INTERVIEW: RICARDO LOPEZ (JHU ’09), UNIVESITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE SCHOOL OF LAW 3L

Ricardo Lopez is currently a 3L at the University of California Irvine, School of Law (UCI Law). He is a Dean’s Merit Scholar and was a Quarterfinalist and awarded Best Petitioner’s Brief for the National Latina/o Law Moot Court Competition. At UCI Law, Ricardo is the Co-Chair and Recruitment Chair of the Latina/o Law Students Association, a Member of the Committee on Inclusion and Diversity, a Student Liaison for the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, the Community Outreach Chair for the Black Law Students Association, a Student Mentor for the Pre-Law Outreach Program and a Volunteer for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Clinic. During his summers, Ricardo has been a Judicial Extern at the Los Angeles Superior Court and a Summer Associate at Davis Wright Tremaine. Most recently, he was a Judicial Extern at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Prior to attending law school, Ricardo earned his M.A. in Government Studies from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and his M.P.H. from George Washington University. He is a 2009 B.A. graduate of JHU, where he double majored in International Studies and Latin American Studies. While an undergraduate, Ricardo was a Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and studied abroad at La Universidad de San Martin in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Describe a typical day as a 3L at the University of California Irvine, School of Law (UCI Law).

Every year, semester, and day differs at UCI Law. One day I can be buried in the library, and the next day I can be at the beach! During my1L year, I was consumed by my doctrinal courses: Contracts, Torts, Constitutional law, International law (required at UCI Law), Criminal law, and of course Legal Writing. During 2L, I took a number of courses, participated in various organizations, and also took part of a full-time externship. As a 3L, I am currently taking Property, Remedies, Uber law, Transition to Practice, and Identity, Crime, and Justice. I am also taking an undergraduate psychology class called Chicano/a Latino/a Families.

On Monday, I have Remedies at 10:25 am and Property at 1:10 pm. I also have meetings on Monday with the UCI Committee on Diversity & Inclusion, where we discuss strategies on how to improve student and faculty diversity on campus. On Tuesday, I have Identity, Crime, and Justice at 8:15 am. This class addresses issues of race and justice as it pertains to the law. The next day, I have Remedies at 10:25 am, Property at 1:10 pm, and then my undergraduate class from 4:00 pm to 7:00pm. This is my longest and most draining day. On Thursday, I have Property at 1:10 pm and then Uber Law from 4:30 to 6:30 pm. I generally don’t have class on Friday, however, this day is usually reserved for homework and meeting with club organizations, such as the Latino/a Law Students Association (LLSA), where I currently serve as the Recruitment Chair.

To date, what has been your favorite law school class, and why? How have you been choosing class after your fear year of law school?

During your first year in law school, everyone must take the same doctrinal courses. During your 2L or 3L, everyone at UCI Law is required to participate in one of the clinics. I had the opportunity to work in the Immigrant Rights Clinic. After 1L year, students may choose to select any courses. Myself, like many of my peers, select healthy balance between bar courses (concepts tested on the California bar) and fun courses. My favorite law school class has been Uber Law.

The course explored the various legal issues that arise from online platforms, as well as the economic impact its services have on society. While much of our emphasis focused on Uber, the course discussed a myriad of online platforms that have transformed the way our society communicates. Class discussions ranged from labor and employment issues to intellectual property to even real property concerns. Equally entertaining and intellectually stimulating were the various speakers we had. Altogether, this class encompassed the traditional doctrinal concepts and the fun and interesting side of law that we rarely see during 1L year.

What made you choose UCI Law? What do you see as the primary pros and cons of law school?

I decided to attend UCI Law because of its collegial, intellectual, and diverse student body. Prior to applying to UCI Law, I had attended an LSAC Diversity Law School fair at Howard University, where I had the chance to speak with UCI Admissions. From the very beginning, UCI was very cordial, inviting, and genuinely cared about my questions. When I was accepted, Dean Chemerinsky called me to congratulate me and was very helpful in answering my questions.

Before attending UCI Law, I was concerned that law school was a cutthroat environment where students would backstab you to get ahead. After nearly three years at UCI Law, I can honestly say that the cutthroat perception is far from the truth. Everyone is very nice and willing to help—students and professors alike.

Given that the school is relatively new, everyone is heavily invested in each other’s success. This, in effect, fosters a sense of pride and camaraderie. Additionally, the small classes enable students to create professional relationships with faculty members. Furthermore, the school allows students to create organizations, spearhead initiatives, and propose new ideas that have not been proposed in the effort to build a school that defines and reflects the student body.

In sum, UCI Law has been everything I would have ever wanted in a law school, and more. Also, the palm trees and ocean don’t hurt.

What types of undergraduate opportunities did you pursue that led to your decision to apply to law school? Were there any experiences that you felt were particularly helpful in strengthening your application to law school?

During my senior year at Hopkins, I was awarded the Aitchison Public Service Undergraduate Fellowship in Government. Through the fellowship, I was able to work full-time as a criminal law investigator for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. This eye-opening experience brought to light the racial and socio-economic disparities within the criminal justice system. As a criminal investigator, I had the opportunity to interact with public defenders, prosecutors, and most importantly, the community that utilized these services. Within a short period of time, I realized the power certain actors within the criminal justice system possess, and the long-term impact their decisions have on millions of people. My experiences as a public defender lead to me to consider law as a career; however, it was the political and legal battles surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that solidified my decision.

After graduating from Hopkins, I became interested in public health and health policy, and decided to pursue an MPH from George Washington University (GW). During this time, President Obama had introduced the ACA before Congress. Undoubtedly, this was the talk of the town for the next two years. As a DC resident, I had the opportunity to attend multiple hearings, conferences, and symposiums, where legal scholars debated the constitutionality of the ACA. This further sparked my interest in the field of law, particularly health law.

In terms of strengthening your application, I recommend participating in activities that interest you. Law schools are looking for intelligent students, but perhaps equally important passionate and dedicated students who can advocate on behalf of their interests.

What did you pursue during your interim year(s)/before beginning law school, while in law school and during your law school summer(s)? How did you go about researching these opportunities?

Prior to attending UCI Law, I concurrently worked full-time and attended graduate school in the evenings. After graduating from Hopkins, I worked full-time as a legal assistant for an international law firm. Here, I had the opportunity to work on a number of large transactional deals and travel to Lima, Peru where my law firm was based. During this time, I also attended school in the evenings, and received a MA in Government from Hopkins. Following this experience, I decided to intern at the National Institutes of Health, and conducted research surrounding childhood obesity. This experience led me to pursue a MPH from George Washington University, School of Public Health and Health Services. During school, I also worked at the Department of Health Policy at GW where I did immunization research.

During my first summer after 1L year, I worked as a judicial extern for the Honorable Amy D. Hogue, Los Angeles Superior Court. As an extern, I conducted legal research surrounding complex civil ligation matters, observed hearings and oral arguments, and drafted tentative orders. The following year, I worked as a summer associate at Davis, Wright, Tremaine, LLP, out of their Los Angeles satellite office. As a summer, I researched and drafted memoranda surrounding a wide range of health care topics, such as Medicare/Medicaid, fraud and abuse, state licensing issues, telemedicine, and laboratory regulations. Additionally, this past semester, I externed full-time for the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. As a Ninth Circuit extern, I conducted substantial legal research and drafted bench memoranda concerning issues relating to immigration and habeas corpus.

Many of these opportunities came from personal research, including the ABA website and other-related sources. Moreover, simply asking professors or other professionals for assistance helps facilitate the process. Under certain circumstances, they may even help land you a job!

How would you compare the reality of law school and the ensuing job search to the picture you had of it while an undergraduate?

Honestly, law school has been as demanding and rewarding as I had expected. My internships, online research, and general discussions with JHU alumni gave me a thorough insight about what to expect. 1L was as terrible as I had imagined, and the job search was indeed arduous. Nonetheless, I have made great, long-lasting connections with my classmates and professors, and have attained invaluable skill sets that will translate in any professional work setting.

Do you have any advice for an undergraduate interested in pursuing law school and a career in law given your experience in today’s legal market and now as a current law student?

In recent years, law schools have received a bad reputation for charging students thousands of dollars in tuition for an education that may or may not get them full-time legal jobs. In certain cases, this may very well be the case, especially after the Great Recession. Naturally, this was also a concern of mine. Now, as a 3L, I can attest that the current legal market has significantly improved. From personal experience, the career office at UCI Law has been proactive in helping students get jobs. However, the best resource to landing the job of your dreams is yourself, and your willingness to be proactive. At the end of the day, the job you want is out there; it is only a matter of hustling and working hard.

Contact Information

If you would like to learn more about UCI Law, or have additional questions for Ricardo Lopez, you may reach him via email at: ricarl2@lawnet.uci.edu.

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