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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Raija Churchill (JD '13) on Law as Healing Art

Washington D.C.-- Raija Churchill (JD '13) was the first member of her family to attend law school, served as the first federal clerk to Pepperdine's first alumna federal judge Jennifer A. Dorsey (JD '97), and developed a keen insider's perspective on judicial decision making. As a Litigation and Compliance Associate at Baker McKenzie, Raija's work focuses on protecting business integrity through work on the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, UK Bribery Act, and related laws around the world. Raija explains, "When you have governments operate with integrity, it raises the quality of life for people." In her professional and personal life, Raija remains deeply committed to the Christian mission of the school, having prepared herself for a life of purpose, service, and leadership. As a legal advocate, Raija strives to give a voice to people who may otherwise not have one. We recently caught up with this distinguished member of our alumni community who so eloquently described how she sees law as a healing art.

"Often we have shared goals, shared values, but we pursue them in different ways."

Raija graduated from the joint degree program with a JD and Master in Public Policy. While taking on a full class load, she also served as Editor in Chief of the Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal and Editor for the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. When asked why she chose Pepperdine, Raija pointed to her undergraduate experience at a Christian university. "I figured college would change me," she explains. "The question was not whether, but how, and I wanted good mentors." Having cultivated her understanding of the importance of faith in academics, Raija looked to Pepperdine as an institution in which she could cultivate herself as not just an attorney but as a person with heart in the legal field. She points to mentors like Professor James, whom she calls "tremendously influential," who ultimately shaped how Raija approaches her own legal practice today. "He knows how to get to the heart of the issue; not just the what but the why."

Along with working as a research assistant to Professor James, Raija also boasts the distinction of having clerked for two federal judges. Judge Dorsey, nominated by President Obama to the US District Court for the District of Nevada, selected Raija as her first law clerk hire on the bench. Helping Judge Dorsey build a judgeship from the ground up, Raija says, was excellent training for practice. In addition, Raija clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit under the esteemed Judge Daniel A. Manion. Supporting negotiations in settlement conferences and working on complex civil litigation, Raija was entirely immersed in the world of intense litigation training.

"We need people who can build bridges."

Raija views law as a powerful tool for reconciliation. "Often law can be divisive, but it can also be healing, restorative. I want to be able to be that bridge builder." Her goal as a compliance attorney is to help companies conduct business with integrity. Training at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Raija honed the skills necessary to frame legal analysis issues  and bolster the virtue and subsequent credibility of a company. Raija points to Professor Jim Gash as a model of someone who uses the law for healing. Having spent a portion of her own childhood in East Africa, Raija admires the light being shed on injustices in Uganda by Professor Gash. She hopes to take her practice full circle and join the group next summer as a part of the Global Justice mission.

"I'm grateful I went to Pepperdine. God has been very kind."

As a child of NGO relief workers, Raija naturally developed her own deep sense of justice. She viewed a JD as an effective means to give voice to the voiceless through proper application of the law. Law, she says, is her healing art. In effect, law school helped give her a voice, a chance to peacefully confront injustice, and Pepperdine was the only law school where she applied. Today, she practices anti-bribery law, helping companies navigate international business without accepting bribes. Through her firm, she has also been involved in representing victims of the Madoff Ponzi scheme in litigation and mediation proceedings. Guided by her Christian principles and high ethical standards, Raija forged her own path to success. We are proud to call her a member of the Pepperdine network who exemplifies a life of devoted to justice.