Joshua Savitt, '16

“I want to facilitate the spread of innovative ideas and tools that make people’s lives better. I’d like to be able to look back, when there’s some new thing that everybody has in their home, and say, ‘I was one of the people that helped make that happen.’ ”

 Hometown: New York, NY
Undergrad: New York University
College major: Political Economics
Law School activities: Vis Moot Court International Arbitration Competition, Neighbors tutoring program, Law and Technology Society, International Law Society, Jewish Law Students Association 

Joshua Savitt once heard some valuable advice: Before starting your career, do something that has nothing to do with anything else. Something meaningful, off the career path, just for you.

So, after receiving his acceptance to the Law School in 2012, the New York native deferred admission, joined the Israeli army, and spent more than a year as an infantry combat soldier. Much of his service was spent defending the Syrian border, absorbing terror attacks, and providing support to wounded Syrian refugees.

“My uncle is an amateur genealogist, and we have a family tree that goes back 300 years—and we have an awful lot of branches that end at a pogrom or a massacre, and certainly at the Holocaust. I grew up with the realization that so many people, both in my family and throughout Jewish history, would have given anything to be able to defend themselves,” Josh said. “It was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss out on.”

Three weeks after his discharge from the Israel Defense Forces, he came to Chicago to start law school. And though his military service may have seemed unrelated to his future law career, the lessons he learned have informed his approach and experience in many ways.

“Finals sleep schedule: not a problem,” he said. “I am used to doing operations where you’re sleeping about 20 minutes every day. The enemy doesn’t give you any sleep, and exams don’t always, either. I also don’t respond negatively to pressure anymore. And self-doubt doesn’t occupy as much space as it used to because I found it to be less than helpful.”

As a lawyer, Josh hopes to focus on international law and innovation—an interest piqued by his military service and partly inspired by the 2009 book, Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle. The book’s authors argue that the young country’s strong economic growth is due in part to the entrepreneurial culture of the Israel Defense Forces, which requires service from most young Israelis.

“That, to me, made a lot of sense,” he said. “It’s teamwork to do what is, essentially, the impossible, which is defending a country from places many larger times their size who really want to hurt them. We do impossible things in the IDF all the time, and I want to help innovators do that, too.”

He’s taking Entrepreneurship and working for the Institute for Justice clinic, and this summer he’ll work as an associate at Sidley Austin in New York, chosen partly for their collaborative and challenging environment and partly because of the firm's robust and growing technology practice.

“I want to facilitate the spread of innovative ideas and tools that make people’s lives better,” he said. “I’d like to be able to look back, when there’s some new thing that everybody has in their home, and say, ‘I was one of the people that helped make that happen.’”

Advice for 1Ls:

“Don’t be afraid to try anything,” he said. “And remember you are a person with your own personal needs, and sometimes taking care of yourself comes before the reading assignment.”