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January 18, 2022 MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Lakshmi Gopal

Lakshmi Gopal is founder and sole practitioner at Muciri Law PLLC, where she serves low and middle-income individuals and businesses facing legal challenges in the digital economy. She currently serves as a Vice Chair of the Rights of Women Committee.

Lakshmi Gopal, Rights of Women Committee Vice Chair

Lakshmi Gopal, Rights of Women Committee Vice Chair

Where are you from? How have your experiences here, or throughout your upbringing, influenced your passions and aspirations today?

As an introvert who fell in love with egalitarian movements and social struggles from a young age, I have always dreamed of finding ways to support the people, ideas, and causes that I love. Today, as a lawyer running a solo practice, I feel grateful that my professional independence allows me to offer my professional skills in ways that resonate with my values.

I was raised in Northern Virginia by a fourth-generation feminist South Indian (Keralite) father, who remains passionate about social justice. His passion exposed our family to the struggles for equity and equality around us and across the world. He also instilled in me a strong awareness of the Indigenous histories that surrounded us along the East Coast. In addition, I was raised just steps away from a Washington, DC, that was still buzzing from the echoes of the Civil Rights Movement and that came alive, almost daily during my childhood, with voices from Black Struggle. As a child, I was never in want of people and causes to admire, and my mind was always filled with real-life heroes (including and especially heroines) who were creating, in real-time, legendary, stories about sacrifices and struggles for social justice. 

What drives you?

A passion for individual freedom and free enterprise, and a deep sense of gratitude for people who ensure my freedom by fighting for their own. 

What is one thing most people do not know about you that you feel they should?

I want my work to represent the strength, beauty, complexity, and power at the margins of society.

When you look back, what is it that you want your advocacy and professional career to stand for?

I’ve always wanted my career to stand for a commitment to social justice, and to leveling the playing field for women, people of color, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and other marginalized groups. 

What is one issue which you care about or work most on and why?

Technology and the Rule of Law; Different technologies impact rights and freedoms in different ways. As individuals, we must remain sensitive and responsive to such impacts, particularly as they affect vulnerable groups. The rights we enjoy today (both as individuals and small businesses owners) were developed over the past several centuries through struggles from the margins of society. Technological change should propel these struggles for freedom forward, create more inclusive societies, and expand our rights in a rational and sustainable manner. Whatever else technology does, it shouldn’t force people at the margins to start from scratch in advocating for basic rights to be heard—and law plays a vital role in making sure, at the very least, that this does not happen.

What do you feel is the greatest challenge facing this issue today?

Failures in access to essential public resources, especially access to education and legal services. Our inability to ensure equal access to high-quality public education, particularly in our K-12 systems is at the root of a wide variety of social problems that are being spurred by technology, including, for example, the spread of misinformation and disinformation.

We are building some of the most advanced technologies that humans have ever known, while leaving a majority of humans, across the globe, without the basic skills necessary to understand, engage, and cope with even the simplest elements of these technologies. On top of this, we are making justice systems harder to access and afford. The failure to deliver these two key resources—that served as pillars of modern democracy during the 20th century—ensures that whatever work we do now can only be contributing to the foundations of a future of unimaginable oppression for the vast majority of people. 

In what corners do you find the greatest support in propelling these issues you work on? In other words, who are your most frequent allies?

As a lawyer, my professional community has been my main source of support to advance issues that I care about—and the most supportive professional space that I have found as a young lawyer has been the ABA. I started volunteering with the ABA when I moved into solo practice in 2020. As a solo attorney, I knew I needed a substitute for the support and mentorship that I would have received in a more traditional work setting. To find this, I became active in various voluntary bar associations and began to wander through various sections and committees at the ABA. I soon connected with wonderful and welcoming people (shout out to ABA Staff Alli Kielsgaard and to ABA Member Essita Duncan for helping me find my footing). Before I knew it, over a year had gone by. In this one year, I have learned as much from my colleagues during committee meetings as I have learned in the best law school classrooms. As a young attorney, I really could not have asked for better professional support and mentorship.

In propelling these issues through establishing my practice, I have also been lucky to rely on my close friends and family for moral support. I have a close group of women friends from law school and graduate school who I continue to rely on when I need moral support or a quick course on important aspects of motions practice. As a new attorney building a practice from scratch, without reliance on any pre-existing networks or deep-pocketed personal wealth, support from other minority lawyers, particularly Black lawyers, has been instrumental in giving me the energy I need to keep going when things get tough. It has been wonderful to experience the fraternity amongst lawyers of color and the mutual support and encouragement we give to one another.

What CRSJ project(s) are you working on? Or, what have you undertaken in CRSJ that you found the most rewarding to have worked on? Are there any upcoming events or projects you want us all to know about?

At CRSJ, I have been able to support a wide variety of projects. As a young lawyer, this has allowed me to learn from a great variety of talented and seasoned lawyers about advocacy work. Two projects come to mind as most rewarding. At a personal level, I feel rewarded by the opportunities I have had to support the ongoing dialogue on caste discrimination in the South Asian community. Under the leadership of activists like Thenmozhi Soundararajan and lawyers like Swati Savant (and with the support of a myriad of uncaste/anticaste working professionals who volunteer their free time to the cause), there is a growing movement against caste discrimination in the South Asian American diaspora. As a member of a community that has historically fought against the very idea of caste and against caste discrimination, it has been heartwarming to be able to turn to CRSJ with my enthusiasm for this important work. CRSJ has also given me a safe space to live openly and proudly with my caste identity, something that has not always been easy. The second project relates more directly to my professional interests: under the leadership of senior members of the Economic Justice and the Privacy and Information Protection Committees, I have been a part of a project that has been looking into what law can do to mitigate the negative impacts of technology on low-income communities. This project has not only forced me to make time to think about an issue that concerns me deeply, but it has also afforded me the priceless opportunity to think together about such issues with individuals who have rich experience and understanding in the field. The intellectual rewards that I have received through participation in this project alone could last me a lifetime in experience and insight.