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Monday, August 04, 2014

7 Questions for 3L Andrew Ohlert

"To the extent we disagree, it’s our job to change the law for the better."
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Once I got to law school, it really set in for me that this. was. it.

When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?

I knew I wanted to become a lawyer in High School. When I was younger, I lacked a lot of focus. I didn’t turn in my homework very often because I didn’t think it was important, and I hadn’t ever really experienced being rewarded for putting in more effort. A procrastinator at heart, my first draft was always my last draft, and it turned out well enough. At some point, I decided I wanted to commit and focus on something, and so I decided that I wanted to become a lawyer.

Unfortunately, I had to get an undergraduate degree first, and I decided to aim for Computer Science because (a) I had already taken several CS classes in high school, and (b) I thought it would complement the law well. There are a ton of people with political science majors that apply to law school, but very few computer scientists decide to practice law. Most importantly, law and computer science both rely on the fundamental principle of applying logical rules to fix a problem.

Luckily, everything has worked out thus far, and I’ve been able to pursue a legal career that incorporates my technology background. For example, last semester I participated on UC Hastings’ Moot Court team, and I was able to argue whether the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act should be interpreted broadly or narrowly. I think I had a huge leg up, at least at the start, in large part because of my background with computers. It has also given me an informed perspective – whether that’s a good thing or not – in many of my technology-based classes, like Data Privacy or Copyright Law.

What’s your passion?

I’m really passionate about the “system” created by the law. One of the things I find most admirable is to follow the law even when you disagree with it. As a society, we’ve agreed to be bound by a set of rules, and I have to trust that those rules were decided upon for a reason. To the extent we disagree, it’s our job to change the law for the better.

What’s the best lesson you ever learned from a mentor?

I think my dad taught me the importance of respect and maintaining a unified front. It’s important when you’re a part of a team to make sure everyone feels respected, especially when you have to work with those people again. A big part of that is knowing when to disagree with someone and how to do it. If you cut off your teammate in the middle of a meeting with a client, that’s going to hurt the credibility of both you and that teammate. I am very sensitive to whether others feel respected, and that has adapted well into the professionalism that comes with being a lawyer.

At the same time, I was always told not to take myself too seriously, which is an important counter balance to that. It’s important to take your work seriously, but not yourself.

What are your passions/interests outside the law?

I’m a big fan of video games, especially League of Legends. I played Starcraft for over 10 years, and I’ve played League for the last four years or so. I’m relatively competitive, and video games are an easy outlet for that. It also allows me to get into a different mindset and get away from the stress that comes with law school.

What is your most valuable daily habit?

As I said, I’m a fan of video games, and I probably play video games every day. I’m a big believer in taking breaks when you need, and video games let me do that. I can work for a really long time, play a game for forty minutes to relax, and then go back to work and actually focus. The worst thing you can do is try to work when you’re too tired to focus. First, you’ll become more tired, and second, you’ll feel like you’re working, which will make you feel like you don’t have to work later. I’ve done well by getting my work done during the day, and taking the nights off, but it takes a lot of discipline to stick to that schedule.

What is the best thing about law school?

For me, law school was the first time that it really “mattered.” In high school, I was lucky if I did my homework. In undergrad, I did all my assignments, but I didn’t necessarily have a passion for them. At the end of the day, I knew I wanted to go to law school, so my grades mattered, but it was really a means to an end. Once I got to law school, it really set in for me that this. was. it. For me, law school was the first time where I couldn’t make excuses. I either performed well and succeeded, or I didn’t, and that was a very different experience from anything I had experienced thus far. It was the first time that I was actually accomplishing this goal that I had set for myself, and there was something incredibly fulfilling about that.

What obstacle or challenge have you overcome?

My first semester of law school. ;)

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