Alumni Spotlight

Mike Orlando '01

Mike OrlandoAn Orange County native, Mike came to UCLA School of Law after graduating from Occidental College. According to Mike, “I’d majored in English literature, and was interested in the rigorous training in writing, language, and oral argument that I knew I’d get at UCLA Law.” He still recalls visiting Peter Arenella and Steve Munzer’s classes as a college senior, and thinking, “I’m not sure I want to be a lawyer, but I definitely want to learn from these professors.”

In the nearly fifteen years since he graduated from UCLA Law, Mike has built a career as a teacher and leader in K-12 independent schools. While he initially entered law school with an eye towards working in the public interest, or possibly criminal trial work, Mike’s career moved in an unpredictable--and equally rewarding--direction.

"After my 1L year, I ended up back at the summer camp I spent some time at in college. Despite my best intentions, I had a fantastic time and was great at the work, and the rest was pretty much history.” Mike decided to apply for jobs in education after his 3L year.

His first teaching job took him to the Bay Area, and he’s been there ever since. Mike currently teaches writing and social studies to middle school students at Helios School, a small Silicon Valley school for academically gifted K-8 students. His training as a lawyer comes through in his detail-oriented approach to instruction, as well as in his relationships with parents and students. “The kids and their families all know that I have this background, and they’re deeply intrigued by it. It’s a connection I can make--and a gravitas I hold-- with school community members."

Mike’s legal education provides professional distinction that has added topspin to his career. “I worked as head of a school in Marin County for a few years, a job I’m certain I wouldn’t have been offered at the tender age of 33 had it not been for my law background. The education I received at UCLA gave me an intuition about business, finance, and nonprofit management that other teachers generally don’t have.” Several years ago, Mike worked with a small group to found a small nonprofit that educates AIDS orphans in rural Kenya. “I spent nearly a month with the most remarkable people, in towns where flushing toilets and hot water were sometimes a dodgy proposition."

Mike encourages students to think outside the box in terms of their careers. “Going to UCLA Law has been one of the best decisions I ever made, for reasons I could have never predicted.”