Like many aspiring environmental lawyers, Khushi Desai (’07) dreamed of a career in public interest litigation, but wondered how she could break into this ultra-competitive field. She then developed a plan, stuck to it, and did not give up on her goal. Khushi’s hard work paid off this summer when Earthjustice, the nation’s premier public interest environmental litigators, hired her as an Associate Attorney.
While in college at the University of Maryland College Park, Khushi developed an interest in environmental law and graduated with a degree in Environmental Science and Policy. As part of her undergraduate studies she interned at the Environmental Law Institute and even took Professor Percival’s Comparative Environmental Law class, which then was jointly taught with Professor Miranda Schreurs from the Department of Government and Politics. This helped convince Khushi to enroll in the University of Maryland School of Law to obtain her certificate of concentration in environmental law.
During her law school studies, Khushi took advantage of every opportunity to obtain clinical experience. For summer work she sought out a law firm that pursued toxic tort litigation – for an Erin Brockovich type of experience. Khushi’s research led her to Mason LLP in Washington, D.C., a small plaintiffs’ law firm that specializes in consumer protection and toxic tort litigation. She cold-called the firm to let them know of her interest, interviewed, and obtained a summer associate position. Khushi later accepted the firm’s offer of a full-time associate position after her law school graduation in 2007.
Khushi spent the next three years litigating a variety of matters at Mason LLP – from mortgage fraud to global warming, and unlawful tax assessments to the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill. “These wide-ranging experiences allowed me to learn from many exceptional attorneys with various backgrounds and interests, and develop a strong, diverse foundation in complex civil litigation that gave me the confidence to make my move into the non-profit sector,” explained Khushi.
Though much of Khushi’s work did not involve environmental law, she continued to remain involved with environmental issues. Khushi had a long-standing interest in the 1984 Bhopal disaster, a subject of her undergraduate honors thesis. Last December, she co-hosted a fundraiser to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the disaster and raise money for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal and the Bhopal Medical Appeal. Shortly after the fundraiser, Khushi—with the help of her law firm-- was able to assist the team of litigators that represents Bhopal residents in an ongoing legal battle in U.S. federal court.
Khushi’s hard work as a litigator and commitment to environmental advocacy gave her the opportunity to transition to environmental litigation at an early stage of her career. “I’m incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be part of Earthjustice’s associate attorney program. This is precisely the type of work I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember, so I am happy with the decisions I made both before and after law school,” said Khushi. As for advice to current law students, Khushi suggests “pursuing opportunities that help develop your skills as a lawyer while also staying connected to your own specific practice interests.”