Rishabh Sharma ’24 Tackles Sovereign Debt Law
Rishabh Sharma ’24 is a former high school wrestler, math teacher and coach. Now a student at the University of Virginia School of Law, he pins down problems in sovereign debt agreements as a research assistant.
At UVA Law, Sharma, a Community Fellow, serves on the Virginia Sports & Entertainment Law Journal junior editorial board and as a Virginia Law Ambassador, serving as a tour guide to visitors. He’s also working on a master’s degree in education policy.
Hailing from Edison, New Jersey, Sharma earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the College of New Jersey.
In our occasional series “Star Witness,” Sharma discusses what he enjoyed most about being a teacher and the lawyering skills he’s nurturing in law school.
Tell us something about your life before law school.
Before law school, I taught high school math and coached wrestling in rural North Carolina. I wanted to teach high school math precisely because students often struggle the most with math compared to other subjects. However, the difficulty behind these struggles is usually not because of their abilities but because of their confidence in their abilities. So, my job as a math teacher was to convey concepts in the simplest, most engaging way possible and help students believe in themselves more while cultivating some problem-solving skills.
I began wrestling at a young age, and the sport instilled discipline and drive that I carried with me beyond the mat. Coaching allowed me to share my passion for the sport with the students. Whether by traveling to schools hours away for tournaments or cutting weight to compete in their weight classes, students could learn more about themselves and their potential as wrestlers and beyond.
Before teaching and coaching, I also explored standup comedy in college, primarily because it forced me to come out of my shell. I was very introverted growing up, and doing standup was the equivalent of me jumping into the deep water and trying to swim. The result: I eventually learned how to doggy paddle.
Why did you decide to go to law school?
I knew that pursuing law would allow me to keep my options open for future employment and create amazing long-term opportunities because it permeates everything. Every sector — medicine, tech, etc. — has some legal department. I know I will never feel limited with a law degree.
Describe your most interesting law school experience.
My most exciting law school experience has been working with Professor Mitu Gulati as a research assistant.
Not only is he an expert in international debt transactions, but all his assignments touch on high-stakes issues in the world of debt. While the work is very complicated, it is very enriching, and the skills are transferable to other areas of the law.
Plus, it helps that he’s a swell guy.
I specifically enjoyed analyzing collective action clauses in sovereign debt documents for countries like Pakistan and Suriname. Analyzing complicated indentures is transferrable because it forces me to examine the documents critically by looking for loopholes, oversights, ambiguities and mistakes. Looking at legal documents this way makes the process more enjoyable — almost puzzle-like. My favorite moments are when I’m able to capitalize on potential lapses and make creative arguments that work in my favor.
What’s something your classmates don’t know about you?
I moved from India in 2006 when I was almost 10 years old and went to three different high schools in the United States. Traversing across international and national school districts instilled in me a deep interest in domestic and global education policy. This is why I am also currently working toward a master’s degree in education with a focus on education policy from Johns Hopkins University, with plans to graduate in spring.
What’s next for you?
Last summer, I was fortunate to be a 1L summer associate at Lowenstein Sandler in Roseland, New Jersey, and I’ll be returning to the firm again next summer. When it comes to the type of law I want to practice, I am open-minded.
As a summer associate, I was able to draft corporate documents, assess client options in bankruptcy claims and help clients file for trademarks for their products. Since I enjoy taking on new assignments and learning, I plan to focus on developing a solid corporate base over the next few years after graduating before specializing.
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.