Outgoing and personable, Chandani Jones has a tremendous energy that is certainly contagious. She has travelled a long way to get to UC Law’s Class of 2010 – from the Virgin Islands to Nashville, Tennessee to Uzbekistan and back to the U.S. She grew up in St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands, where much of her family still resides and which she still considers to be her home. When it came time to go to college, Jones moved to Nashville to attend Fisk University, where she majored in English Literature. Fisk, a historically black college, has a very small student population, which Jones says she enjoyed. Following college, she contemplated attending law school at Vanderbilt University, but chose to defer enrollment in order to join the Peace Corps. UC Law was the only school that would give her a deferral, allowing her to pursue her personal goals before attending law school. This suited Jones perfectly well: “Vanderbilt was all business, which is fine,” she says, “but I wanted a school with more of a public interest/human rights atmosphere.”
Connecting with the Peace Corps
Jones enjoyed her experience in the Peace Corps, where she worked in Uzbekistan and the Ukraine. Her primary role was teaching English and in the process she learned Russian. While there, she lived with a host family, learning about the people and the country. She says she really valued that experience as well and what it taught her.
Many challenges accompanied her time in the Peace Corps, however. In addition to teaching English, Jones was the director of an HIV/AIDS education program. This brought with it its own set of challenges, particularly due to certain governmental restrictions. When asked about the lessons she took away from her combined experience in the Peace Corps, Jones says the most important thing was that she “learned how to take a step back from the situation and evaluate my surroundings. I learned to analyze…to really think about what’s going on.” Jones soon learned how important this skill would become as she was challenged by the racism she experienced in the Ukraine. Learning to analyze her situation, however, helped her to develop coping mechanisms, and she was able to find refuge in her friends and host family. The lessons she took away are broader life lessons, she disclosed, and the coping techniques have helped her while in law school.
Finding a New Focus
After completing her stint in the Peace Corps, Jones came to UC Law, where she initially planned to focus on human rights issues. She worked with the Human Rights Quarterly, as a cite checker during her first year and an articles editor during her second. She is also involved in the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA) and the Hispanic Law Students’ Association (HLSA). During her first summer, she worked for the Hamilton County Mediation and Arbitration Program, where she experienced, firsthand, what mediations are like. “I really liked the experience, and think that law in general should move in that direction. And I am glad to see that many areas are beginning to move that way,” she said.
Her interests, however, began to shift and Jones started to focus her energies on animal law. “I used to want to be a veterinarian when I was little,” she says, “but I gave up on that when I got to college and found out what classes I would have to take! But I think that’s why I chose to focus on animal law. Plus, I’ve always loved animals.” Animal law, she explained, covers a variety of areas: from veterinarian harm claims, to anything involving the U.S. Department of Wildlife, to animal rights in general. “Basically, it’s anything that involves animals,” she said with a laugh.
Because the law school does not offer a program in this area of law, Jones has had to cultivate her interest through an independent research project and hands-on experience. She has volunteered with different animal groups, and this summer is working as a Summer Public Interest Fellow with the Equal Justice Alliance. In this role she is involved in a variety of issues, including working on several appeals under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, under which people can be convicted of felonies for certain protesting activities. She stated, “I find it particularly interesting because of the free speech issues involved. You should be arrested for certain activities, but you should also be able to protest. So it’s definitely interesting.”
Life After Law School
What does the future hold for Jones? “It’s hard to know,” she admits, “because most of the lawyers I know that are involved in animal law are doing it pro bono, and I don’t know what kind of market there will be for animal law in this economy.” Her dream job, however, would be to do legal work for the Nature Conservancy. “I have a lot of respect for them,” she said. “They always act respectfully, but they really get things done.” While she’s still in school, however, Jones is enjoying the work she is able to do with animal law-related organizations. She also is considering starting a student chapter of the Animal Legal Defense Fund here at UC Law.
When asked what she does to ensure she has a life outside of law school, Jones laughed and said, “Law school has definitely taught me the value of relaxing. Work hard, but relax, too.” How does she relax? Any way she can. “Read a book, watch a movie, whatever. I just make sure law school is one of several exciting things in my life.”