Yakeen Qawasmeh never imagined that he would get his first real lawyering experience before his second year of law school. But when his father, a longtime Lockheed Martin employee, was denied renewal of his security clearance, Qawasmeh spent the summer successfully representing him in administrative court and saved his job. "He was denied renewal based on factors relating to being born in a foreign country (Jordan)," Qawasmeh explained. "I was able to take up his case because passing the bar was not a requirement to practice law in that particular court."
He credits Southwestern with giving him the foundation and tools required to effectively argue on his father's behalf. Professor Dov Waisman helped him develop the appropriate language for his father's declaration. During this time, Qawasmeh was also externing for the Hon. Carlos Chung '95, a Superior Court Judge and Southwestern alumnus. "Judge Chung was very supportive and really helped me... Not only is he great about giving externs responsibility, he taught me practical legal skills and he's a really nice person. He takes the time to explain things and gives you the freedom to express your views on cases."
With a five-hour (roundtrip) daily commute by train from his family's Palmdale home to Los Angeles, no one would question Qawasmeh's dedication to his legal studies. And he has not wasted a moment getting involved on campus. In addition to serving as a Student Ambassador, he is on the Moot Court team and will compete as a writer and swing oralist for a competition in Brooklyn during the spring semester. As a member of Law Review, he has focused his energies on a legal issue connected with his love of dogs. He recently adopted "Jazz," an American Bulldog mix, who came from an "unexpected" litter. "I started looking into what age was best to get him neutered and discovered that in unincorporated parts of LA County, dogs are required to be neutered by the time they're 4 months old. I did a lot of research and found that early sterilization can cause health and temperament problems. My comment is going to discuss the problems posed by mandatory sterilization laws as well as dog overpopulation and propose statutory language which will provide a balance between the private concerns of the dog owner and the public concerns of dog overpopulation."
Qawasmeh graduated from UCLA with a philosophy degree in 2004 and spent seven years as a vocalist/lyricist with the band "Simple Citizens." "I really hadn't met a lawyer until I applied to law school. I thought I would be a musician," Qawasmeh said. "Eventually I realized that if I was going to do anything 'professional,' it would be the practice of law. I just didn't see myself as a doctor or engineer."
So far Qawasmeh's favorite courses at Southwestern have been Contracts and Evidence. He admires his professors, calling the individualized attention they give to students, their availability and passion for legal education "remarkable." He also credits Associate Dean Gary Greener with helping him fine tune his resume, land an interview and secure his next position as a Summer Associate with O'Melveny & Myers LLP. Although he has not decided which area of law he wants to practice, he refuses to rule out anything and is hoping to take on as many projects as he can at the law firm. "But I will definitely move to LA for the summer," he said, "so I can devote as much time to my job as possible."