Divya Bhat decided to earn a law degree while working as a product legal operations manager at a San Francisco-based healthcare technology start-up. She found the legal work with complex regulations safeguarding patient health information especially intriguing. “I worked on intellectual property, contracts, and sales, but I really loved product counseling and working with our privacy and security team, both of which were very collaborative,” she recalled.
Divya applied to law schools throughout the nation, and Vanderbilt stood out due to its strong record of national placement. “Ultimately practicing in California was non-negotiable for me, so I was looking for schools that placed graduates nationwide,” she said.
Connecting with VLS alumni who lived and worked in California helped confirm her decision to choose Vanderbilt. “I spoke with several grads who talked at length about the wonderful experience they had here and emphasized Vanderbilt’s collegial culture. Those conversations really highlighted to me that I could succeed here and get back to California with a Vanderbilt Law degree,” she said.
Divya’s previous work experience in global health led her to join the staff of the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law as a 2L and to take International Criminal Law and the International Law Practice Lab from Professor Michael A. Newton, who directs the International Legal Studies Program.
She also took upper-level finance and legal history electives. “My Cryptocurrency seminar with Professor [Yesha] Yadav provided an interesting meta-markets comparison of our traditional financial system with the emerging cryptocurrency financial system. I also really enjoyed Professor [Sara] Mayeux’s American Legal History class, which gave me insight into the political, social, and legal movements that shaped our current legal system from the 1960s to the present,” she said.
Divya sought out clinics and externships that gave her opportunities to apply the knowledge she gained from her academic courses. “My most impactful classes were those where I got to observe how the law works in action and practice skills, and I particularly enjoyed my work in the Nashville community. My externship with the Federal Public Defenders provided critical real-world context to my criminal law classes, and through the Youth Opportunity Clinic, I also worked with young adults on special education matters, school discipline cases, and expungements,” she said.
She honed her interviewing skills working with clients unfamiliar with the legal system while acting as a co-director of the Medical Legal Partnership with the Shade Tree Clinic, which provides free medical services and civil legal counseling for uninsured Tennesseans under the supervision of an attorney. “We dealt with issues ranging from immigration status to employment disputes, family and housing law, and access to benefits. My work there was one of the most formative experiences of my legal education. It was a privilege to listen to an issue that a client had and come up with legal solutions that worked for them,” she said.
Divya was an octofinalist in the 2L Moot Court competition, served on the Moot Court Board as a 3L, and sat on the executive board of the Vanderbilt Legal Aid Society. She also got certified as a yoga teacher while in law school and taught a weekly class at the Vanderbilt Rec Center.
Divya will clerk for Judge Kea Riggs of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 2023-24, after which she will join Covington & Burling in San Francisco.