University of Virginia School of Law student Juhi Desai ’23 was recently elected president of the Student Bar Association and began her yearlong term March 14.

The SBA regularly sponsors events, voices student concerns to faculty and administrators, and generally promotes a sense of community at the Law School. The president, in addition to leading those efforts, speaks at the Law School’s commencement ceremony.

Desai succeeds third-year law student Niko Orfanedes ’22.

Hometown: Clifton, New Jersey

Prior education: University of Rochester, bachelor’s degree in political science, 2017

Prior work experience: I was a Civics and Economics, AP U.S. History and World History teacher at a high school right outside of Boston during the 2017-18 school year. From 2018-20, I served as an elementary school teacher in South Africa with the Peace Corps.

Other organizations and positions held: Admitted Students Open House co-chair, Peer Advisor, SBA 1L and 2L senator, Public Interest Law Association board (and part of the PILA Auction team), director of communications for student chapter of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

Future career plans: After graduating, I’m going to work as a public defender. The United States is the most incarcerated nation in the world and the conditions inside many American jails and prisons are arguably human rights violations. Further down the line, I think it could be interesting to be a clinical professor, or leave law and work as a community organizer. Maybe I will also one day travel around the world and live and work in hostels or on farms. Could be cool! 

Favorite law school class: I have deeply enjoyed the Decarceration and Community Reentry Clinic with Professor Kelly Orians, Law of the Police I and II with Professor Rachel Harmon, and Race, Education and Opportunity with Professor Kimberly Robinson. I am inspired by the passion they bring to their subjects and am grateful for the way they push me to be a deeper, more precise thinker. 

What am I looking forward to as SBA president: So many things! Everything! I especially look forward to getting to work with student leaders across the Law School. I also think it’s going to be a lot of fun trying to collectivize the student body and working to turn SBA into a student union. 

Top goals as SBA president: I want to help revolutionize the Law School’s culture! We should strive to build a community rooted in love where all students feel a sense of belonging. I believe SBA can help recognize this goal in several practical ways, including working to subsidize tickets for high-cost events like Barristers’ Ball, advocating for more accessible gender-neutral bathrooms and the hiring of more diverse faculty and staff, and creating and distributing resource guides to incoming 1Ls to put students on an even playing field when they enter the Law School. We plan to do all those things, and many more! 

Beyond that, I believe that capitalist labor culture pushes the myth that our worth and value as humans is tied up in how good we are at our jobs. I think that myth creates a lot of anxiety and feelings of inadequacy at UVA Law when students feel they are not measuring up to their peers. To that end, I want to help plan initiatives that reject the glorification of “grind culture,” and encourage and facilitate rest, spiritual growth and community-building.

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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