Meet Pooja Dadhania, California Western’s newest full-time faculty member. Originally from Sterling, Virginia, Dadhania earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia. She took Japanese language courses during college, and after graduation, she lived for two years in Kumamoto, Japan, where she taught English to elementary and middle-school students.
After that, she attended Columbia Law School for her J.D. and Georgetown Law School for her L.L.M. In addition to working in private practice, Dadhania has worked at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. Now, she teaches civil procedure and immigration/asylum and refugee law at Cal Western.
The Commentary asked Prof. Dadhania about her interests, passions, and experiences:
Q: What was your favorite part about being an English teacher in Japan?
I wanted to live abroad and do something completely different before going to law school, and this opportunity seemed perfect since I had studied Japanese during college. I loved how every day in Japan was a learning experience, including the simplest things that I used to take for granted, from figuring out what I was buying at the grocery store to learning how to address an envelope. Also, the food in Japan is incredible. Before I went to Japan, I used to be a vegetarian who didn’t love vegetables, but Japan has some of the best tasting fruits and vegetables I’ve ever had. I started to love vegetables after that.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?
I realized I wanted to be a lawyer during my last year of college. I wrote my thesis on honor-based violence, a form of gender-based violence where individuals are harmed due to the perpetrators’ belief that they have brought shame or dishonor upon their families or communities. I knew that I wanted to do work to support survivors of such violence in some way. My thesis advisor explained his role as an expert witness in asylum cases and encouraged me to consider a career in immigration law. Although I had enjoyed the research for my thesis, I knew that I wanted to work directly with individuals, which led me to law school so that I could pursue my dream of representing survivors of gender-based violence.
Q: What fuels your passion for immigration and human rights law?
Prior to coming here, I supervised and taught students at Georgetown Law in a clinic where they represented survivors of persecution and torture in immigration court. I also represented survivors of gender-based violence and forced marriage at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles in their immigration and family law cases. Immigration law has played a role in some capacity in all of my work experiences since I graduated from law school, and the resilience of my clients fuels my passion for the field. Being a part of their journeys to heal and rebuild their lives in the United States has been a privilege and motivates me to continue my work in immigration law.
Q: What is your favorite part about teaching at Cal Western?
My favorite part about teaching at Cal Western is the students. It has been such a pleasure to teach students who are engaged and are from diverse backgrounds, coming to school with many different experiences and perspectives.
Q: What piece of advice do you have for students on how to succeed post-graduation?
Take advantage of this time during law school to explore different areas of the law, both in terms of subject area and the type of work. It’s hard to know what the practice of law is like until you see it in action. You may be surprised by what you like (and don’t like).