BY: Christina Das '20 | DATE: Apr 28, 2022

Christina Das ’20 is a Voting Rights attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Thurgood Marshall Institute, and the first full-time hire from CUNY Law. She is focused on mentorship and seeks to build a pipeline of CUNY grads to LDF.

On how you start your day: 

Each day at LDF is different – posing unique challenges and opportunities alike. While I love the fast-paced nature of the work, the days can be very long, so I ground myself each morning by starting off the day without any screen time. I try to meditate in the morning (even just for five minutes at a time) and use my essential oil diffuser regularly, so that I have a clear mind going into the day. After meditating, I tend to make a big pot of coffee, while listening to a podcast on SCOTUS culture and the current docket. My current favorites are Strict Scrutiny and 5-4.


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Christina in Selma, Alabama for the 57th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday (March 2022, photo credit Amanda Voisard).

On the ways your life has changed since graduating law school — anything surprising or challenging? Is there anything you would have done differently in law school, if you had the chance? 

Probably an unpopular opinion, but I loved law school. While I love voting rights cases, I miss reading a variety of case law across all subject matters and really diving into an opinion and having robust discussions in the classroom. I was very intentional about the internships, fellowships, networking events, and activities that I was involved in while at CUNY – both in the classroom and in the community, so no, I would not do anything differently.

If I had more time, I would have liked to publish with the law review, but I am happy that I was able to serve on the editorial board. Maybe, I can submit a piece in the future!

It is surprising how little time I have to keep up with new developments in the law or even civil rights jurisprudence as a whole, so I really appreciate that LDF takes time to have monthly legal staff meetings, where we get report-outs on federal court holdings or significant decisions that come down.

I really recommend that law students take advantage of the time and breadth of classes available to try out a variety of course materials!



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Christina and LDF colleagues about to embark on the sojourn from Selma to Montgomery by foot, to continue the national pressure to pass Federal Voting Rights legislation in March 2022, photo credit Amanda Voisard.

On graduating in 2020 — the good, the awful, and the surprising: 

Graduating in 2020 (over zoom) was indescribably difficult. There was no way we could have planned to graduate and take the bar exam in a pandemic – literally, there was no guidebook on this, but, somehow, the Class of 2020 navigated this experience, as well as a remote bar exam that was rescheduled three different times.

I remember having to manage the dualities of being worried about a once-in-a-century global pandemic, while also applying to jobs as a recent graduate, during a time when the economy was in an unprecedented downturn. Getting a job in the civil rights space is difficult enough without having to also deal with budget and staffing cuts.

Looking back, this experience has really shaped me to be even more resilient because I needed to get a job to help support my family — but it also put my priorities into perspective, such that I made time to focus on my mental health more.

Furthermore, as a first-generation law school graduate, it was incredibly painful to be robbed of an in-person graduation. Most of my family is in India, but I am very much looking forward to celebrating with my immediate, biological, and chosen family at the postponed ceremony that will be held on May 13, 2022.

On how being a legal extern for the NAACP LDF helped you later land an amazing position with them — what advice do you have for overwhelmed law students who are seeking employment in this ever-shifting and uncertain environment? 

I would tell overwhelmed law students the same things I say to my law student mentees: keep an open mind, and make sure to take every opportunity possible; do not tell yourself that certain doors are off limits! Imposter syndrome is real – especially in elite workplaces, but be sure to get out there, and leave an impression on your colleagues via your work ethic. I would also recommend law students find a mentor in the practice area they are interested in.

Do this by going to subject matter-specific events, whether through the Bar Association or other volunteer legal organizations. As a first-generation attorney who attended a public law school, mentors were pivotal to my professional development and seeking out new positions.

As I mentioned above, time management will always be challenging, but make the most of your time in your clinic placements and internship opportunities. During my clinical placement at LDF, I made sure to go to as many networking events that I could, offered to perform additional legal research, and made sure to express my interest in any ongoing voting rights projects, even though I was placed in the education and employment litigation docket.

I even volunteered my time on the weekend to travel to Mississippi to perform election protection with the very team I work with now. These experiences resonated with the staff because they referenced my externship to me when I was interviewing. 



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In New Delhi, India during Summer 2018 when she was a Sorensen Fellow placed at Breakthrough India working on gender justice issues.

On your passion for voting rights — where did this passion originate, what are key takeways you curated and expanded your knowledge of, and why now?

Like many of you, I am a child of immigrants, and I often served as a language translator from a young age. I grew up listening to my dad speaking about the importance of voting and the pride he felt being a naturalized U.S. citizen, who was able to help shape the direction of this country in a small way.

While voting alone is not an exhaustive means to solving the systemic injustices we face, it is a crucial step to changing the dynamic of our legislatures and shaping who has a seat in the halls of power, and that makes a difference for the generations to come. I mean, quite literally, just look at the redistricting process and the impact of gerrymandering.

While helping to register other family members and immigrant neighbors, I began to develop a love and passion for civic activism from a young age. This is probably why I continue to get great joy from working with young people today because young people helped to shape the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and they will be the ones to shape this next lap in the marathon of fighting for civil rights.

This passion grew and became honed when I went to college and then served as an organizing fellow on the Obama 2012 campaign. So, I would say that I curated my knowledge of voting rights by first living through the barriers in place for working-class people of color and then by working as an organizer. Organizing informed my lawyering way before case law did, and it continues to do so today, as I work heavily in post-election and legislative advocacy.

Of course, I would say that my experience as an extern at LDF, as well as the mentorship of professors along the way, were crucial, as they also helped me to gain hands-on experience in voting rights work. Special thanks to Camille Massey and Rick Rossein for their unwavering support and helping carve out this space for me at the law school.

On how you find balance between your professional life and your personal life — how do you mitigate and prevent burnout?

This is a difficult question! I am still working on achieving that right amount of balance, and, from time to time, I make sure to pause and check in with myself.

Time management has always been a skill of mine, but setting boundaries and saying no has always been a weakness.

This is something I have struggled with from high school through college and law school as well, where I managed a rigorous course load with law review, being a teaching assistant, and serving on the executive board of several civic organizations in Brooklyn. Being civically engaged is a time commitment, but building community with my neighbors and fellow organizers has always been a source of joy for me amid all the struggles.

Being a junior attorney in the civil rights space means that burnout is all too common, and I am acutely aware of this.

I am privileged to be able to maintain a hybrid workstyle, where I go into our NYC office twice a week and work from home for the remainder of the time. Of course, my role at LDF is focused on election protection, and that means regular travel to the South.

Luckily, I have very considerate colleagues and a very supportive team with my Prepared to Vote (PTV) colleagues, where we regularly check in on capacity and help each other as needed. We do not let egos get in the way of getting the work done to ensure ballot access.

LDF is also a workplace that is intentionally focused on our overall well-being, vis-a-vis staff retreats for team-building, professional development, and good benefits that allow us to access mental health services. I regularly go to therapy and make sure to make time to work out, as well as cook healthy meals, while working from home.


Christina and her partner John with their foster dog Jamm.


On your hobbies and passions — what are some of your favorite ways to unwind, and how do you make space for them in your incredibly busy advocacy life?

Thankfully, my partner is a consistent source of support, who always affirms me and reminds me that to be an effective advocate, we need to make sure we, as human beings, get that emotional nourishment as well. We regularly unwind by exploring new restaurants in the city and traveling locally and globally, when possible.  We try to be very intentional with where we spend our money and try to support small businesses, as well as women- and minority-owned brands. Recently, we also fostered our first dog together, and now we plan to adopt a dog to help us with work-life balance!

Cooking is my favorite hobby — growing up in an Indian household makes me crave homecooked meals a lot, amid my busy lifestyle, so I often find myself meal-prepping while on a conference call. Multitasking is pretty much my middle name.

For me, food is a way to come together with my friends, so I will often host potlucks or even food tours! Recently, I got to host a food tour of Jackson Heights and Flushing, Queens, where we had eight different stops over five hours. No better way to unwind than catching up with friends over dumplings and dosas.



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Christina in self-proclaimed foodie glory on the LES trying out new dishes

For fun! Is there a favorite book/artist/musician/podcast, etc. you can’t get enough of that you think students should check out? 

Right now, I am reading “Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality,” and I cannot recommend it enough!! Get to know Constance Baker Motley, if you do not know her, because she was a force and is still shaping the role that women of color play in this space today.

In terms of shows, I really need to work on diversifying the content of media that I consume because it is heavy on civil rights, so I would recommend that folks watch “Somebody Feed Phil” on Netflix, as it is a joyous show featuring fellow New Yorker Phil Rosenthal on an eating tour of the world – something I hope to do myself.

To stay connected to Christina and her work, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn, and check out her Career Conversation with 3L Uruj Sheikh!

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Career Conversations with Christina Das ’20 and 3L Uruj Sheikh