When the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders last year announced its first class of E3! Ambassadors, 32 young leaders from across the nation committed to improving the quality of life and opportunity for young AAPIs, Boston’s Sonia Sujanani was one of them. Currently, she is doing a judicial clerkship with Justice Fernande R.V. Duffly on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and will join the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr later year.
She graduated from Northeastern University, summa cum laude, in 2011 with her B.S. in Economics. Thereafter, she attended Cornell Law School, where she received her Juris Doctorate with Berger Honors in International Legal Affairs in May.
INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?
Sonia Sujanani: I work professionally as a Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Justice Fernande R.V. Duffly of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. As a lawyer, serving as a law clerk is an honor and one of the most interesting experiences. While practicing attorneys advocate for their clients before the court, a law clerk helps her judge decide legal questions.
I assist my judge in a wide variety of areas: drafting opinions, writing advisory memoranda to the court about cases and petitions for further appellate review, and doing legal research. My judge is a frequent speaker on issues facing women and minorities, and I also assist her in preparing for her speaking engagements. The Supreme Judicial Court is the highest court of Massachusetts, and as such, it answers some of the most interesting legal questions, including those of first impression. As a law clerk, I love both the depth and breadth of my work: the court hears all kinds of cases: from criminal appeals to contract disputes, and a law clerk is able to hone in and thoroughly research the cases her judge works on.
In addition to my professional job, this year I have been serving as a White House Young Ambassador to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). In this capacity, I have worked to educate, engage, and empower AAPIs about education, mental health, pathways to public service, and immigration. I have spoken at a few conferences, including the Asian American Student Union Conference at Harvard University and the India New England Health & Wellness Expo. I truly enjoy serving my community and advocating for diversity and justice both in the law, and in social advocacy.
INE: To which charitable, community and professional group do you belong and why?
SS: Professionally, I am a member of the Massachusetts Bar. I am also an ambassador for the Asian American Pacific Islander Initiative. Socially, I like to advocate for justice, and focus on volunteering for groups that help women, minorities, and animals. In law school, for example, I participated in the South Asian Law Student Association, Animal League Defense Fund, Women’s Law Coalition, the Cornell Law Review, and Moot Court. I have volunteered for Feed My Starving Children, which works on packing nutritious meals and supplements for children and families around the world. I also strongly support organizations that rescue animals, in particular, Farm Sanctuary and the House Rabbit Network.
INE: What are you hobbies and interest?
SS: I love reading; I am currently working my way through the classics. I enjoy cooking and eating vegan food, exploring the city, and playing with my pet rabbit, Simba.
INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community and your company/organization and professional field?
SS: I like to educate and speak about diversity. I am lucky, because I have been able to positively influence people on both micro and macro levels. On the micro level, I served as a mentor and guide for younger students, and as an alumna, I continue to help mentor anyone who reaches out! On the macro level, I have spoken about transforming cultural stigmas into community strengths.
INE: Your rare talent?
SS: I am a speed-reader! I can consistently read above 1000 words per minute on paper, and above 700 words per minute on a computer screen, with 85% or greater reading comprehension. I do a lot of reading as law clerk, so it comes in handy!
INE: Your favorite books?
SS: It definitely depends on the genre! I am a big fan of fiction, and love 1984, by George Orwell; Dracula, by Bram Stoker; To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee; The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne; Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley; Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse; The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck, and of course, the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling. One of my favorite recent books is Mind if I order the Cheeseburger, by Sherry Colb, whose class on Animal Rights I had the pleasure of auditing at Cornell Law School.
INE: Your favorite quotes?
SS: “For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” Neil deGrasse Tyson
INE: Who inspires you the most?
SS: I am most inspired by my parents. My parents moved to the United States at a young age, and through their hard work, sacrifices, and perseverance, they built a great life for my brother and I. My Mother taught me to be compassionate and kind. She instilled a sense of justice in me at an early age, and encouraged me to help others. My Father inspired my love of reading and learning; he nurtured my ambition and always empowered me to set high goals, work hard, and meet those goals.
INE: Your core value you try to live by?
SS: I endeavor to work and live in a compassionate manner, and I truly believe in equality for everyone. As a lawyer, especially, I think it is important to advocate for justice. It is because I believe in compassion and equality for all other beings that I am a vegan.