2015 Law School Scholarship WinnerWednesday, January 6, 2016
Chapman LLC is excited to congratulate Pooja Shah on winning our 2015 law school scholarship. Pooja will be awarded $1,000 to be used towards law school tuition and/or expenses. Pooja is a 3rd year at Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York, New York.
As an investment law firm, Chapman LLC is constantly fighting to recoup money from people who have wronged the investors we represent. There is no feeling in the world like helping someone to win back their retirement or life savings. Scholarship applicants were asked to write an essay discussing how they’ve helped someone and the impact it has had on them. See Pooja’s winning essay below.
If you are a current or incoming law student, be on the look out for our next scholarship opportunity in mid-2016!
Dressed in a black chador from head to toe, I watch as the young woman solemnly walks into the office, head down, and submissively sits in the seat facing the door. As the summer legal intern for the Urban Justice Center after my 1L year, it is my civic duty to meet with clients and assess what services they could receive. I look into her bruised eyes and swollen face, and gently say, “Hello, how are you?” The Bengali interpreter on speakerphone instantaneously translates,“Apni kemon achchen?” The woman slowly shifts her body towards me and pulls up her sleeves to reveal third-degree burns on her forearms. When she removes her hijab, I see pronounced neck bruises that suggest strangling. Holding back her tears, she nods painfully and whispers, “Alive.”
Nineteen years ago, my mother and I emigrated from India to join my father in chasing the American Dream. We lived humbly in an unfurnished basement in a subpar region of Queens, New York for several years. On our floor, there was a young Pakistani woman who hysterically sobbed and shouted throughout the day. Rumor had it that her husband abused her on both mental and physical levels. He functioned as an agent of isolation, controlling the family’s wealth and threatening her involvement with their infant children. Neither her family nor the police came to her rescue and as time lapsed, her cries heightened. I ignorantly assumed that this type of family dynamic was commonplace in low-income South Asian households and that perhaps it was the wife’s fault for inducing her husband’s anger. After all, media outlets and the conservative South Asian mentality that I grew up with had trained me to view abuse as a reflection of female error. As a thirteen-year-old teenager, I promised myself to never be in the same situation.
As I matured, I discovered the harsh reality that both my neighbor and my summer clients are survivors of domestic violence. Survivors of abuse are not only undeserving of the psychological and physical abuse they have endured, but also they are not guilty of catalyzing the inflicted violence. Contrary to popular belief, domestic violence is not a “private family matter”, but a rampant legal crime. During my summer internship, I have the invaluable opportunity to work with the court system to restore justice that survivors are entitled to. Though domestic violence does not discriminate based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or socioeconomic status, it is viewed as a “women’s issue.” In reality, it is a human rights issue because no one should be deprived of the fundamental rights that we are constitutionally authorized to.
As an aspiring lawyer, I strive to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. I want to advocate on behalf of the mothers who are tirelessly surviving on $30 a day, for those parents who sacrifice their own meals so their children can be fed, and for those individuals whose lives are threatened by violence. Violations of fundamental rights that people have historically faced continue to exist because there remains a history of silence. I know that I can empower those who feel helpless simply by the power of persuasion and the influence of words. Passion, coupled with advocacy, can generate change. I strongly believe that in the journey to helping others, the first step is action. Regardless of how action is taken, there is no better time to improve the lives of others than the present. I want to be part of that change.