Joseph S. Guzman
Joseph S. Guzman ’15 worked for two years at the U.S. Department of Justice as a paralegal in the Antitrust Division and the Office of Legislative Affairs before attending Columbia Law School. As part of a team that helped Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. ’76 prepare for annual oversight hearings before Congress, Guzman realized the influence the law has on citizens’ lives.
“The law is the perfect combination of the intellectual and the practical,” says Guzman, a Los Angeles native. “It has implications that affect our day-to-day lives. Because of that, I thought the law would be a good fit for me.”
During the summer after his first year in law school, Guzman had another chance to observe the broad reach of the law when he interned for California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. He researched and assisted in writing a report issued by Harris’ office that aimed to reduce elementary school truancy. He said the process helped him realize that local and state laws are equally as important as the federal measures he often focused on in his first-year classes.
“The report was very innovative,” Guzman says. “I learned that state and local laws can have an important impact on people’s lives.”
Guzman, who spent his second summer at O’Melveny & Myers in San Francisco, says his desire to become a lawyer grew stronger after meeting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in April. Guzman was the 2013–2014 vice president of the Latino/a Law Students Association (LaLSA). He and the group’s other leaders hosted Sotomayor on campus, and Guzman introduced the justice at a private gathering for LaLSA students.
“One of the things that’s most inspiring about Justice Sotomayor is that she’s achieved the highest position in our profession and, yet, she’s still so down to earth,” he says. “She also maintains connections to her community and remembers where she came from.”
Guzman hopes to do the same as he prepares for a clerkship after graduation with U.S. District Court Judge John A. Mendez of the Eastern District of California in Sacramento. In 2016, he will serve as a clerk for Judge Mary H. Murguia of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. He plans to be a mentor to students at Columbia Law School, both remotely and in his hometown, and to take on pro bono cases during his career.
“I feel a great sense of responsibility to give back to up-and-coming students and also to the community at large,” he says. “I want to make sure I’m working to improve the future for others.”