Completing a Cyber Puzzle
For University of Virginia School of Law student Rebecca Weitzel ’22, the puzzle pieces that represent her career have started to come together.
At UVA Law, Weitzel is editor-in-chief of the Virginia Journal of Law & Technology and has held leadership roles in two other student organizations, serving as president of Law, Innovation, Security & Technology and vice president of Child Advocacy Research and Education. She is also a Peer Advisor and Community Fellow.
The Glendale, California, native earned a bachelor’s in Spanish from Wellesley College.
In our occasional series “Star Witness,” Weitzel discussed her interest in tech and privacy law, her goals to expand VJoLT’s audiences and how one professor she admired became a mentor.
Tell us something about your life before law school.
For two years, I worked as the academic enrichment coordinator for the Campbell Scholars Program, a college access program for high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds who want to be the first in their family to go to and graduate from college. I was the first full-time hire, so I worked closely with the director to both develop and implement all of the various program components.
While the wide variety of projects was certainly helpful for my own professional development, the best part of that experience was working with the students and their families. I got to know the program’s first five class cohorts very well, and I still keep in touch with some of them. They help remind me to take full advantage of every opportunity and to work toward making the world a more equitable place.
Why law school?
I have always loved solving puzzles. I see law as a continuation of the love for puzzles and logic games that my grandfather instilled in me when I was little. But more than that, law is an area where you can work on a really complex puzzle, the result of which might make a difference for others in the world. When I started college, I was really interested in cryptography. However, during my first-semester number theory course, I found myself more interested in how the subject affected people rather than whether I could prove that the algorithm worked. Even though I never grew up thinking I would want to be a lawyer, I realized that law would be the area where I could best utilize my talents and do so in a way that has a real, positive impact on people.
Tell us about your interest in tech law and your goals for VJoLT.
When I started law school, I already had an interest in privacy and cybersecurity law. The field is a dynamic space and sometimes feels like the Wild West. But because informational privacy is in its relative infancy as compared to well-established practice areas, there is more room for creative dreaming about what laws in this space should look like. Especially given the high prevalence of inequity in both the physical and cyber worlds, my interest in this space also stems from the desire to ensure that informational privacy and security are not only luxuries belonging to the most privileged.
As president of LIST, my goal was to further develop that organization into a resource for students interested in tech law, both personally and professionally. My goal for VJoLT is to build on the work that LIST does in order to connect the conversations happening within the student body with discussions happening in the broader academic community.
Overall, I hope that VJoLT becomes a forum that scholars, students, practitioners and regular citizens turn to when they want to engage with cutting-edge discourse on tech law issues. This goal will be accomplished in part by ensuring that publishing with our journal is more accessible to all. Accessibility will not reduce the caliber of scholarship; in fact, diversity of background, experience and thought will only further enrich our journal. The submissions team this year has been evaluating our current process, noting any areas that could be improved. In the coming months, we will be creating a means for scholars to directly submit their pieces through our website in order to remove any cost barrier that may exist on commercial platforms and allow us to better tailor the review and editing processes to authors’ needs. Additionally, we are actively building up our blog, “The Corner,” for shorter pieces that engage with timely developments. We sincerely hope that UVA Law students in particular will take advantage of that opportunity for publication.
Describe your most impactful law school experience.
During my first year, I downloaded dozens upon dozens of articles from SSRN on data privacy, algorithms and other related topics in order to familiarize myself with the tech law landscape. At that point in time [although there had been previous offerings], we did not have any privacy or cybersecurity law courses, so I was trying to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. Many of those articles were written by Danielle Citron, and I just remember being in awe of her brilliance — an academic superhero, if you will. Never would I have imagined that she would end up coming to UVA Law during my second year and that I would be a research assistant for her!
Professor Citron is the embodiment of all the things I love about UVA Law. She is fiercely curious and incredibly collaborative with her students. The research that I have done for her provides me with both breadth and depth as I continue to learn more about privacy’s legal landscape. She gives me assignments that will offer me a challenge, while also playing to my interests and strengths. But more than just being a distinguished scholar, Professor Citron is an incredible mentor. She has helped me think through various career possibilities and always encourages me when my confidence falls short. To have such an amazing role model is truly a blessing.
What’s next for you?
I will be a summer associate in the Washington, D.C., office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Specifically, I will be working with Wilson’s privacy and cybersecurity practice group. I am incredibly grateful that I will be able to join the firm knowing that I will be able to work on the matters that I care the most about. And being able to work with UVA Law alums Chris Olsen ’89, Megan Kayo ’13 and Edward Ruse ’20 is just icing on the cake!
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.