Olivia Martinez ’23: Applying the Law Equally

A highly engaged member of Columbia Law student organizations and journals, Martinez shares how the Law School community and her projects with faculty helped her define her role as a lawyer.

Hometown: Chatsworth, New Jersey

Why the Law: At Columbia Law, Olivia Martinez has participated in a number of projects and initiatives designed to serve at-risk populations, including the Community Advocacy Lab and the Parole Advocacy Project, where she helped clients prepare parole packets. “One of my biggest takeaways here is really how to use storytelling to tell a story that’s going to be palatable to folks who haven’t had the same experience and who aren’t coming from the same background.”

Favorite Aspect of Columbia Law: Martinez felt that Columbia Law was such the right fit that it was the only law school she applied to. Once here, the community became “the highlight of my experience. . . . Institutions are [long-standing], but it’s the people in them that really shape it.” 

At Columbia Law: President (2021–2022), Black Law Students Association; 2022–2023 Innovation Grant recipient, Davis Polk Leadership Initiative; 2022–2023 grant recipient, Anti-Racism Grant Program; editor-in-chief, Columbia Human Rights Law Review; law clerk, Orleans Public Defender Caravan; inaugural cohort member and 3L mentor, Clerkship Diversity Initiative; intern, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem; intern, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York; teaching assistant, faculty members Philip M. Genty, James S. Liebman, Alejo Rodriguez, and Susan P. Sturm.

After Columbia Law: Moving to Washington, D.C., to clerk for Judge John P. Howard III of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals for the 2023–2024 term. Next, moving to Norfolk, Virginia, to clerk for Judge Jamar K. Walker of the Eastern District of Virginia for the 2024–2025 term.

“I hope to be able to take one of our parts of the legal system which is most unequally applied— the criminal legal part—and help folks have the awareness to make sure that they’re not being taken advantage of by the law.”