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After three years as a social worker in New York City, Chaula Shukla '13 was well prepared for the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Regional Client Counseling Competition, held last month in New York City. She and James Curran '13 won the competition and will travel this month to Durham, N.C., to face off against 11 law school teams from around the country.
“Out of all the moot court events, client counseling appealed most to me,” said Shukla, who earned a master’s degree in social work from New York University. “Client interviewing, building rapport, showing compassion – these are all invaluable skills that I developed in my previous career.”
The judges of the regional competition recognized these traits in Shukla, and in her partner, Curran. Among the comments for the winning team: “caring, empathetic, compassionate, excellent, enjoyed watching them, made clients feel comfortable, understood urgency of issues, good pointing questions, good issue spotting, humor, worked well together and they seemed like associates in a law firm, not law students.”
“James and I have very different styles,” Shukla explained, “but the judges liked that – we complemented each other well throughout the competition.”
Before law school, during her time as a social worker, Shukla helped people with substance abuse issues and worked in a hospital. Ultimately, however, she came to the conclusion that she could likely help more people, at a systemic level, by pursuing a law degree.
“I’ve always been really interested in social justice,” she said. “As an attorney, I will be in a better position to help more people who are underserved and underrepresented.”
Since coming to Albany Law, Shukla has worked in the Family Violence Litigation Clinic, working on three cases with a partner, and again applying many of the skills developed as a social worker. She has also interned at a law firm in Westchester County, where she grew up.
“After graduating, I would like to move back downstate and begin my practice in public interest law,” she said. “If I could pick my dream job, I would eventually be director of a nonprofit, possibly focused on social justice or women’s issues.”
The ABA’s National Client Counseling Competition will be held from March 16 through 17. Shukla and Curran will compete against the law student teams that won the other 11 regional competitions, in which competitors interview actors playing the role of prospective clients. The clients have lists of facts that are unknown to the competitors; a key component of the interview process is to elicit as many of these facts as possible.