Meet the Inaugural Class - Sam Lam
Editor's note: This is part of a year-long series of features profiling the individual members of the UC Irvine School of Law Inaugural Class. We hope you enjoy getting to know a little bit about each student in this dynamic first class.
Hometown: San Fernando Valley-Los Angeles
Undergrad major: Physics
Iconic symbol: Sketch of a hyperbola
Sam Lam refers to himself as a nerd, or a geek.
But is he, really? Somehow, this jovial, congenial, well-dressed guy doesn't quite fit the narrowed stereotype.
Let's review the evidence.
Exhibit A: Well, he is smart. He studied Physics at UC Berkeley because, essentially, he did well on the AP Physics exam in high school. "When you ask an 18-year-old what they want to major in, they don't really know, and I didn't. So I did the best with what I had, which was that I knew I was good at math ... and science," Lam says. "And I just wanted to explore something that interested me, and it did all four years."
Exhibit B: After graduating from Berkeley, Lam got a job as an administrative assistant for the largest research group (200 people) at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences lab. "Some people would say it was uber-clerical, but I don't think of that as pejorative anyway. It was very, very, very hands-on and I learned a lot of my organizational skills there."
Then he worked in software engineering for three years. OK, nerd career track, perhaps.
But then, there's Exhibit C: Lam's decision to go to law school. Being a lawyer wasn't even in his realm of thinking, but the idea was seeded by Lam's friendly nature. He was chatting with a co-worker at the software company who was considering going back to school, and the co-worker suggested Lam also could pursue a different career path - perhaps combining technology with the law.
Through talking with friends who went to law school, and his interactions with the legal department at the software company, Lam slowly realized, "This might actually be for me." He was inspired, especially, by the thought that lawyering is a "human attempt at applying basic universal principles like human ethics ... to the world."
You can watch the video above to see and hear Lam elaborate on this.
More about Sam, in his own words:
If I weren't in law school I'd be ...
I'd probably be still at my current job as a software engineer but really, really deeply exploring the career trajectory there. The IT industry is very interesting to me. I would have gotten even nerdier, if that were possible. (Smiles.)
While waiting for the jury to reach a verdict, I would ...
Oh, easy - I'd be reading a book. I'd be reading a non-fiction book on some topic that was not core to the main thing I was doing at that point in my life.
"Law & Order" or "Boston Legal"?
"Law & Order." I actually have a fascination with criminal law specifically ... I am more fascinated in not so much the legal aspects, but the social context surrounding the legal aspects.
The Story Behind the Symbol (pictured in his portrait photo):
Last night I asked my brother for help on this (assignment to bring a symbolic item to the interview). I asked him, "What do you think might be an item that symbolizes or represents me?" and he said, "What one item could represent such eccentricity?"
So I said, "Oh, easy" and I drew a hyperbola, because a hyperbola has a mathematical eccentricity greater than 1.
Favorite song to study to:
Nowadays when I read, I don't listen to music as much anymore; if I do, I listen to classical music. But even that's changing, because some classical music actually gets me really excited. I listened to music a lot in undergrad and it was not good, I could not focus.
But music I'd listen to during a study break ... Justin Timberlake, something that just gets my mind off (study) and I could just dance to it.
Last non-legal book read:
Hmmmmm ... (long pause as he mulls, his eyes searching the ceiling ...) Oh - Lamb by Christopher Moore, that's one of the last books I read that really stands out. I think the subtitle is "The Gospel of Christ according to his childhood pal, Biff." (Smiles and chuckles.) I grew up Christian so I have a very interesting relationship with the Christian church and with the religion. It's very near and dear to my heart in a very dynamic way. I actually think that some people might not even call me Christian any more. But that book has a wicked sense of humor about the whole story.
I am very comfortable with the grey area. I don't like to make a lot of commitments, especially ideological commitments. I even hate to use the word "moderate," because people usually confuse "moderate" with being a centrist, which I'm not. I do have opinons about things. So I even hate to call myself a Christian because I have a diverse spiritual background: I meditate every day. Some may call that not Christian; I consider it just basic spiritual methodology ... I have a sense of humor about the whole thing, I don't take myself too seriously. Which is probably why I like that Christopher Moore book.
Last meal request:
It's a toss-up between my mom's beef macaroni dish with eggs, or my youngest aunt's Bánh Bột Chiên - Vietnamese fried rice cake.