By Adam Stocker, Student, Political Science, Minor in Law and Public Policy
Note: Some of the questions in this interview have been edited for brevity and clarity.
“This is not a time for anybody to sit on the sidelines. People should really think hard and find ways to be involved. This is your world. You should make it the way you see fit,” says Northeastern University alumnus Kevin Opoku-Gyamfi.
Since graduating from Northeastern in 2013 with a BS in Political Science and a Minor in Law and Public Policy (formerly known as Law, Policy, and Society), Opoku-Gyamfi completed his studies at Columbia Law School, and he has worked for the ACLU, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP (a civil rights law firm), Congressman Bobby Rush of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He currently serves as a judicial law clerk in the John Moakley District Court of Massachusetts.
Opoku-Gyamfi recently took a break from the courtroom to chat about his current position, his law studies at Northeastern, and share some advice to aspiring lawyers.
A: When people were speaking about law in the world I navigated, it wasn’t about mergers and acquisitions, it wasn’t about major contract disputes. I knew of Thurgood Marshall, school desegregation and cases like Rodney King, where you had people who were having terrible interactions with the state. And there were lawyers who were coming in and trying to fix that. The only lawyer I knew how to be was that kind of lawyer. There’s all this quiet injustice that’s happening day to day, and there are all these things that need to be fixed, and this is the way I want to do it. It was never really a choice.
A: The minor is about law, policy, and society. It gives you the broader scope of law, and policy, but the society element forces you to think what does this actually mean? Law is fun to learn in the abstract. But what you have to remember is that behind all these cases and principles that you’re reading about, are people, facts, and circumstances that are more than just the words. When I read these cases or when I read about what a justice is saying or refusing to say or refusing to acknowledge, it lets me know you don’t know enough about what the real circumstances are. In the day to day, where the rubber meets the road, that’s not how the world works. That’s not how these things play out. That’s what the minor can really flesh out.
The minor is incredibly helpful for law school it familiarizes you with some of the fundamental principles and tenets that you’re going to learn, and [things that you] learn about in this minor are things that are going to continue to be present in your law school classes.
A: You should decide to go for the right reasons. Other grad schools have a tough vetting process, but for law school you just need to take a test, write an essay, and apply. You should do that vetting process for yourself. If you spend 2,000 hours a year doing one thing, you’re going to get very good at that one thing. You should spend a lot of time thinking about what that one thing is. If you’re happy with that, then great. If it makes meaning in your life, fantastic. If it doesn’t, then you should reconsider how you’re spending that time. There are a lot of ways to make meaning. There are a lot of ways to give your time, energy, and effort to things that provide you with personal fulfillment. This is not a time for anybody to sit on the sidelines. People should really think hard and find ways to be involved. This is your world you should make it the way you see fit.
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