“Where Are They Now?” highlights recent graduates who participated in one or more clinics, and their successful transition to the workforce. This segment features Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor, a 2002 USD School of Law graduate.
Becoming an attorney was sort of a “given” for Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor. “I got involved in the law because of my family,” comments Vino. “My dad was an attorney and he had the unshakeable belief that his son would be an attorney also.”
Originally from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, Vino received his undergraduate degree in 1990, and went on to complete his five year law degree at the University of Madras; in 1995 he began practicing law in India. “At the time, India was opening its borders to outside investments. I realized that limiting myself to practicing as an attorney in India wouldn’t give me an edge on this new movement.” As such, Vino began applying to law schools in the United States, including USD’s School of Law. He received a merit scholarship from USD and, although his Visa was originally denied immigration status, USD worked with him through the process and he was able to attend the following year.
In 2001, during his first summer in the United States, Vino was looking for opportunities to become engaged with the community, and he began to volunteer at St. Vincent de Paul’s Kitchen. When school started again in the fall, he worked with faculty to create opportunities for the Legal Clinics to become involved with local organizations to educate individuals on their legal rights, especially the program at St. Vincent de Paul. He actively participated in the Legal Clinics for three semesters, including the Civil Clinic.
“The Legal Clinics exposed me to tapping into the knowledge of the legal community,” says Vino. “It’s one of the first places I really learned about networking and connecting to others within the legal community. As a foreign attorney, the clinics gave me exposure to professionals here in San Diego.”
Vino graduated from the School of Law in 2002 and was offered an opportunity as a foreign attorney intern at Higgs, Fletcher and Mack. After completing the internship, he was offered a full time position and he worked there for 6 ½ years. In 2005, after personally experiencing the results of being steered into a bad mortgage product, he became in involved in helping to create the Housing Opportunities Collaborative (HOC). HOC is a local nonprofit agency consisting of HUD approved housing counseling and fair housing agencies, housing related nonprofits and business organizations, and governmental agencies that support all aspects of housing rights and responsibilities. In 2008, Vino was hired as the organization’s first Executive Director, a position he continues to hold.
“My legal and clinical education at USD has been extremely valuable in my current role at HOC,” notes Vino. “I use my legal education to help draft documents, negotiate, understand legalese and facilitate strategic planning for the organization. Additionally, the Legal Clinics provided me with the vital experience of practicing the law, in addition to developing my networking and collaborating skills.”
Finally, Vino imparts, “I think one of the real opportunities the Legal Clinics provides is in engaging with other attorneys and attorneys-to-be. I believe that when lawyers collaborate with one another and the organizations in their communities, there is a real opportunity to create change.”