New frontier: U-M Law graduate founded 'First Generation' group

Recent U-M Law School graduate Deeva Shah was honored with an Irving Stenn Jr. Award for leadership and extra-curricular activities.

Photo courtesy of Deeva Shah


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

From childhood, Deeva Shah helped her parents at the souvenir store they opened in Virginia Beach after emigrating from India. Practicing English while operating the cash register and restocking shelves, by the time she reached middle school Shah was a translator between her parents and customers, particularly when disagreements arose.

During her undergrad studies at the University of Virginia, she worked 100-hour weeks each summer, juggling a law firm internship and working at the store. The experiences laid the groundwork for a law career for this recent graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.

“My experiences taught me to see situations from multiple points of view, effectively communicate with team members and clients, and retain compassion while implementing practical solutions,” she says. “My parents’ background as immigrants has been really influential to me and is largely what brought me to law school.”

Fascinated by bioethics and its intersection with the law, Shah wrote her undergraduate thesis on the issues of patenting isolated human genes. During a study abroad at the London School of Economics, she took an International IP class and broadened her context outside of patent law.

She worked as a summer paralegal during undergrad, and after graduation spent four months as a paralegal for the Department of Justice, gaining an in-depth look at how the government-end of law works and what prosecution entails.

“I also found some great mentors who taught me a lot about what good work product should look like and how to be an effective young lawyer,” she says.

Two years as a trademark legal assistant for Google in Mountain View, Calif., expanded her interest to technology and law.

“I think law is the most fascinating when it’s being pushed by new technology and when that clash requires people to think about difficult questions,” she says.

“I enjoyed seeing what work was required to reach a legal consensus or to help people solve their various problems with trademark use online, and working with lawyers to see what their work required. I really liked working on technology law issues and seeing what happens when law does not catch up fast enough with technological advancement. It was exciting to be at the frontier of legal change.

“I also loved the sense of community and how excited people were about their work at Google Legal. It taught me the importance of loving the work you do.”

Shah headed to U-M Law School in 2014, where she enjoyed the community.

“The people made law school the fantastic experience that it was,” she says.

“They were always willing to share notes, outlines, and form study groups. People were excited to discuss the law instead of just focusing on grades or job prospects.”

Shah founded and served as president of the Privacy and Technology Law Association, that hosted events about hacking, drones, and legal technology, and brought in guest speakers such as Cindy Cohn from the Electronic Frontier Foundation who talked about cases the foundation is handling against the NSA for cyber-surveillance.

A semi-finalist on the Entertainment and Communications Law Moot Court Team, and named Best Oralist at the ABA Communications Forum in 2016, Shah participated with 15 others in the National Trial Competition.

“Being on a team helped me use my skills in a group and team context, which was much more like the work I would be doing outside of school,” she says. “Also, working on 'fake' cases and coming up with trial strategy was a great way to use the information I learned in law school in a tangible, non-conceptual way.”

In her 3L year, Shah founded and served as president of the First Generation Law Students organization.

“FGLS students often come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, do not have familial resources to consult about law school, and may be ethnically diverse. FGLS provided a community for those students, regardless of their different backgrounds, where they felt comfortable asking questions and getting to know each other,” she says. “I loved serving as a mentor and getting to know my mentees. I also loved creating a resource that would continue at the law school after I left.”

One of three students honored with an Irving Stenn Jr. Award at her May graduation for leadership and extra-curricular activities, Shah also served as academic chair of the Intellectual Property Student Association, vice president of the South Asian Law Student Association, outreach coordinator for the Women’s Law Student Association, and a student associate for LexisNexis.

In 2015, Shah worked as a summer associate at Cooley LLP in Palo Alto, Calif., and the following year at the San Francisco firm of Keker, Van Nest and Peters, where she was immediately assigned to a trial team.
“I had a voice and an opinion that other attorneys were interested in hearing,” she says. “I was given substantive work and while that meant late nights and a lot of caffeine, I also felt like I was truly doing real work.”
She plans on returning to the firm to work on tech and IP litigation trial work after clerkships with Judge Stephen Wilson, Central District of California, and with Judge Raymond Fisher on the 9th Circuit. Eventually, she would like to teach Internet Law and IP law to law school students.

Shah makes her home in Castro Valley, Calif., where she enjoys “obsessively” binge-watching Netflix, Zumba, Bollywood dance, and cooking Indian food; and also serves as student liaison for the ABA Communications Law Forum.


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