Three University of Virginia School of Law alumni — Sejal Jhaveri ’15, Nitin Shah ’09 and Thomas Silverstein ’13 — will be honored for their public service work at the sixth annual Shaping Justice conference Feb. 4.
Shah will receive the Shaping Justice Award for Extraordinary Achievement. He is general counsel of the U.S. General Services Administration.
Jhaveri and Silverstein will receive Shaping Justice Rising Star Awards. Jhaveri is a trial attorney in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and Silverstein is associate director of the Fair Housing and Community Development Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Sejal Jhaveri ’15
In the Voting Section, Jhaveri investigates and litigates violations of suffrage statutes such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Help America Vote Act and the National Voter Registration Act.
Prior to joining the Voting Section in August, Jhaveri was a trial attorney in the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division. While working at IER, she investigated and litigated cases where employers discriminated against individuals based on their citizenship status or national origin in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. She joined the Department of Justice through the Attorney General’s Honors Program.
Jhaveri said she came to UVA Law dreaming of becoming a civil rights lawyer because she wanted to address the many forms of discrimination that she witnessed during her years teaching in Baltimore. She said she is thankful for the UVA Law public service community helping to make that dream a reality.
“There are many paths to a successful career in public service, including creating your own path, but you are always part of a community of people that have dedicated their careers to using the law to make this world a better place,” she said. “I always find comfort in knowing that even if your path is unique, you are never alone on your journey or in that mission.”
The alumni who nominated Jhaveri said she consistently contributed to the public service community throughout her time at UVA Law, including as president of the student-led Public Interest Law Association.
“Both during her time in law school and since graduation, Sejal has been an unwavering mentor and cheerleader for UVA alumni pursuing public service careers,” they said in their nomination letter. “And her own accolades speak for themselves.”
Nitin Shah ’09
As GSA’s chief legal officer, Shah oversees all legal matters arising before the 12,000-employee agency and manages a nationwide office of 170 attorneys and staff. In September, President Joe Biden appointed Shah to the Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States. At ACUS, he serves on the governing board of the federal agency charged with recommending improvements to administrative processes.
Prior to his current government service, Shah was legal director for the Biden administration transition team, where he was responsible for legal review of proposed executive actions and appointments for the incoming administration.
Shah said students interested in public service should think creatively about opportunities to serve, and use a broad definition of public service. Students should also take full advantage of the faculty, alumni and other resources offered through the Law School, he added.
“It’s a privilege to be able to get up every day and try to make government work better — and more fairly — for everyone,” Shah said. “I’m incredibly grateful to receive this recognition and humbled by the incredible company in which I find myself as a recipient of the award.”
Sam Shirazi ’15, a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, praised Shah’s efforts to further the careers of colleagues and junior lawyers.
“He has taken the time to mentor younger attorneys and genuinely cares about helping others,” Shirazi said in his nomination letter. “I have no doubt that Nitin will continue to have a bright future and do great things as his legal career continues.”
Thomas Silverstein ’13
At the Lawyers’ Committee, Silverstein oversees the project’s impact litigation docket, using the Fair Housing Act to foster the development of inclusive communities, expand access to opportunity and fight displacement. He also provides technical assistance to states, local governments and public housing authorities seeking to comply with the duty to affirmatively further fair housing.
Prior to serving as associate director, Silverstein was counsel in the Fair Housing and Community Development Project. He began his legal career as the Lawyers’ Committee’s 2013-14 George N. Lindsay Civil Rights Legal Fellow.
Silverstein said UVA Law played a formative role in his development as a lawyer and as an advocate for marginalized communities.
“The knowledge, skills and relationships that I gained through my legal education have empowered me to use my privilege to work towards dismantling white supremacy and institutional racism in housing and to vindicate the rights of Black communities,” he said. “I urge law students who are interested in racial justice work to seek out opportunities for experiential learning like clinics and externships, and to forge close bonds with like-minded classmates and faculty.”
Ryan Snow ’18, associate counsel at the Lawyer’s Committee, said Silverstein has served in mentorship roles with fellows and interns.
“He is a joy to work with and a model of how to do this work, and is sure to continue to build a successful career as a civil rights litigator and advocate,” Snow wrote in his nomination letter.
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.