MEET TATIANA LAING ’20: CENTER FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE SCHOLAR
Each academic year, Seton Hall Law School School’s Center for Social Justice (CSJ) selects Student Scholars who seek careers in public interest. The Scholars are afforded opportunities to work with faculty members in areas of interest and career ambition.
Social Justice has been a motivating factor for most major life decisions for Tatiana Laing ’20 since she moved to Washington D.C. for college in 2012. “Being an African American woman in the most politically active city in the country at a time that included the death of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Freddy Gray and more, made it nearly impossible for me not to become active in the Black Lives Matter Movement,” said Laing. As a student activist, she helped create a racial justice organization on her campus and together with her peers, lead the students in demonstrations, protests, and teach-ins.
When it was time to decide what to do next, she considered law school, but decided to instead work as an organizer on some of our country’s most pressing issues. But after a few weeks of working as a community organizer with Change Corps, she realized that law was as much a barrier as a tool for social justice. This realization came because of her work registering people to vote in Tampa, Florida. “Day after day while canvassing the neighborhoods, I spoke with people who faced the near insurmountable barrier of living with a felony in Florida. Not only did their felonies make it impossible for them to register to vote, but it made it difficult for them to find work or even decent housing,” Laing recalled. She realized that she could only do so much to help voters research the process to re-instate their right to vote. In the end, it was a public interest lawyer, or a lawyer working on pro bono matters, who would take the cases of the people she met. That fall, she decided to apply to law school for the specific purpose of working towards social justice.
As a first-year law student, Tatiana Laing began her justice work by volunteering with the Center for Policy Research on its defense of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. That work has truly challenged and strengthened her belief that every person on this earth deserves a chance to prove their innocence in a court of law.
Last summer, Laing received a Public interest Law Fellowship to intern with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ), an organization that works to create a more just world for the people of New Jersey through legal research, litigation, advocacy and organizing. There, she undertook legal research regarding the juvenile justice system, apprenticeship programs, and voter disenfranchisement. She also facilitated community conversations regarding The Newark Police Department’s Consent Decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.
In her second year of law school, Laing is continuing her social justice work through her executive board positions as the Attorney General for the Black Law Students’ Association and an Officer for the new National Lawyers Guild Chapter. She is also interning for a federal judge. As BLSA’s AG, she wants to ground the organization in social justice and facilitate public interest opportunities for black law students. As an officer with NLG, she will work to connect the concepts law students learn everyday with how they can work towards justice right now and after graduation. In fact, it is her hope overall that students get more involved in the Newark community. “I hope that in my time as a CSJ Scholar, I can help every law student see that they can be a part of working towards social justice regardless of whether they are a corporate lawyer or a public defender. We all have a part to play in creating the world we deserve.”