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Tawni Takagi: Former Moot Court Team Member for The University of West Los Angeles School of Law, San Fernando Valley

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When Takagi graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a degree in political science, she knew that she wanted to continue in the arena of law but was not so sure about spending an arm and a leg before she knew whether she would enjoy the rigorous study of law school. After considering various esteemed law schools in Los Angeles and Washington, DC, Takagi was accepted to Southwestern Law School right out of Cal State Northridge. She had to rethink her options when she realized that the tuition costs would be enormous. Takagi decided to work as a substitute teacher until she made up her mind.

After reevaluating the situation a couple of years later, Takagi began looking at law schools again—but this time, she was careful to look for schools that accommodated her needs in terms of location and price. She did some research and applied to only one law school this time: The University of West Los Angeles School of Law, San Fernando Valley. The law school's tuition was within her price range at only $695 per unit, and the campus was only 10 minutes from her home in Chatsworth, CA. Having seen the effects of long commutes to law school on her friends, Takagi was not prepared to choose a law school that was out of the way. "That was just something that I didn't want to have to go through. There's enough pressure, especially during your first year; you just don't need anything added to it," she said.


Q. What do you do for fun?

A. I do like to go out with friends to bars to drink and dance. Anything to not think and not read is good enough for me.

Q. What CD is in your CD player right now?

A. I recently purchased a Cat Power CD.

Q. What is the last magazine you read?

A. I think I read some law journal. It was really boring.

Q. What is your favorite TV show?

A. Xena: Warrior Princess

Q. Who is your role model?
A. I'll say Madonna.

Takagi was accepted to the school and studied there for three and a half years. Warming up to the other students was a bit of a struggle for her during the first year, primarily because of clashing schedules. Once other students' schedules were settled and she became active on the school's moot court team, however, Takagi was able to make more friends and establish some close relationships.

During her time at the law school, she was also able to visit China for three weeks with five of her classmates to study the country's law. The experience not only broadened her pool of knowledge while expanding her perspective on the law, but it also allowed Takagi to strengthen friendships with her classmates while earning elective credit for school.

Takagi developed a real love for dealing with criminal appeals while working with the moot court team, which encouraged her to work toward a career that involves brief writing. She likes to analyze legal problems and tackle Constitutional issues. The summer before she and her moot court team earned their big win at the National Criminal Procedure Moot Court Tournament, Takagi began preparing for the event after taking a class in criminal appeals. Once she had her case for the competition, she dove into it, creating her written brief in the first month of preparation. After the written portion was submitted, she began working on the oral presentation. At the competition, she and her teammate gleamed in the "written brief" section, winning second-place honors.

One of Takagi's favorite aspects of attending The University of West Los Angeles School of Law was having opportunities to see and hear presentations made by the faculty and other professionals on their lives and careers. She was particularly inspired by the career journey of one of her former professors, Ralph Novotney. He began his career as a public defender and branched out into teaching. Novotney's passion for law was something that really stuck with Takagi, enriching her own determination and dedication to the field.

Takagi is also considering pursuing a public defender position or even a teaching position within the field of law. Regardless of what she chooses to do once she passes the bar exam, Takagi has options within the legal field—a fact that critics of the school may try to dispute. "I was glad with the decision I made. I could have gone to an ABA-accredited school. This is just more intimate. It's less stressful. People are friendlier, less competitive," she said.

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