Priya Chaudhry On Standing Up to Bullies And Following the Truth
March 5, 2024

Nationally recognized as a premier criminal trial lawyer, Priya Chaudhry has had nearly 50 jury trials in 25 years of practice in some of the nation’s most complicated and high-profile criminal cases, Ms. Chaudhry’s formidable career in criminal defense wins regular recognition, including: Chambers and Partners, American Board of Criminal Lawyers, Super Lawyers, National Trial Lawyers, Corporate LiveWire, American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys, National Association of Distinguished Counsel, and America’s Top 100 Criminal Defense Attorneys.

"Follow the truth and you will never lose your way. Find something you’re passionate about and run as fast and hard as you can towards it. "

Recently you were quoted in The Cut saying “Since you can’t cosplay as “an old white man, I might as well wear things that are awesome and bold.” What has your experience been like building your career in an industry that is still largely dominated by white men?

Being instantly cast as an “outsider,” both for my gender and race, has freed me to explore my individuality and personal brand in extremely liberating ways. At first, being stopped by court staff and asked if I’m the interpreter, paralegal, or client used to feel embarrassing and minimizing. In fact, just last month, security officers in federal court in Salt Lake City—where I was lead counsel for a sentencing in a high-profile criminal case—asked me if I was there to be naturalized as a US Citizen. Now I use people’s instant judgment, implicit bias, and extreme underestimation of me as a jiujitsu opportunity to wow them. Also, because I don’t look like my colleagues (and because of our vastly different life experiences, don’t think like them), I have created my own unique space in criminal defense trial law where I am free to be creative, unorthodox, authentic, and as a result, effective. 

In the same article you mentioned that you do this job because you hate bullies. Can you please extrapolate on how your early experiences shaped your career?

Every child with brown skin in our country has a front row seat to bullying by all those with power, which in America, has deliberately been one group. This happens early—from watching how teachers treat your parents to who gets in trouble on the playground—and at every level—from local police harassing certain kids to prosecutors using the endless resources of the government to force guilty pleas out of the innocent. Early in my legal career I was surrounded by NYPD officers on a subway and taken off the train for questioning—with neither probable cause nor a warrant—likely because they didn’t realize that I’m a lawyer who knows her rights. I still get bullied, including in the very courthouses where I have earned my name, by people uniformed and empowered to assert their whims over those they think have no recourse. Our governments use their nearly unrestrained power and limitless funds to crush those that deserve the most compassion and mercy—those who have been systematically disinherited by our country. The fight for justice is inherently a fight against bullies. This fight started hundreds of years ago and will continue long after my name is forgotten. 

What leadership advice has propelled you throughout your career?

Follow the truth and you will never lose your way. Find something you’re passionate about and run as fast and hard as you can towards it. 

Who is a woman you admire?

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who set the standard for what it means to Fight Like a Girl. An intellectual behemoth who was both principled and ruthless in her devotion to justice, even those with opposing views respected RBG for her integrity.

What’s one thing you can’t live without?

Dogs, especially rescue dogs. Possibly the most perfect creatures on earth.

What is one big trend you’re excited about in 2024?

A much-needed deceleration of the #MeToo pendulum. We do not advance women by abandoning due process, evidence, and reason; gender-bias in either direction is still gender-bias—not equality. 


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