George Tepe ’17
As an undergraduate economics major at Amherst College, George Tepe ’17 became interested in the law while experiencing the residual effects the 2008 financial crisis had on the job market. After an internship with the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and another at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, he decided to pursue law school to learn how to structure laws and regulations so that these crises don’t happen again.
“Ultimately, with all these policies,” he says, “you need a lawyer to write them, and put them in place, and make them actually happen.”
Tepe explored this notion as editor-in-chief of the Columbia Business Law Review, but his enthusiasm doesn’t rest with business law. He’s been an extremely active member of the Law School’s social justice community since he arrived on campus in 2014, serving as president of the Public Interest Law Foundation and treasurer of the Black Law Students Association. A teaching assistant as well, Tepe became a mentor to many first-year students trying to navigate their way through law school.
“It makes me so happy when someone in a session is asking amazing and pointed questions, and I can see the gears in their head trying to put together these weird pieces,” he says. “Seeing their progression—that’s where I got such a deep appreciation and love for the law.”
It’s also evident that Tepe’s time at the Law School—working with other students, as well as his professors—has shaped his outlook on the power of scholarship to affect legal thinking around the world. “I can sit and think about the law, read cases, read what people have written before, and come up with independent ideas that no one has thought of before or put on paper,” he explains. “And then that can spur further legal thought. It’s incredibly exciting to think about.”
Though he doesn’t deny the possibility of combining his love of writing, research, and mentorship by becoming a law professor one day, Tepe will start his legal career as an associate in the corporate department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. There, he wants to explore how his passion for public interest law can enhance his dealings with future clients, and he’s pondering a research project on how to broaden the diversity of corporate boards of directors.
“We need people who have those kinds of social justice mindsets working with corporations,” Tepe says. “There’s a mindset of, ‘How do we keep corporations from doing bad things?’ Which is certainly important. But how can we use corporate law, corporate theory, and corporate structure to advance social justice principles?”