Srinija Pernankil, ‘15

Hometown: Bolingbrook, Illinois
Undergrad: University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign
College major: English and Philosophy
Law School activities: President of Defenders, Federal Criminal Justice Clinic, Prosecution and Defense Clinic, Pro Bono Board, South Asian Law Students Association, Black Law Students Association, Public Interest Law Society, Law Students Association (LSA), Spring Break of Service, Neighbors,  International Fellow, Law School Big Sibling Program, Student Admissions Committee, Dean’s Student Advisory Committee, Law School Musical, Intramural Bowling

Srinija Pernankil, ’15, was working as an investigator for the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., when she realized that she wanted to be a lawyer.

“I was always public interest oriented, and I went out to be an investigator, but I realized that I could do so much more as a lawyer. It was more intellectually stimulating, and I could still help people and help those communities,” said Sri, who has accepted an offer to work in the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender after graduation. “That’s when I fell in love with the idea of being a lawyer.”

Her next jobs before law school strengthened that desire — but also hammered home the importance of seeking out diverse viewpoints and experiences. She had a fellowship in India working for an attorney who was representing McDonalds, as well as an internship with an attorney who worked at the Supreme Court of India. Back in the United States, she worked as a file clerk for an intellectual property law firm and as a paralegal for a tax attorney.

“I wanted to make sure I got an education where I learned a lot about a lot of different things and could see how they all relate to each other,” she said. “I saw that what I did in India informed what I did for the tax attorney, and I know all of this background will help me become a better public defender because it enables me to see things from different angles.”

The Law School, she said, not only offered diverse viewpoints but made it easy to connect with those whose beliefs differed from her own.

“It’s a small school, and that really matters to me because it made it easy to make connections,” Sri said. “I think people tend to underestimate how much relationships and friendships and the conversations you have matter to your education. I know almost everyone in the Law School, and I’ve been involved in clinics and student organizations — there is a diversity of interests, and I’ve been able to experience a lot of them.”

She has loved her classes, but even more, she has loved the conversations she’s had with her classmates and professors.

“I’m going to be a public defender, and a lot of what I’m going to do is informed by my moral and political views,” she said. “It is important to have them challenged, and to discuss them and better understand the nuances of what I believe — and to also understand other beliefs. I’ll need to advocate for what I’m doing without judging other people, and I’ll need to be able to understand other perspectives. Having that here at the Law School has been so important and valuable to me.”

Advice for 1Ls:

“Don’t get so caught up in grades that you forget why you’re here,” she said. “Make those friendships and talk to other people. And get involved in your community. Volunteering as a 1L gives you perspective about what it actually means to be a lawyer.”