Scholarship Essay

2021 Esfandi Law Scholarship Essay #2

Edited-for-Web Version by Peyten Sharp

Kilgore, Texas is a rural town two hours’ drive east of Dallas, where no one went to an Ivy League school — until I did. When I got to Harvard, I was swept up into a new world of opportunity and diverse peers. During the fall semester of my sophomore year, I followed many of my peers in applying and receiving an offer to work at an investment bank for the summer. As summer plans drew nearer, this decision was called into question by a number of tragic events that befell several LGBTQ+ friends.

Due to said events, I declined my banking internship in favor of a Columbia Law fellowship focused on the First Amendment, as religion is one of the ways homophobia is perpetuated. Through my research, I learned about how just laws are necessary to protect minority groups, was inspired to continue this quest for change, and consequently self-studied for the LSAT.

When I returned to Harvard the following semester, I joined the Intergroup Relations psychology lab, where I did research and writing on LGBTQ affirmative action. Alongside my lab work, I took courses on the “Psychology of Racism, Prejudice, and Discrimination” and “Immigration Economics” that inspired me to conduct research on the effects of socioeconomic status on mental health and sense of belonging. I also studied environmental policy and performed research abroad on a sailboat in New Zealand, where I learned about the protection of native land and culture. These experiences broadened my scope. Alongside wanting to protect LGBTQ people who live in rural settings like Kilgore, I gained the desire to safeguard the environment, the economically disadvantaged, and minority groups that need assistance in urban settings, as well.

After graduation, in order to gain practical exposure to legal practices, I took a position as a litigation paralegal with Arnold & Porter, a firm well-known for its pro bono involvement and for addressing cases in many fields of law. At the law firm, I was able to gain experience in research & writing, as well as at a month-long winning trial experience in the defense of a multi-party case in Wisconsin federal court.

My pro bono work included collaborating with the Sabin Center for Climate Change to help a group of farmers sue their town for the right to build utility-scale solar farms on their land, to save over 1,700 acres of solar farm. Through the Trans Legal Defense and Education Fund, I have helped many transgender people legally change their name and was the first paralegal at Arnold & Porter to take the role of an associate on these cases. By citing bodies of scientific literature I became familiar with in my undergraduate studies regarding intergroup relations, I have been able to actively contribute (alongside the NAACP, NYCLU, a court-appointed Monitor, and the NYPD) in the ongoing reformation and constitutionality of NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policies — with respect to training, review, and discipline procedures.

The culmination of these experiences enhanced my desire to be a litigator, as I got a taste of turning intelligent attention into positive change. After my time at Arnold & Porter, I gained research and client-facing experience at that Harvard Law LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic, and most recently, I started my own non-profit called Texans Against Conversion Therapy (Texans ACT) aimed at proving conservative Texas legislators that their constituents are against the practice of conversion therapy on minors and which grew out of my research for a bill in the Texas House of Representatives that aimed (and failed) to ban the harmful practice of conversion therapy on minors. But with today’s political and ecological climate, my influence still does not seem enough to overcome the challenges facing our world. Through my studies, practice, and conversations with faculty and fellow students, I will further broaden my horizons and ability to make change. As a lawyer, I will be Roosevelt’s proverbial “man in the arena,” providing justice to the planet, minorities, and especially LGBTQ folks in small towns like Kilgore.

Lastly, I want to mention that my core legal interest areas include privacy, international, and civil rights law. I hope to make a difference both domestically and internationally, and I am incredibly interested in how surveillance and date is being implemented to manipulate populations and stifle expression (such as the suppression of LGBTQ+ voices in Russia). Receiving the Esfandi Law Scholarship would lower the financial burden for me to pursue these goals.

Thank you for your time in reading my application. I heard about your scholarship through an extensive online scholarship search, which I then put into a chronological list.

AUTHOR: Peyten Sharp
SCHOOL: University of California Berkeley Law School

Best of Luck to All Students Who Participated

Thanks to everyone who sent in essays. There were several good ones and the selection process was not easy.

Seppi Esfandi is an expert in Criminal Law who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.

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R. Hodges
June 02, 2020
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