Alumni and Friends

Leah Recht establishes Social Justice Internship Fund

Leah Recht's law career took a right turn toward corporate law, but she's furthering her passions for social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion through her involvement with the Center for Law, Justice and Culture (CLJC) at Ohio University, where she recently created the CLJC Social Justice Internship Support Fund.

"When I started law school, I had hoped to use my degree to make an impact—I envisioned myself working for the ACLU to protect constitutional rights, especially for underserved communities. In the end, I was intrigued by the intellectual challenge of corporate law and the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most innovative companies and sophisticated investors. I’m fortunate to be able to integrate pro bono work (providing free legal services for clients who otherwise could not afford it) with my day-to-day corporate work, allowing me to make meaningful contributions to causes that are important to me while staying focused on my current career path. I think that’s a model that will be especially important to the next generation of law students," Recht said.

Recht graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Psychology and an English minor from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2006, followed by a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.

"I went straight through from OU to law school to BigLaw, and have stayed the course. Not the easiest path, but a pretty straight one. Sometimes I wish I’d taken a less direct route and worked in other areas or sought other grad degrees. There’s no one best path, especially in the legal field—there are so many different ways to make a difference or find success in this industry," she said. BigLaw is the industry term for the most successful law firms in the nation's largest cities.

Recht started her legal career at Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Chicago but soon traded the Midwest for the West Coast.

"A couple years in, I moved to Palo Alto and then San Francisco and eventually was promoted to partner at K&E. In early 2021, I made a lateral move to another law firm, Orrick, where I am now a transactional partner focused on M&A (mergers and acquisitions) and private equity," Recht said.

'CLJC didn’t exist back when I was at OU'

Larry Hayman was three years ahead of Recht at OHIO, graduating magna cum laude with a B.A. in Political Science from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2003. Hayman earned a J.D. from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and practiced education law and election law as principal and founder of Hayman Law, LLC, in Columbus, Ohio.

Hayman returned to his field of dreams in 2014 as the first pre-law advisor and assistant director for the newly established Center for Law, Justice and Culture, where he’s now the director of legal engagement and the pre-law program.

Since that time, the number of College of Arts and Sciences pre-law majors has grown by 43 percent, alumni have clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court and other state and federal courts, and 97 percent of the seniors who apply to law school are accepted to at least one law school. And students are graduating with resumes full of internship, experiential learning, and leadership experiences.

"I’ve known Larry Hayman since we were both OU undergrads and was so excited to hear about his involvement with the CLJC. I wanted to support his efforts and the mission of the center while furthering my passions for social justice and diversity, equity and inclusion," Recht said.

"Larry and I decided that my donation to OU could make the most impact if it supports students interested in social justice and eager to intern with a local social justice organization with a legal focus (like with the Ohio ACLU or the Ohio Innocence Project), but who might otherwise not have access to or financial ability to take an unpaid internship with one of these organizations. And so this fund was born. I’m so excited that it’s been a great experience so far for both the interns and the organizations, and I can’t wait to watch the program expand," Recht said.

Recht noted that "the CLJC didn’t exist back when I was at OU, so I wasn’t lucky enough to be able to take advantage of any of the exciting coursework and programming offered to current students!"

The internship's first recipient, Jocelin Arbenz, recently completed the first CLJC Social Justice Internship with the Ohio Innocence Project.

"It's what made this experience possible for me," Arbenz said of the $2,500 stipend to help cover her costs. "I was working full-time for OIP, about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, so I didn't have time to be working another job as well, and I still had to pay rent and bills and everything else! The support fund made it possible for me to dedicate all my time to OIP, and enabled me to go on overnight trips to Columbus and Cleveland without having to worry about other responsibilities. I am so grateful for that financial support and for this experience!" (Read more at Jocelin Arbenz says Ohio Innocence Project internship gave her confidence for law school.)

Q&A with Leah Recht

Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life? 

A: I had many memorable professors, but the one I remember the most (for better or worse) was my abnormal psych professor who told us on the first day he never gives A's. I refused to accept that and spent the whole quarter studying my arse off to prove I was the exception to the rule. My study buddy and I both scored coveted A's in the end. One of my hardest classes, but mostly because the professor challenged me to challenge myself.

Q: And how did you apply that knowledge?

A: I learned that I’m motivated by others’ underestimation of my abilities. Always helpful to know what motivates you. I am driven to succeed by a desire to exceed expectations, especially low ones.

Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO—that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”?

A: There wasn’t one moment, but I’d say first quarter of my sophomore year I really started to come into my own academically. I pledged Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity and met other lawyer-type nerds like myself (who also knew how to have fun) and joined Students Defending Students. I started taking higher-level classes that were interesting and challenging and really broke out of my academic and social comfort zone.

Q:  What was the hardest hill you had to climb (not counting Jeff Hill) at OHIO? And how did you overcome challenges or obstacles in your path?

A: My father was diagnosed with a brain tumor toward the end of my sophomore year, and after that moment everything seemed more serious and important. I started working at the Computer Services Center to ease some of the financial strain on my family, interned at the Center for Student Legal Services and began thinking more seriously about my future post-college. Thanks to supportive professors, classmates and friends, I was able to be with my family as much as possible while staying on track to graduate on time and with honors.

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?

A: Too many to recount (and some I can barely remember). The friends I made at OHIO are my closest and deepest friendships. We’ve been through heaven (Athens) together and carried that magic into our post-college lives.

Q: What’s the one thing you would tell a new OHIO student not to miss?

A: Don’t miss a thing. Go out with your friends even if you’re tired. Go to the game even if the team is terrible. Eat those O’Betty’s cheese fries even if you’re on a diet (don’t diet at OU). Take that interesting class even if you’ve heard the professor is a tough grader. Study at Donkey even though you might be more focused at the library.

October 31, 2022
Staff reports