June 20, 2019
Life hasn't always been on a trajectory for success for law student Joshua White '21.
"I grew up rather poor and was homeless for several years," said the Virginia Beach, Virginia, native now attending University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. "My mom and I bounced around homeless shelters, hotels and really wherever we could since I was 10 years old until my first day of college."
The desire to attend college was at first based on basic needs and "a rumor that dining halls were all-you-can-eat," said White.
But that soon shifted to a desire to help his community.
"I began organizing communities around issues that particularly impacted people of color and low income," White said. "I landed my first job out of college at IBM, but continued my part-time commitment to any opportunities that would enable me to give back."
He worked on the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. After the most recent presidential election, he wanted to transition the good work he was doing as a hobby to a full-time vocation. He took the Law School Admission Test and began applying for law schools.
The McGeorge scholarship offer was generous enough to get his attention, he said, but comparable to other acceptances he had received. It was something else that excited him about McGeorge.
"What I found most compelling about McGeorge was the familial culture I was immediately immersed in," White said. "Shortly after my acceptance, I received a handwritten note from the dean, which made me feel the very intentional care my application was given. After setting up a time to tour the campus, I was surprised to find that the admissions staff knew exactly who I was. They were all so kind, especially Admissions Dean Tracy Simmons, who personally connected with me and responded to all of my questions."
White is in the Trial Advocacy Concentration and excited that McGeorge is ranked No. 7 in the country for trial advocacy. He is also thrilled that being in the concentration means he will be in the courtroom helping people.
"I appreciate the emphasis that McGeorge places on personal development as well as professional," White said. "My peers are some of the smartest people I know, and I am incredibly grateful that McGeorge places as much emphasis on inspiring our commitment to fairness as they do our need to be competent legal practitioners."
White is putting into practice this summer what he is learning in McGeorge classrooms — advocacy. He was selected from 3,000 applicants for one of just five summer internships at Vera Institute of Justice and will work on the organization's "decarceration" project to help girls and LGBT youth in prisons.
"Vera is leading the way in criminal justice reform in several key areas, including immigration justice, policing, sentencing and corrections, victimization and safety, to name a few," said White, who already has bachelor's degrees in international business and economics, and an MBA. His experience at Vera — along with his time at McGeorge — is bound to make White a better advocate for clients once he's in the courtroom.
"Knowing his background, Josh will definitely take advantage of the internship at Vera Institute of Justice and will use the experience to be a better advocate for his clients," said Cary Bricker, director of McGeorge's Mock Trial Program and co-director of the Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution. "Josh will continue to hone these advocacy skills as a member of the Mock Trial team next fall."
The personal attention White experienced and McGeorge connections helped land the Vera internship. McGeorge's Omar Dajani, co-director of the McGeorge Global Center for Business and Development and the International Certificate of Concentration, is friends with Vera President Nicholas Turner. Turner had been invited to speak to McGeorge law students on mass incarceration. White and Turner were able to talk after the lecture, which led to the interview that landed the internship.
White will use his experiences to help others, at first as a trial lawyer in criminal court.
"Eventually, I would like to work in a policy role where my legal background can inform necessary systemic change that continues to make our justice system more fair and equitable for people of color and low-income backgrounds," White said.