Vinoo Varghese frequently appears as a legal expert on CNN, CBS News, and Fox Business News, among other television networks. He has been rated as a New York Metro Super Lawyer and a Martindale AV Preeminent attorney in the white collar criminal defense arena for the past several years. Since 2014, he has acted as an alumni mentor to NYU College of Arts and Science students. We caught up with Vinoo at the Varghese & Associates, P.C. offices to find out his advice for the Class of 2018.
What did you study at NYU?
I majored in Philosophy and studied Religion while I attended NYU. I’d competed in Speech and Debate in elementary school and high school, and during my first year at NYU. During my junior and senior years, I had a great experience acting as a Resident Assistant (R.A.) in Goddard, and I was a Conference Assistant for two summers. I grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, so I was a local.
During my sophomore year, I became the President of the NYU South Asian Students Association aka Shruti, which was very active on campus. I also started a successful petition to have Hindi added to the curriculum, and in my senior year I got to take the first Hindi class offered at NYU.
Vinoo Varghese: his story continues
Can you talk about your career trajectory?
I always knew that I was going to go to law school, but I wanted to work for a few years before starting school again. After college, I found a position through an NYU job fair, working in social services at the Metropolitan Hospital in East Harlem. I worked there for two years, then completed my law school applications and taught Princeton Review for a year. I went to Brooklyn Law School where I participated in a number of criminal law externships.
Immediately after law school, I was fortunate enough to work at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. When working there, I was promoted to Senior Assistant District Attorney, and headed the “Assault on Police Officers Program,” that investigated attempted murders on police officers. After six years, I realized I wanted to work in criminal defense and I launched Varghese & Associates, P.C. in 2006.
Why do you act as an alumni mentor?
NYU was good to me and mentoring is my way of giving back. I was a recipient of the Thomas J. Sweeney, Jr. Scholarship. The scholarship was wonderful. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to go to NYU. I was also in the CAS University Honors Scholars program. As part of the program, I got to travel the world. My group visited Berlin just a few years after the wall fell, we also went to Prague, Athens, and Rio de Janiero. I am still good friends with several alumni who I met during the program.
I am committed to nurturing legal talent and, in addition to mentoring, I have also hired a number of NYU students who are really interested in the law, currently this group includes Charles Calkins (CAS ’18), Katie Lanphere (CAS ’18), and Shirley Foo (CAS ’18). I have extended an offer to Charles to work as a full time paralegal upon his graduation—which he accepted. Katie will be doing Teach for America in Nashville for two years and Shirley will be starting at Columbia Law School in the fall.
I give them the opportunity to learn how to conduct interviews, go to jails, and see how a courtroom works. I describe it as “boot camp” for the real world. I am still in touch with many of them, including Elizabeth Levin (CAS ’16) who worked for me from January to December 2014. She is currently studying at Yale Law School.
What advice do you have for the Class of 2018?
Don’t worry so much, and don’t compare yourself to other people. In my experience, NYU students are highly motivated and work hard. I recommend doing things early in your career to set the foundation for future success and thinking long-term. Remember that life is long, and your career will have ups and downs, and you need to weather the storms by staying steady.