Whitney Wootton

Whitney WoottonClass of 2018

BA, International Studies, focus on Latin American Politics
Texas A&M University

What did you do before law school, and what led to you pursue a law degree?

Before law school I spent one year teaching English in South Korea and almost five years working as a legal administrative assistant at a small law firm in Houston, Texas. I took the law firm job because I wanted to be sure that my decision to go to law school was a good one. As an assistant I learned a lot of very valuable, practical stills related to the practice of law. It has been incredibly beneficial, when working as an intern or extern, to already know the basics of administrative practices such as formatting and filing pleadings, working with client management systems, and interacting with court clerks.

Spending several years in the workforce before coming to law school was a great choice for me. I remember being nervous starting school again after so long, and wondering if I would regret giving up my free time and weekends. But honestly, returning to school has been an incredible experience. I think we don't know how much we are capable of learning until we're thrown into something like law school.

When I decided to go to law school, I remember hearing from a LOT of people: "It's so hard to go back after being out of school," and "Don't do it, law school is terrible." I'm so glad I didn't listen. I'd encourage anyone who has been out of school for a while to not be afraid of law school. Our life experiences are huge assets to our education and to our future advocacy.

What activities are you involved in at the law school or in the community?

During my 1L year I really wanted to learn about as many issues related to the law and legal practice as possible. I attended almost all of the Social Justice Mondays, was an ATJI First Year Fellow, was a member of the Racial Justice Leadership Institute, and served as secretary on the board of the International Refugee Assistance Project.

After 1L year, I knew that my plan to practice immigration law was still what I wanted, so externed at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), interned at an immigration firm, and served as the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). I will continue my internship at the immigration firm into my 2L summer and 3L year, and will remain on the IRAP board as well.

I am a staff editor on the Seattle Journal for Social Justice, and really enjoyed the process of writing an article based solely on my thoughts about changes we should make to immigration law. It was a challenging and humbling experience that has significantly improved the way I research and write.

What have you found most valuable during your law school education?

One thing that I particularly value is being part of the SU Law community and, more broadly, the Seattle lawyering community. In our classes at school we are constantly learning about how to develop effective, social justice-oriented advocacy skills. When I interact with lawyers in the community, at places like KIND and others, I am able to see that advocacy in action. It challenges me to not only concern myself with becoming knowledgeable about the law, but also to grow in my understanding of the larger social implications of the law. It has also taught me to be critical of the systems that are already in place, and to approach my future career with the goal of supporting positive change in the larger community, and working toward positive change in the legal community.

Another significant benefit of being part of the SU Law community is that I have been able to grow in my understanding of racial justice issues specifically. I have learned about the countless ways in which the legal system is founded on and impacted by racism. But it doesn't stop with the system. I have been challenged to carefully examine my own personal views, presumptions, and attitudes. It has been a humbling, difficult but incredibly necessary experience. The work started but will not end in law school, so I am thankful that there are many attorneys within the Seattle legal community who are tackling racism head on, and who are willing to mentor new lawyers and allies.

What advice would you offer a prospective law student?

If you've been out of school for a while but want to give law school a try, go for it!

Read more student stories