Q&A with Priya
What makes a good trial lawyer?
Litigators are not necessarily trial lawyers and vice versa. It takes significant experience in the courtroom to feel comfortable there, and to know what you're doing. There's a big difference between making an argument to a judge and communicating with a jury of twelve laypersons. A good trial lawyer is not only competent but conveys compassion, because the jury is going to make a judgment in the very beginning, ‘Can I trust this person?’
What drove you to become a federal prosecutor?
As the daughter of Indian immigrants and at that time in private practice, I vowed to give back to the country that had welcomed my family and nurtured me. It became a priority for me, as it did for a lot of people. As much as I might like to be a warrior, I saw that I could best serve my country by representing it. As a federal prosecutor I served at the pleasure of the President and the Attorney General, and I took that obligation very seriously.
What do you see as key to the client-attorney relationship?
Trust. Clients deserve counsel that is completely trustworthy, who's always going to be looking out for them and advocating for their best interests. I'm not the kind of attorney who sugarcoats things for my clients. I think that's a disservice. I will always tell it the way it is, even if it's something they might not want to hear. As a straight shooter, I maintain a clear, unbiased, analytical focus on their issues. I don't like to make decisions based on emotion or any sort of personal preference. Instead, clients tell me what the scenario is, and I weigh their options for them. The better I assess risks for them, the better I'm doing my job. Ultimately the client has to make a business decision, and I respect that decision.
What’s an early childhood memory that showed you the pathway to the courtroom?
My love of and early experience in formal debate. I participated on debate teams in middle school, high school, and college— an experience that drove me toward the law. It was the need to put all that advocacy training to use in my profession. Becoming a lawyer seemed like the best combination of what I enjoyed and what I do well.
Why is diversity important to you?
The legal profession has changed. I represent a new generation of attorneys, one with diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and perspectives that can help their clients prevail at trial. I tell my clients that the face of America is changing, the face of corporate America is changing, the face of consumers is changing, and the face of jurors is changing. Companies must consider the benefits of hiring lawyers who reflect that change, who reflect the jury pool. One of my clients actually said to me, ‘You're the face of what I would like people to think of my company.’