Interview with Sameer Sheikh

What do you remember most about being a PPE major? What did you like about it?

I was not sure what major I wanted to pursue when I first joined Penn, but I was attracted to PPE because of the breadth of coursework available within a multidisciplinary framework. I specifically remember taking a seminar class on behavioral game theory, which was one of the most fascinating classes I took during my time at Penn. The unique, multidisciplinary coursework of the PPE major is what I appreciated most. I also really liked both my PPE and College of Arts and Sciences advisors. I had a great College advisor in Srilata Gangulee and a wonderful PPE major advisor in Sumantra Sen. So, yes, what I remember and liked most about being a PPE major was the breadth of coursework and the great advisors that provided me with guidance during my time at Penn.

I noticed that you attended Boston College Law School, but took a few years to determine whether that was the right path for you. Was there a specific point in your undergraduate career when you decided you definitely wanted to go to law school?

When I was an undergrad, I didn’t anticipate applying to law school. In fact, it was not until after I graduated, when I was working in the field of microfinance at the Grameen Foundation that I became interested in obtaining a law degree. When I initially considered attending law school, I was working in microfinance for the Grameen Foundation and thought that I might return to the field and work in the area of microfinance regulation. When I got to law school, however, I discovered a newfound interest in litigation and saw the potential to do work that would also have a positive societal impact.

Can you talk more about what your work entails day-to-day, and if it has any direct correlation with what you studied as a PPE major? 

The firm where I work, Kellogg Huber Hansen, specializes in trial and appellate litigation and has a strong Supreme Court practice. As a young attorney, I work on cases that involve a wide variety of issues and thus I am continuously developing new areas of expertise.  The breadth of subject matter and diverse curriculum of the PPE major were helpful in preparing me for my career as a lawyer.

When you were pursuing opportunities after graduation, such as the one that you were able to secure at the Grameen Foundation, was there a specific way that you framed the PPE major in a professional setting that you feel like put you at an advantage towards other students?

During my interviews, I met some people along the way who were not familiar with PPE, as a multi-disciplinary major. As a result, I spent time in interviews talking about the PPE major, why it was significant in my undergraduate experience, and what made it special. I touched on these points earlier, but I would emphasize the fact that it is a multi-disciplinary program of study with a diverse curriculum that allows students to develop both quantitative and qualitative analytical skills.

Was your study abroad experience in Paris something that you would recommend to PPE students -something you felt was integral to your time at Penn?

Absolutely.  I think it was one of the most important experiences I had as a college student. I remember it being particularly helpful in figuring out what I wanted to do after college. I ended up taking a semester off from Penn after my year in Paris to pursue an opportunity to work at the United Nations headquarters in New York as an advisor (the title I was given as an intern) to the President of the Economic and Social Council. It was an unpaid internship position and a great opportunity that came out my time studying abroad.

Was there a particular reason why you chose to attend Boston College Law School? In hindsight, how do you feel about your decision?

Although there were financial considerations (including the fact that I was offered a merit scholarship), I ultimately chose Boston College Law School because of its smaller size, emphasis on community and the positive experience I had from talking to then-current students and alumni. It ended up being a fantastic decision. I have great relationships with my professors -and in fact I’m going out to dinner with one of them next week when she visits Washington, D.C.I developed enduring relationships with the school, its faculty and many of my classmates. I don’t know if I would have had the same experience at a larger law school.

For students who are determining whether law school is the right path, as someone who has completed law school and is working at a firm right now, do you have any tips to help students decide whether it is the right decision for them?

That is a difficult question, and one that I get a lot. It is an individual decision that must take into account time and cost considerations. What I will say though is that people shouldn’t go to law school with the sole intent of pursuing a career that will pay a lot of money. People who go to law school with the desire to develop new skills and a way of thinking, who perhaps have a desire to understand better what their rights are, and who want to develop a career path that is not constricted by any one particular occupation -those are often the ones who are not only successful but happy with their decision to go to law school.