To reach the finals of this year’s Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Competition, Prashanth Chennakesavan ’11 advanced from a field of 90 entrants to a semifinal round in which the top 24 students competed. “Once you get to the semifinal round, everyone has been working on the same case for six months,” he says. “All the oral arguments and written briefs are great. The differences are microscopic. Each and every student who participates in this competition is exceptionally talented.”
Chennakesavan earned his B.A. from the University of Southern California, where he majored in philosophy. He transferred last year from a law school in the Midwest. “I chose to transfer to Columbia Law School because it has such a strong academic reputation and alumni base,” he says. “Plus, I wanted to be in New York City.”
Recounting some of the academic highlights of his Law School experience, Chennakesavan notes that great teaching was a common denominator. He enjoyed the challenge of Criminal Investigations with Professor Debra A. Livingston; the distinctive approach to teaching the First Amendment taken by Vincent Blasi; and the “war stories” shared in Black Letter Law/White Collar Crime by co-teachers Professor John C. Coffee Jr. and U.S. District Judge Jed Radkoff. “It’s easy for students to get engaged in the material when professors are so passionate about what they are teaching,” says Chennakesaven. “I found it especially interesting when professors take a course that is offered at every law school and make it unique by taking a different approach to the material.”
During his third and final year of law school, Chennakesavan focused on experiential learning opportunities such as the Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Competition, the Advanced Trial Practice seminar, and the Community Defense Externship.
Through the externship, Chennakesavan works at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, where he assists attorneys in all aspects of trial preparation for clients facing criminal charges in New York County Supreme Court. “We’re working for real clients who are facing real problems,” says Chennakesavan. “It’s important to have these kinds of hands-on experiences while we are students. Especially in terms of criminal defense, it matters a lot to the client what happens in their case. The consequences can be huge.”
After graduation in May, Chennakesavan will join Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan as an associate in the firm’s Los Angeles office.