Yogini Patel, '18

“I know much more than [my classmates'] names. I know what they’re interested in, what kind of law they want to practice. It really does make the ‘terrifying experience of 1L’ much less harrowing. You feel like you have a small and tight-knit support network.”

Hometown: Marietta, GA
Undergrad Institution: University of Georgia
College major: Communication Studies; Spanish
Law School activities/organizations: South Asian Law Students Association, Immigration Law Society, Law School Musical, Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights

Yogini Patel has been involved in musical theater for as long as she can remember. She first joined her high school’s Mock Trial team for its emphasis on stage presence and public speaking—she didn’t know at the time that preparing for mock court cases would ultimately lead her to law school.

“I loved Mock Trial. The courtroom is like a stage, and I saw myself developing the skills I really wanted to develop—skills like public speaking and performance, but also critical thinking and analytical reasoning,” Patel said. 

She continued to do Mock Trial in college, enjoying the intensity and detail-oriented problem solving of working on cases with her teammates. The whole experience made Patel certain that she needed to become a lawyer.

“I grew more during Mock Trial than I did during class,” Patel said. “That sort of growth really excited me. I thought, ‘if working on fake cases with fake clients and no real stakes can challenge me this much, I can only imagine what the actual study and practice of law will be like.’”

She chose the University of Chicago Law School for its outstanding faculty and intellectual student body. In the very beginning she felt intimidated by her fellow students, but soon found that the Law School’s small class size fostered community and helped her get to know her classmates.

“I know much more than their names,” Patel said. “I know what they’re interested in, what kind of law they want to practice. It really does make the ‘terrifying experience of 1L’ much less harrowing. You feel like you have a small and tight-knit support network.”

During the summer after her 1L year, Patel worked in the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights—a clinic project at the Law School that provides unaccompanied immigrant children detained in Chicago with advocates and other resources. Being a best interest guardian wasn’t the straightforward legal work she expected, but working in the Young Center taught Patel a lot about the flexibility of practicing law in the real world.

“As I wrote more best interests reports in the clinic, my narrow perspective of what law is was really broadened,” she said. “I came to appreciate the fact that I didn’t really have any law to guide me, and it allowed us to be more creative in the arguments that we made. Rarely are you going to have a law that tells you exactly what you have to do, so I appreciated learning how to make legal arguments without actual laws.”

Patel also discovered that she wouldn’t have to abandon musical theater when she began law school. During winter quarter, she acted and sang in the 2016 Law School Musical—a student-run production that parodies life at the Law School and features familiar songs re-written with original lyrics.

“The Musical really filled a void that I felt during my first quarter,” Patel said. “Everyone in the cast is amazing and it’s just so much fun. It’s probably the most fun thing I did my entire 1L year.”

Advice for 1Ls:

“The way to succeed in law school is to learn to be comfortable with not knowing everything and doing the best you can with that limited information. You’re not graded on the information that you know, but on your arguments and how you use that limited information in a persuasive manner.”