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Passport to the World

Alumna Kristin Heinrich (JD ’10) landed a clerkship in the U.S. Department of Justice by pursuing her passion for international human rights.

With stamps from more than 40 countries in her passport, Kristin Heinrich (JD ’10) is well-traveled alumna with a passion for international justice issues. Choosing Pepperdine because of its offerings in the arena of international human rights, Heinrich hit the ground running during her three years of law school by traveling to 8 countries with the Global Justice Program and working in the Asylum and Refugee Clinic on campus.

Early on, Heinrich viewed law as the means to reach oppressed people around the world. “Law is something that is not traditionally thought of in terms of international human rights,” she explains, “people tend to think of medicine—but through the law you can impact an entire legal system of a country which can affect thousands of people in that country.”

Among the international trips she took with Pepperdine were building homes with Amor Ministries in Mexico, volunteering at Calcutta Mercy Hospital in India, and clerking for the high court in Uganda, where she logged case files in a new electronic system. Keeping in mind cultural sensitivity is at the forefront of Heinrich’s mind while working in another country. “Each country tailors their legal system to their culture to some degree,” she explains.

During law school, Heinrich also worked closely with other students and Bruce J. Einhorn, retired federal immigration judge and the director of Pepperdine’s Asylum and Refugee Clinic. Together they helped earn asylum in United States for Gilda Ghanipour, a Muslim woman who had fled Iran and converted to Christianity. The work of the Pepperdine clinic was featured in the LA Times.

"Our clinic deals not just with damaged bodies but broken souls," says Judge Einhorn. "Kristin understood this. Her patience with our clients, and her attendance to their emotional and spiritual as well as legal needs was truly extraordinary."

Only a few months after graduation, Heinrich is readying for her clerkship with the U.S. Department of Justice, which she received through the Attorney General Honors Program. As soon as she begins her post, Heinrich will help immigrants and their families through the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

“I’m very excited about my job next year,” she says of working with families. Although she doesn’t know what the future holds after this clerkship, she feels confident that she will stay in the field of international human rights.

“I want to use my law degree to help other people. God has placed people in my life along the way who have motivated me to really want to use this law career in a way that might surprise other people in terms of being a benefit to others and helping people, whether that’s in the United States or abroad.”

Visit Pepperdine's Global Justice Program.