I’m In: Ready for What’s Next (Part 9, Ali Johnson)

In spring 2019, Ali Johnson was a newly admitted student to UW Law’s J.D. program. She shared her hopes and plans for law school. Now, we reconnect with Johnson as a new graduate who is reflecting on her law school career and how it has led to a deeper awareness of the world. Her legal education has given her a richer understanding of the reach and impact of congressional actions and court decisions.

On January 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol building in an effort to overturn the president’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election. The next day, Johnson started Prof. Lisa Manheim’s Election Law class, in which students learn how the rule of law keeps the U.S. democratic systems in check. At Manheim’s suggestion, Johnson took this opportunity to recommit herself in her belief of the rule of law. It was a pivotal moment of her career.

Today, she not only more fully appreciates the power of the rule of law, but is eager to join the legal community as a passionate and dedicated advocate with a higher purpose.

Learn how UW Law has prepared Johnson for what’s next.

Watch the playlist of all "I'm In" video stories.

Read the Transcript

[text on screen] In spring 2019, UW Law interviewed Ali Johnson, then a newly admitted student to the law school’s J.D. program.

Ali Johnson: When I was a senior in college, I had an internship in the Senate with the junior senator for Washington state, Maria Cantwell. I wanted to work in Congress because to me, that was where the center of all this change is happening. Plus just some of the changes I was seeing on a national scale really served as a catalyst for me wanting to go back to school and get a degree so that I can have the power to change things.

[text on screen] Now, we reconnect with Ali Johnson as she finishes her last quarter of law school.

Ali Johnson: I think I'm a lot more aware of what's going on in the world than I was prior to law school, which is funny to say, because I literally worked in the news before I came to law school. When I read The New York Times in the morning, I have a better understanding of why a Supreme Court decision will be impactful beyond how the ruling in that specific case happened, or why a certain congressional activity is likely or unlikely to fail.

I think it's made me a more thoughtful person in terms of considering both sides of arguments, even when I am personally or maybe emotionally likely to agree with one side.

I was in Professor Manheim’s election law class, the winter of 2021. Our class, I think, was scheduled to start January 7, and the insurrection happened on January 6. So, we had all completed our first day of class reading assignment for election law, we're learning about how the United States is governed by the rule of law, and it was a democracy. And this is how we keep those democratic systems, you know, in check, and we all are watching videos of literally, a mob storming our Capitol building. Professor Manheim sent out an incredible video and email to everyone in that class, kind of talking about what had happened and why. Instead of feeling frustrated, or I mean, in addition to feeling frustrated, or whatever else we're feeling, we should also see this as an opportunity to recommit ourselves to our belief in the rule of law.

It's really interesting and exciting to be part of a community where people are so engaged and passionate about what they're doing, even though the things that they're doing, you know, diverge wildly. Just in my class alone, there are people who are so passionate about criminal defense, people who are so passionate about environmental law, there's like a whole gamut. But we all come from a similar viewpoint of really committing ourselves to the study of law and being interested in, you know, changing how the world works on some level.

Ultimately, what I'm interested in doing is providing pro bono legal services to the fullest extent that I can and also ensuring that the legal profession remains a profession that I'm proud to be a part of, by really putting forward strong sound scholarly arguments that, you know, support generally the rule of law in our society and kind of the role of attorneys as passionate and dedicated advocates, but also as professionals who, you know, have a higher purpose that they need to answer to.

I will start my post-law school life as a clerk in the Western District of Washington, which is our federal district court here in Seattle clerking for Judge Lasnik. And then my current plan is to return to the law firm that I spent my 2L summer with, which is down in Los Angeles, doing civil litigation.