Student Spotlight: Yael Wiesel, LLM ’22

Yael Wiesel LLM ’22

NYU Law Dean's Graduate Award

What is your favorite part about being an LLM student at NYU Law?
I recently described my experience at NYU to a friend as equivalent to that of a child in a candy store (not to mention what it feels like to be living in New York City). The wide array of fascinating courses and learning opportunities, world-leading professors, and inspiring classmates constantly excites me. It really gives me freedom to tailor my studies to my interests and goals. 
Describe your experience in the Global Justice Clinic.
The Global Justice Clinic (GJC) combines hands-on human rights work with academic and introspective evaluation of this practice. A key guidepost in the fieldwork and classroom alike is to center the lived experiences, knowledge, and worldviews of directly impacted communities. My fieldwork project was to be a student advocate in the Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative (JLI). Jailhouse lawyers are incarcerated individuals who engage in legal work from behind bars to help themselves and others with their legal needs. JLI's mission is to support jailhouse lawyers by giving them tools to know, use, and shape the laws that affect their lives, and help them become agents of empowerment within their communities. One of our main projects was to develop, in collaboration with formerly incarcerated jailhouse lawyers, a curriculum on legal subjects and skills that will be taught in prisons nationwide. Another interesting project involved correspondence with incarcerated people to identify their challenges (such as inadequate law libraries or staff retaliation) and start building systems and capacity to address them effectively. These projects were only part of what we did during my one semester at JLI, which explains why it was such a significant learning experience for me. 

How has your experience in the Global Justice Clinic shaped your career aspirations?
I have long aspired to work as a public interest lawyer in the sphere of poverty and socioeconomic justice. It was always clear to me that this path cannot be pursued from the ivory tower, but I lacked a clear framework or model to guide me. My experience at GJC and JLI familiarized me with the concept of legal empowerment, which became very central to my professional identity. Working with amazing leaders and legal practitioners who have no formal training in the law, I realized the emancipatory and transformative power of making the law everyone’s business. I came to understand that in my future practice as a public interest lawyer, I should not seek to change the world; but rather to lend my knowledge, power, and privilege to the powerless and work with them to further the change they want to see in the world. 

What’s the last book you read and loved?
With no hesitation — "Lost Children Archive" by Valeria Luiselli. It deals with complex issues such as immigration and colonialism, but instead of the harsh, political, and righteous tone that is sometimes used in such contexts, Luiselli provides a humane, personal, and compassionate perspective on these injustices. I don't want to disclose too much, so I will just say that you can expect a beautiful and heartbreaking journey with this book.