Former Teacher Aims to Use JD to Pursue Education Reform
After spending years teaching for both Teach for America and the Los Angeles Unified School District, Julien Kacou ’17 learned an important lesson: A law degree is a useful tool to protect the rights of the most at-risk students. Now an associate at Big Law firm Skadden, it was an inspiration for his law school journey.
A native of West Covina, Calif., Kacou mentored school children in South Los Angeles as an undergraduate student. That experience fueled Kacou’s passion for teaching. After graduation, he joined Teach For America, a nonprofit teaching corps. He encountered challenges instructing middle-school children with special needs. “It was definitely hard, but you finally saw the greatness of it at the end.” The experience prompted him to pursue a master’s in special education from Loyola Marymount University and opened his eyes to the powers of legal training.
Throughout his tenure as a teacher, Kacou saw an alarming trend: his seventh- and eighth-grade students first entered his class, many were reading at second grade or lower levels. Instead of assisting these children at the primary-school level, other teachers were pushing them through the system without addressing their needs, forcing the students to perpetually play catch-up. By the time the students reached high school, they might not have what they need to succeed with their education.
“I wanted to go to law school to change this,” he says. By enacting policy changes, he hopes to help Angeleno special needs students realize their full potentials. “I want to advocate for special needs and ensure that they’re getting the service that they need to get every step of the way.”
As a law student, Kacou found a niche in public-interest law. He was co-chair of the Public Interest Law Fair’s Casino & Auction Night, the law school's largest on-campus fundraiser, which supports students’ pro bono summer legal work. After receiving his JD, he served as law clerk to the Hon. Ferdinand F. Fernandez, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Now, as a law firm associate, he focuses his practice on real estate.