June 9, 2020
Ejiro Okoro entered McGeorge School of Law with a passion for community-building and a commitment to support individuals and families experiencing poverty.
Guided by her spirit for public service, Okoro furthered her interest in public policy by participating in congressional hearings for the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C. in summer 2019.
“In D.C. I attended briefings on the criminalization of individuals experiencing homelessness and affordable housing creation, and then briefed staff on these issues and developed a report that looked into housing and HUD federal policies,” Okoro recalls. One of her articles based on her findings was published by the restorative justice blog, Rehabilitation Enables Dreams.
A student member of the Public Legal Services Society, she has organized community outreach events in Sacramento, including partnerships with schools such as St. Hope Charter Schools. She also interned at Legal Services of Northern California after completing her first year of law school, assisting individuals with housing issues, including negotiating with landlords for tenants experiencing unlivable housing conditions.
Even before entering law school, Okoro harnessed her passion for community building by earning a teaching credential, briefly teaching school in South Korea, and teaching elementary students in urban school districts. She also worked at a family resource center right around the corner from McGeorge in Oak Park for three years before becoming a law student.
“Transitioning to law school, I hope to work in public policy,” she says. “I love property law.”
A graduate of Cal State Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in Africana studies and sociology, Okoro chose to attend McGeorge because of its location in the state’s capital – proximity to her South Sacramento roots – and her interest in public policy.
At McGeorge, Okoro was actively involved with the Black Law School Association and enjoyed mentoring other students. “My experiences taught me how to embrace challenging situations,” she observes. “I’ve learned how to be resilient and to get up after a fall. I don’t celebrate too much after a win or mourn when I have a loss, but instead feel grateful for the experiences.”
Her classes, professors, and other experiences at McGeorge have prepared her to take the bar exam and for the competitiveness she will need as a first-year lawyer, Okoro says. “I believe McGeorge has helped me to eliminate some surprises and meet the standard of excellence required of me.”’
In addition to her property law classes, Okoro enjoyed studying wills and trusts with Professor Rachael Salcido, and land use planning with Professor John G. Sprankling, whom she calls her ‘go-to professor.’
“I’m in the capital lawyering concentration and serving in the Public Policy Clinic,” she notes. “With that I’ve learned real-world experiences, including hands-on skills crafting legislation to meet community needs and shape the culture. In the clinic we represented the Homeless Advocacy Project, another clinic at McGeorge that assists individuals experiencing homelessness.” She worked on a state proposition to provide counties with the technical assistance needed to help divert homeless individuals away from the justice system and into mental-health facilities.
“Professor Sprankling’s passion for property law helped ignite my own passion,” Okoro says. “With that interest in public policy on the state and local levels and my interest in general land-use planning, affordable housing creation and community support, upon passing the bar exam I’d like to work for a state agency or a member of congress to help shape public policy in land use and urban development.”
Never having personally known an attorney before attending law school, she says making connections with students and professors who genuinely wanted to assist her was an important skill.
“Knowing your learning style and what will be required to pass the bar is also important,” she advises those who are considering attending law school. But she notes that taking things a day a time is critical for long-term success in law school and in life.
“We understand the investment and stakes are high and that this is a challenging time,” she says, “but we have our whole lives ahead of us and our lives are so much more than this.”