New Yorker comes to the Midwest to become a citizen of the world
Long before he had to choose a law school, Jamal Lama had decided to meld his passion for business and finance with a desire to practice corporate law. But by April of his senior year at Binghamton University, Lama was reviewing his law school choices and felt something was missing.
Almost on a whim, Lama applied to WashU, although he knew virtually nothing about the university other than its high ranking and excellent reputation.
“I tend to make big decisions with my gut, and that’s what made me choose WashU.”
So the New Yorker, whose ultimate goal was to experience the wider world, and who had never been to the St. Louis region nor to campus, decided to attend Washington University School of Law.
Was that a surprise? “A big one!” he said with a laugh. Trusting his instincts paid off, for Lama discovered that the law school provided a portal to the world. He found it brimming with a diverse population of fellow students and faculty; full of opportunities for immersing himself in other cultures and traditions; and ideal for making connections and feeding his intellectual curiosity.
Lama wasted no time seizing these opportunities to connect with others, inside and outside the classroom, broadening his knowledge about other cultures. In his first year, he was elected a class representative in the Student Bar Association (SBA). He enjoyed the experience so much, he returned the following year as a representative, then was elected the Diversity & Inclusion chair. In his third year, Lama served as Parliamentarian.
Speaking of those positions he held within the SBA, Lama enjoyed serving as Diversity & Inclusion chair the most. “That was the best experience because I got to connect with so many people and learn about issues important to them.” This experience in turn fueled his interest in creating more diversity-centered programming. Lama helped co-found the Middle Eastern Law Students Association.
According to Geetha Rao Sant, lecturer, co-director of the Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property Clinic, and director of Entrepreneurial Business Organizations, all in the School of Law, “Jamal intuitively understands the values and goals of people from all parts of the world and from varying socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. His wit and humor, combined with his desire to embrace new experiences, has resulted in terrific collaborations among his clinic colleagues, as well as clients in the community.”
In addition to these extracurricular activities, Lama served on the executive board of the Washington University Law Review, and became a student advising assistant.
But his most profound experience came his third year, studying abroad in Paris. As a student at the Université de Cergy-Pontoise, he found he loved everything about Paris.
The best part was teaching a master’s-level Legal English course to 23 French law students. “I think of that experience as an exchange, because I got as much from them as they got from me,” Lama said. In Paris he caught the teaching bug, which led to a stint this year as a teaching assistant for a class of international students.
As Lama heads back to New York to begin his professional career with an international law firm serving a global client base, that sensitivity to cultural differences will serve him well. And it will be no surprise if sometime in the future he ends up in Paris, or another global destination yet to be determined.
by Barbara Rea