the impact of criminal law can be in our society. At a very young age, students can be affected—one way or another—by the criminal justice system. These experiences pushed my desire to be at Fordham Law School, and I knew coming in as a first-year student that I wanted to get involved in criminal law. It was intimidating because I was the first in my family to go through an undergraduate program and seek higher education. But, as I turned the various corners throughout my Fordham Law experience, there was always someone who was willing to help, befriend me, and guide me. One conversation that sparked my passion and involvement at Fordham Law was with Professor Deborah Denno during a 1L lunch. She encouraged me to make the most of my three years. That conversation made me appreciate the value of every class that I was taking, the brilliant professors here, and every extracurricular from the law review, to the trial advocacy program, to the clinical program. These, among others, are all things that I was excited to dive into with full-on passion and I am so grateful for the friends, colleagues, and faculty who embraced me at every step of the way. I’m so blessed and privileged to be working at the Manhattan DA’s office after graduation—my dream job as a 1L student. Prosecutors have a unique, incredible responsibility and opportunity to shift the conversation in the criminal justice system and to consider factors that pertain to the greater community as a whole. I can’t wait to get started.”
Emma-Lee Clinger ’20
“I grew up in Fort Myers, Florida. I’m the first one in my family to really venture out on my own and live outside of the state. Even as a kid, I always had this dream of living in New York City but as a performer on Broadway, not necessarily a lawyer. I went to college for music, but took an international relations class my freshman year and fell in love with civil service. That’s kind of what steered me towards the law. After college, I took two years off and did Teach for America in Oklahoma City. And now, here I am at Fordham. I’m really excited about doing direct service work. I just love talking to people, hearing their stories and advocating with them standing there right beside me. I did my internships at Legal Aid Society, and that’s where I’m going for a two-year Equal Justice Works Fellowship after I graduate. I’ll be working on a project called Set the Record Straight which helps youth and adults who were charged with delinquency crimes. I think one of the reasons the fellowship is going to be a great opportunity is because it’s not just providing direct representation in a narrow area of the law, it will take a more holistic approach. That’s something I really loved doing both my summers at Legal Aid. Our work went beyond representation in a criminal case. It extended to advocating for welfare benefits or assisting on their family or civil case that ran concurrently. And, just being there for people, talking to clients and their families, giving them an opportunity to share their story is so powerful. Too often, no one really wants to hear what they have to say, especially in a court system. And I love being able to do that.”