Christian Orozco

Feb 6, 2012

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Summer 2011: Associate, DLA Piper, San Francisco, California

Summer 2010: Legal Intern with Navy JAG Corps, San Diego, California, and judicial intern with Judge Eugene Siler on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in London, Kentucky

Career plan: Practice labor and employment law

When Christian Orozco was a high school freshman, one of his teachers asked students who planned to go to college to raise their hands. “I didn’t raise my hand,” Christian said. “Neither of my parents went to college. They were Mexican immigrants, and college just wasn’t presented as a viable option.” But a high school counselor insisted Christian take the ACT and apply to colleges; he was admitted to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. When he arrived at Stanford to start college in the fall of 2002, Christian says, “I knew my life trajectory would eclipse anything my parents ever envisioned.”

At Stanford, Christian earned an undergraduate degree in political science and an M.A. in education, and then spent two years with Teach for America. “I taught U.S. history to 11th graders in the second oldest high school in the state,” he says. He felt a special responsibility to prepare for his classes. “As a Latino teacher, I was a role model, and I didn’t have those types of role models growing up—no teacher I had in high school or college looked like me. I wanted to show my students that if you take advantage of the opportunities presented to you, you can succeed.” Christian was particularly happy that his three siblings followed his example; all three are college graduates, and one sister followed him to Stanford.

Christian had harbored an interest in law school since his freshman year of college. “If you have an understanding of the law, you really have access to many different doors,” he says. His interest in labor law draws on a lifetime of observing his father, a cement worker who has been a union member throughout his 30-year career, but he isn’t ready to limit his career ambitions other than to a career focusing on litigation. “My dream is to be a litigator in civil practice or a U.S. attorney,” he says. “If I do end up practicing labor law, I’m not sure whether I want to represent unions or employers. I’ve seen how unions can both help and hurt different fields of work, and I know that for any type of collective bargaining agreement to be successful, it has to maximize the benefits to both sides.”

Christian chose Vanderbilt for a number of reasons: “It’s a close-knit community and relatively small school,” he says. “That really appealed to me, because it meant I could foster meaningful relationships with faculty and my classmates. I’d never been to the Southeast, and I thought it would be fun to go to a different part of the country—I like to put myself in new situations. And, given my ties to Illinois and California, I wanted to have access to an international network of alumni.” He is now the president of La Alianza, the Latino law students’ association, and he’s active in the Christian Legal Society, which has allowed him to connect with others who share his religious faith.

He spent half of summer 2009 interning with the Navy JAG Corps in San Diego and the other half as a judicial intern with Judge Eugene Silver on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in London, Kentucky. “London was the smallest town I’d ever spent any time in,” he recalls. “There are only 5,000 people. In Chicago, when you ask people where they’re from, they’ll mention a neighborhood. In Kentucky, they mention a county.”

In Nashville, Christian has enjoyed the many local coffee shops, which “have a nice local feel.” He’s also enjoyed his classes and the frequent lectures sponsored by student organizations and academic programs. “Listening to Justice [Stephen] Breyer discuss how the judiciary should seek to resolve issues to encourage democratic participation in governmental decisions was an incredible experience,” he says. “Vanderbilt is the perfect balance of community support and intellectual challenge.”

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