Equipped to Lead and Succeed

One to Watch: Thao "Annie" Le ’24

Thao “Annie” Le’s law school experiences have centered on advocating for survivors of domestic violence.

Through a clerkship with Bay Area Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Unit, an externship with Family Violence Appellate Project, a summer internship with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, and a Spring 2024 judicial externship with the SF Unified Family Court, Le is gaining an insider’s understanding of the ways the law can be a tool for safety and empowerment of survivors.

The recipient of numerous USF alumni-funded scholarships, Le immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam as a teenager, and says her childhood experiences steered her toward law school and the goal of preventing gender-based abuse. She has served as co-chair of USF’s Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF), worked as a Moot Court case counsel, published an article in USF’s Law Review Forum, won Best Brief at the Advanced Moot Court Competition in 2022, and received the Honorable Mention for Exemplary Performance during the Intensive Advocacy Program.

Did you dream of becoming a lawyer as a kid?

No. My first courtroom experience was during my parents’ divorce, so it was hard to picture myself working in the legal field. In addition, you can’t be what you can’t see. As a first generation college graduate, I did not meet any female lawyers until I started my undergraduate studies at UC Irvine. In my first quarter there, and partially because of the 2016 presidential election, I began attending legal events to try and make sense of the world and learn how social issues were connected, and eventually I decided to pursue law.

What is one of your most memorable experiences at USF?

I was shocked when I won Best Brief at the USF Advanced Moot Court Competition in 2022 (formerly known as the Advocate of the Year Competition). I’m thankful for Seaf Hartley ‘23 who completely revamped the competition to include workshops. I grew as a writer and advocate in such a short period of time. Seaf now passes the torch to me to serve as the next Advanced Moot Court Competition director.

Which class has challenged you the most?

Appellate Advocacy was both challenging and empowering. Before I took the class, I only knew how to cite existing law. I did not know how to question the court’s decisions or push the envelope. Professor Monalisa Vu ‘01 encouraged students to think creatively, read dissents, interpret texts, examine history, notice policy trends, etc. She set a high standard and wholeheartedly believed in us. Because of Appellate Advocacy, I completed my upper-level research and writing requirement, and one of the class’s guest speakers hired me for an appellate externship!

What is the best way to de-stress as a law student?

Just keep swimming…swimming…swimming....Throughout my entire life, I’ve viewed swimming as a survival skill, both in case of emergency and as a routine for my mental health. Since 1L year, I’ve trained with the USF Swim Club. Legal work is endless, so scheduled swim practices hold me accountable to take pauses. I have to be 100% present, learn to breathe, drown out distractions, and make the most of every second.