BY GOWRI ABHINANDA
Web Features Editor

Alumna Sanjana Pai, who graduated from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in Dec. 2020, has spent the last few months interning as a Business Development Intern with the Paul Hastings, a leading international law firm based in New York that works to provide financial institutions and Fortune Global 500 companies, the 500 largest corporations in the United States, legal solutions in regards to financial affairs. Pai said she aspires to become a lawyer and that her job at Paul Hastings maximizes her experience in corporate law as she creates newsletters, researches and helps varying departments within the firm based on her research conducted in the company.

“My internship that I’m pursuing right now is furthering my career goal as it exposes me to what it would be like to work in a corporate law firm,” Pai said. “Right now I’m still unsure about what type of law I want to pursue, but I’m interested in tech law, data privacy and all of those jobs in that field surround professional industries, so interning here gives me a first hand look of what it would be like if I were in that profession.”

Pai said her internship has been remote due to COVID-19 and the risk of the virus spreading. However, she said despite this virtual format that the internship has been a fulfilling and beneficial experience as she pursues her endeavors in law.

“I would’ve been able to work in New York with the firm if it weren’t for the virus and it would’ve been much better in person,” Pai said. “Still, the firm is working hard to make this the most educational experience possible given the circumstances and I’m pushing myself to thrive during this remote environment.”

Pai said the internship is not only beneficial for the material she is acquiring, but also due to the connections she is establishing. She said having contacts within her field of interest is vital to further her abilities by taking others’ experiences and improving upon them.

“This internship introduces me to a diverse group of people that went to law school and are lawyers right now, and I value the relationships I’ve made so far,” Pai said. “Everyone has been so welcoming, helpful and has always been there to answer my questions no matter how trivial it may seem to me.”

For Pai, she said working towards becoming a lawyer has been an aspiration since she was 10 years old. She said she observed her mother’s occupation and was able to receive inspiration to pursue law. 

“My mom was a professor at a law school and I found myself surrounded by lawyers and law students,” Pai said.  “When she would take me to the university, it was always just a very exciting environment for me.”

Pai said she was born and raised in India and was inspired by women involved in professional careers. She said in India, the women she saw were often tied to traditional domestic roles, so seeing them persevere to have a career was inspiring to her.

“These women’s journeys in India to become lawyers or professors may seem common today, but they were quite incredible to me because as I rarely saw women step out of conventional roles even though I grew up in a ‘modern society’,” Pai said. “Most women in my life were housewives, they didn’t have professional jobs, so whenever I saw it, it showed me that the glass ceiling was made to be broken.”

Although Pai is inspired by her mother, Nilima Pai, Nilima said she is inspired by her daughter due to continually witnessing her daughter’s motivation. She said her daughter’s drive to never give up inspires her to do the same.

“She has this fire in her belly that pushes her towards her goal, she’s hard-working and disciplined, and I feel so happy to see her being so independent,” Nilima said. “Even though she is my daughter she is my constant inspiration in my life to never give up.”

Nilima said her daughter studied in India and came to the United States in junior year. She said her daughter coming to the Bay during her junior year was difficult as the education styles at times were new to her and she had to catch up on high school credits. Despite these obstacles, she said her daughter capitalized on communication and succeeded in her college application process.

“It was a difficult situation, but instead of giving up, she always reached out and was talking to her teachers,” Nilima said. “The way she approached everyone was amazing, she asked questions and firmly believes no question is a dumb question, it’s inspiring.”

Pai said in addition to the motivation her mother provided her, the morality involved in being a lawyer spoke to her. She said that the pillars of service that lawyers follow is an aspect she values and wants to uphold with clients she hopes to represent in the future.

“I realized the values that I was taught as a child to stand up for what’s right is what lawyers do, lawyers use their platform to help those with different types of vulnerability to create changes,” Pai said. “That’s something I want to do to challenge an unjust status quo.”

While Pai said she is working to acquire experience in corporate law, she said due to COVID-19 and its lockdown, she has been feeling isolated with her thoughts. She said the uncertainty during this time has forced her to confront her future-oriented mentality.

“Right now I’m in a place I wanted to be when I was in highschool and I would’ve died to go to UCLA and get an amazing internship,” Pai said. “The fact I’ve achieved that now is great but I never took the time to enjoy this, so my goal is to be more present.”

As for graduate school, Pai said this aspect in the next chapter in her life is marred by uncertainty. However, she said she is hopeful and that she knows she will adapt to anywhere she attends for law school.

“I’ve applied to law schools and I’m waiting for decisions now but I’m trying to embrace this uncertainty and I know wherever I end up I’ll be happy there and it’ll fall into place. I think studying in the East Coast or even in the New England area is exciting and I’m open to the possibilities.” 

Nilima said despite the feeling of uncertainty accompanied with the pending admission results from the graduate schools her daughter has applied to, she feels hopeful. She said she is certain her daughter will perform well in any career she pursues and will grow as an individual.

“I want the best for Sanjana, I hope she achieves every height she wants her to achieve, I want her to fly high in the sky,” Nilima said. “From her childhood to now, she has always been a generous, righteous and courageous woman and I want her to continue being this way and I know she’s going to be fierce and soar in whatever she dreams.”