ASU Law graduate will continue history of nonprofit work

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2017 commencement. See more graduates here

If Andres Chagolla III isn't careful, he just might start giving lawyers a good name.

The Arizona State University law school student’s resume is loaded with academic achievements, awards, internships and scholarships, but it contains another achievement that truly stands out: his dedication to others.

“Growing up in a large Mexican-American family in Camp Verde, we were basically poor,” said Chagolla, a first-generation college graduate. “But we always did what we could to help others less fortunate than us.”

He started young. His father formed The Chagolla Foundation in 2004, geared toward underprivileged youth in the community. He recalls helping fellow classmates to obtain school clothing, sports equipment, Thanksgiving meals and Christmas presents. He also helped complete paperwork for scholarships.

Chagolla, who will collect his Juris Doctor degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law on Dec. 13, said he will continue his good works after he passes the bar exam in February 2018.

That will take shape by forming The Chagolla Legal Foundation, which will actively encourage middle and high school students from underprivileged backgrounds to pursue a career in law.

His motto: “'If others succeed, then society succeeds.' It’s something that I try and put at the forefront of all my decisions.”

Question: What was your "aha" moment, when you realized you wanted to study law?

Answer: I always had an inclination that I wanted to be a lawyer. When I was in fifth grade, my school took part in a competition put on by D.A.R.E., which asked students to write an essay explaining why they chose to not do drugs. I wrote about how I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up. Although I changed my career path about 20 times while in school, I decided to take the LSAT and apply to law schools after graduating from ASU with my bachelor’s degree. I was accepted to several law schools, but I was also offered a lucrative job in corporate sales. I eventually decided to take the sales job. After working a few years in the industry, and with my LSAT score about to expire, I found myself wishing every day that I had gone to law school. I decided that it was time to take the plunge, and I haven’t regretted it for one second.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU?

A: It’s not something that I necessarily learned but definitely something that my experience here has reaffirmed. Be open to building relationships with people from all backgrounds, beliefs and political ideologies. In today’s polarizing world, it is unfortunate that many people are judged only because of a particular view they may have. Differing views are part of what makes this country so great. In law school, you meet people who are very conservative, very liberal, and people who are right in the middle. We need to be sure that we don’t just socialize with people of similar beliefs. Spend time with people of opposite political or religious beliefs and people that come from different backgrounds. This is what will make you a more well-rounded and understanding individual.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU Law for multiple reasons. First, I am an Arizona native and I know that I want to spend my legal career here. Second, ASU is by far the best law school in Arizona. Exponentially better than that school way down south. Third, the faculty and students are like family. Even before my first day of class, I felt as though I could speak with the admissions office about anything. After spending two and a half years at the law school, that feeling has only strengthened and expanded. The administration and professors all make you feel welcomed and at home.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would tell them continue to work hard, network as much as possible, never be afraid to fail but rather be afraid of not trying, and most of all — enjoy your time in law school. The events, the people you meet and the relationships you build will change your life forever. Be sure to make the most out of it and don’t take it for granted.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus?

A: This is easy — the pingpong room! Although, after moving into the new law school we went from two pingpong tables down to one, which has slightly taken away from one of the law students’ favorite ways to unwind. In the old law school, it served as a meeting spot for the law students on break. Now, it seems to lack the mystique it had before. Still, it is fun to play a few games and let out your classroom frustrations.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be locking myself in my home and studying for the bar exam, which I will be taking in February of 2018. After this, I will begin working at a law firm located in the Phoenix area starting what I hope to be an amazing legal career.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: One big issue that has come to my attention while earning my degree is the lack of diversity in law school and the legal field in general. Although it is better than years past, I still believe there is a long way to go. Being the first of my generation to graduate college in my family, I know that college is not viewed as an option to many. Growing up, I did not know a single lawyer. I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer; however, I had nobody to speak with about what it was like to practice law and to help point me in the right direction. Having experienced this frustration firsthand, yet blessed to be graduating from a great law school, I knew that I needed to make an effort to change this. That is why I am forming a nonfprofit foundation to help children from underprivileged backgrounds pursue a career in law.

I would take the $40 million and apply it to this foundation and its mission. I believe that the more diverse a legal field we have, the better the world will be going forward. The foundation will provide training, guidance, mentorship and scholarships to children from underprivileged backgrounds so that they can pursue a career in law.

Top photo: Andres Chagolla III (photographed at the Beus Center for Law and Society in the Downtown Phoenix campus on Nov. 20) graduates Dec. 11 from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law with a JD degree. He plans to commit to a law firm by the end of the year as he dives into bar exam preparation. His goal is to practice corporate and civil litigation. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now