It’s often said that success depends on being in the right place at the right time.
In the case of Caroline Nam (JD ’22), success has depended on the tenacity to put herself in that right place at that right time.
Having recently graduated from Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law, Nam is poised to start her “dream job” at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, where she will help the law firm in its cases on behalf of sexual abuse victims. Drawn by the power to be a “voice for the voiceless,” Nam wanted to go to law school since she was around 10 years old. But her path was not always straight, reflecting her diverse interests and drive to challenge norms and stereotypes.
“I made my own way,” said Nam of her career so far.
Nam describes herself as a “first generation kid,” both because she was born in the U.S. to South Korean immigrant parents, and because she was the first one in her family to attend college or law school. Growing up in the Los Angeles area, she loved sports, which Nam says was not what her family expected of her as a girl. She enjoyed watching and playing sports because of the sense of belonging and the understanding of the importance of the actions of every team member.
In college, Nam started out as a political science major, later switching to theology—a subject she says is traditionally male dominated. During college, she also spent time in Sri Lanka, where a friend’s family ran a nonprofit that assisted women and children escaping from abusive situations. Shortly after college, Nam returned to the organization as an intern. Interacting with those women and their children bolstered her interest in helping vulnerable people.
Breaking into the sports industry
After graduating from Biola University magna cum laude, Nam decided to pursue her passion for the sports industry and put law school on the back burner for the time being. She worked at Olive Garden while applying to various positions with sports franchises and facilities, eventually landing a server position at a club level restaurant at the Honda Center in Anaheim, which gave Nam access to VIPs as well as connections in the facility.
One of those connections encouraged her to apply to a sales position with the Anaheim Ducks that hadn’t been publicly advertised. She didn’t get that job. But in her rejection email, the human resources representative recommended that Nam apply for a different, but very competitive entry-level sales position with the Ducks. “It was a full-time job,” said Nam, who had previously been piecing together shifts at the Honda Center and Olive Garden, “and it was a door in.”
Not only did she get the job, but she also exceeded her goals and became a top seller. When the Rams football team announced it was moving back to Los Angeles after decades in St. Louis, Nam jumped at the chance to work with an NFL franchise. This time, she had the experience in the sports industry to land a position in member services with the Rams. Nam says she appreciated the opportunity the position gave her to work with season ticket holders and VIPs, as well as the way the organization encouraged employees to engage with the community through regular volunteer opportunities.
Back on the path to law school
One afternoon while enjoying a baseball game with one of her Rams VIP clients, Nam struck up a conversation with the client’s wife, who had gone to law school later in life so she could help review contracts for her husband’s business. It was the first law school graduate Nam had spoken with who didn’t start working on their JD immediately after college. “It was the first time I realized that there were options like that,” Nam said.
It didn’t take long after that conversation for Nam to take the LSAT and apply to law schools. She was attracted to the Fowler School of Law because of the school’s commitment to bar preparation and post-graduation success. In addition, she was impressed when an admissions officer, who had previously met her very briefly, greeted her by name during a First-Generation Scholars dinner several months later.
During law school, Nam served as a judicial extern to Aimé Muyoboke Karimunda, a justice of the Supreme Court of Rwanda. In this role, as well as during a judicial internship with the government of Uganda, Nam researched international laws on sex trafficking, corruption, and judicial safeguards for minor victims who testify in open court in front of defendants. In recognition of this work, as well as her overall motivation, tenacity and enthusiasm during law school, Nam received the Joann Leatherby Leadership Award for Women in the Law upon graduation.
Helping the vulnerable
In the fall of 2021, during her 3L year, Nam began working as a law clerk for Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, whose work representing victims of sexual abuse made the firm an ideal fit for her. “It’s something I’m really passionate about,” said Nam. “If I’m going to be a lawyer, I want it to be for this type of purpose.” After taking the bar exam in July, Nam will return to the firm as a post-bar law clerk.
“I’m drawn toward places I’m told I’m not allowed,” said Nam, the kid who dreamed of attending law school to help the vulnerable and defied cultural expectations to break into the male-centric world of professional sports. Her work with the firm allows her to help people like medical patients, athletes and students who challenge established organizations accused of being willfully blind to abuse.
“When survivors are going up against big entities with a lot of power, it can be scary to speak up,” Nam said. “But we get to advocate on behalf of those survivors and hold those in power accountable.”