Michael Vuong, Class of 2023

1. Tell us about yourself.
SMU Dedman School of Law influenced my career path before I was even a law student. In 2011, when I was in high school, I heard the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speak at the SMU Dedman School of Law Raggio Lecture Series. Justice Ginsburg’s life in public service inspired me then and inspires me now. In college at SMU, Professor Joe Kobylka nurtured my interest in the law when I participated in his Supreme Court Seminar. When I was in graduate school for public policy at the University of Southern California, my capstone project for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required me to try to make sense of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. This encounter with statutory interpretation made me realize that I needed to go to law school.

2. Why did you decide to come to SMU Law?
In addition to programs such as the Federal Judicial Externship Course and the extensive clinical program, I decided to attend SMU Dedman School of Law because this is a law school where students have a seat at the table when it comes to setting the direction of the law school. For example, when SMU Vice President for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Loboa invited me to serve on the Dedman School of Law Dean Search Committee, I was very grateful and honored to serve. SMU and SMU Dedman School of Law develop leaders because at this institution students have opportunities to shape the future of this university and law school.

3. What has been your favorite class and why?
Professor Dale Carpenter teaches Constitutional Law I with great wit and wisdom. Like an orchestra conductor, Professor Carpenter masterfully directs many voices and arguments in his use of the Socratic method. For example, in our class periods where he led an exigesis of Marbury v. Madison, Professor Carpenter’s juxtaposition of many modalities of interpretation gradually taught me how to appreciate and evaluate the dialogues between cases and justices.

4. When you are not in school or studying, what do you do for fun?
Walks at White Rock Lake, yoga, and classical music have sustained me through the stresses of law school. I also love to plan events because I believe in the importance of bringing people together. Throughout 1L and the summer after 1L, I hosted 5 online events and 6 outdoor happy hours for the class of 2023. Also, as the public relations director for the National Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, it made me very happy to enable law students from across the country to meet with attorneys for Zoom workshops on everything from how to apply for a public interest fellowship to how to plan for 2L summer internships.

5. What extracurricular activities have you enjoyed most and why? (SBA, moot court, etc.)
Serving as a staff editor for the International Law Review Association (ILRA) has been one of the best academic and professional development experiences I have had in law school because of the opportunities to grow as a researcher, writer, and editor. I appreciate the positive and inclusive environment that ILRA President Divya Advani has created. Also, ILRA Case Note & Comment Editor and 3L Mary "Molly" Schultz provided great guidance and feedback as I wrote my case note, and I share the Best Case Note Award with Molly.

6. How has law school challenged you most?
Normally, I’m quite independent and keep my own counsel, but law school challenged me to rethink that approach. In 1L, I realized the importance of asking for help and seeking out mentorship. In Civil Procedure, Professor Elizabeth “Beth” Thornburg took the time to share stories about varied career paths of alums of SMU Dedman School of Law, and I credit Professor Thornburg with inspiring me to reach out to alums for Zoom chats. My weekly Zoom chat with different attorneys has been a very enriching experience.

7. What has been your most memorable law school moment so far?
In fall 2021, I stood behind the podium where my professors normally stood, and as a as a TA for Legal Writing and Research for LLM Students I led an exercise about Bluebook citations. Although this experience may seem commonplace, in that moment I felt how far I had travelled in law school in one year. In early 2020, I was blissfully ignorant of the intricacies of the Bluebook. I am very grateful to Professor Heather Stobaugh for the opportunity to serve as a TA, and Professor Leo Yu was a wonderful mentor when served as his TA.

8. What do you plan to do post-graduation?
As a second semester 2L, I am just over the halfway mark in law school. I will intern with two federal agencies in summer 2022, and I am preparing for applications for public interest fellowships and honors programs in the federal government.

9. Have you had any important mentors during law school? If so, who?
I am grateful for the mentorship of my coaches—all SMU Dedman School of Law alums—on the Thomas Tang Moot Court team: Emily Felix, Hanna Kim, Jacob Matthew, Christina Ta, Austin Teng, and Will Tran. Among these mentors, I would like to give special thanks to Hanna Kim, an associate at Zelle LLP. I’ve been inspired by Hanna because of her example of professional achievement in her litigation practice and her leadership in the legal community through her roles in the Dallas Asian American Bar Association and the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers. I also appreciate Hanna’s work to create a new non-profit organization, The Podium, that has a mission to “amplify the voices and opportunities for Asian American women in the legal profession.” Hanna has also shared invaluable support in my leadership of the SMU Asian Pacific American Law Student Association.

10. Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years?

Ever since I heard Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speak at SMU, I have been committed to the public sector. In 5 years, I would like to follow in the footsteps of one of my mentors and SMU Dedman School of Law alum, An Phan, and serve as an attorney adviser in a federal agency. In 10 years, I would like to serve as a legislative counsel on a congressional committee.