First Thinking Business, Student Dives Into Law School

Kareem Ramadan ’20 Talks Meeting Justice Kennedy, Scuba Adventures
Kareem Ramadan

“Having lunch with other student leaders and Justice Anthony Kennedy last year was pretty cool,” Kareem Ramadan said. Photo by Julia Davis

October 18, 2019

Kareem Ramadan, a third-year student at the University of Virginia School of Law, spent a couple weeks over the summer traveling around Greece and Ireland — and saw 2,000-year-old pottery on a scuba dive off the island of Antiparos.

What started as a way to overcome a fear of the ocean has turned into an adventurous hobby. On one advanced dive in the Caribbean, Ramadan not only saw a shipwreck up close but also schools of exotic sea life such as squid and eels surrounding the ship.

The Chapel Hill, North Carolina, native earned a degree from the University of North Carolina in business administration and economics. He interned at the Justice Department and Southern Environmental Law Center, and is managing editor of the Virginia Law Review.

Kareem Ramadan diving
Photo courtesy Kareem Ramadan

In our occasional series “Star Witness,” Ramadan talked to UVA Law about choosing law over business and why meeting Justice Anthony Kennedy put his unfolding career in perspective. 

Tell us something about your life before law school.

I spent the first 21 years of my life in Chapel Hill (besides an eight-month stint in Beirut, Lebanon, when I was in elementary school), where I grew up a proud Tar Heel. Afterwards, I moved to Washington, D.C., where I was a strategy and business development manager for a large government contractor. Even though I had no background in IT, I picked up the whole business development thing quickly. It was a great opportunity to learn about working with different kinds of people. A software engineer and a corporate vice president don’t always see eye to eye, so I ended up becoming the glue that kept people together in a lot of ways. Even though I enjoyed my job, my end game was law school.

Why law school?

I’ve always enjoyed solving problems, so when I got to college, I was just trying to find the right “fit” in terms of how to satisfy that itch. For a few years I really thought finance was the way to do it; it’s why I majored in business administration, but it turns out I hate financial modeling! It wasn’t until I took an environmental law course that I realized the law is where I wanted to be. It’s a people-driven world, and you are always faced with challenging and complex problems that are going to have real, significant impacts on the lives of others.

Describe your most interesting law school experience.

Having lunch with other student leaders and Justice Kennedy last year was pretty cool. It’s not every day you get to hear from one of the most influential legal figures in this country talk about life, the law and what he’s most looking forward to now that he’s retired. My parents came here in the 1980s from the Middle East — I think it’s pretty awesome that their son had the opportunity to meet a Supreme Court justice 30 years after getting here, when they didn’t even know what the Supreme Court was when they arrived.

Tell us more about your interest in scuba diving.

I got into scuba diving right after I graduated college. Pretty much all of the people on my dad’s side of the family are certified. The reason I did it was that I was scared of swimming in the ocean. If you’ve ever been to beaches in North Carolina, you can’t see your own feet in the water, and that stressed me out. More than anything, it was a way to overcome that fear. On the other hand, it’s a great excuse to travel to really beautiful places across the world. There’s always something to see, wherever you are.

It’s hard to describe the sensation of being 100 feet underwater and only hearing yourself breathe while looking through a shipwreck. All scuba diving is a bit risky; that’s why there are so many different certifications. Going too deep, ascending too quickly or not prepping the dive correctly can all lead to pretty severe injuries.

What’s next for you?

It’s time to enjoy 3L! After that, I’ll be an hour away, in Lynchburg, clerking for Judge Norman K. Moon of the Western District of Virginia before I go back to Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher in D.C.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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