Prashanth Chennakesavan ’11 readily admits that this year’s Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Competition proved to be one of the most intellectually challenging endeavors he undertook at the Law School. “I was arguing a side I didn’t philosophically agree with,” says Chennakesavan, who nonetheless confidently and adeptly made his case before U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor and 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals judges Debra A. Livingston and Denny Chin. “But it ended up being my favorite experience in law school.”
Arguing the hypothetical wrongful conviction case was not the first time the Texas native had been challenged to think critically about the criminal justice system. Chennakesavan, a transfer student, worked at a wrongful convictions clinic the summer after his first year of law school. “You realize a lot of people get convicted who shouldn’t be,” he says. “We were going back to look through old case files to see what went wrong and if we could make a compelling case.”
At Columbia Law School, Chennakesavan built on his experiential learning by taking criminal law classes and two trial practice seminars. He also completed an externship at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and served on the editorial board of Columbia’s Human Rights Law Review.
Chennakesavan’s interest in law goes back to childhood. “I always knew I enjoyed the law in general,” he says, noting a penchant for arguing and writing persuasively. “I just felt those skills would match up with what it would take to be a lawyer.” After graduation, he will join Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan as an associate in the firm’s Los Angeles office. “I’m interested in the advocacy part of [legal practice],” Chennakesavan says of his intended career.