Fulbright Scholar Aakriti Chandihok LL.M. was 18 when she enrolled in the law program at the University of Vienna. Born and raised in Austria to parents of Indian descent, Chandihok says was always attracted to the international dimensions of modern legal practice. “I wanted to do something that involved bridging cultural differences,” she states.
Following law school, Chandihok worked at a large law firm before being hired by her alma mater as an assistant professor in the department of corporate and European business law. And during the past two years, she has published numerous well-received pieces in various law journals. Yet when she arrived in Morningside Heights last autumn, Chandihok was still only 24, one of the youngest LL.M.s in her graduating class. At the Law School, she quickly joined the Columbia Business Law Association and the Columbia International Law Society. She also is in the process of forming the Columbia Club’s Austria chapter, for which she handles alumni relations. But it was her voluntary pro bono work with the 9/11 Victims Recovery Fund that she says most defines her New York City experience.
Chandihok discovered the opportunity while exploring the Social Justice Initiatives website. She assisted 9/11 victims suffering from health issues as they navigated the application process for receiving benefits and aid. “I wanted to give back to the U.S. and New York,” she says. “Working with the 9/11 victims was enriching, and made me feel like I was part of the city.”
This summer, Chandihok will return to Vienna and continue legal work while simultaneously doing pro bono work for nonprofits. “Lawyers have a certain skill set, and you can use it commercially or not,” she says. “Everyone has to make a living, but you can also give something back by using your skills in a way that benefits others.” ’