Student Spotlight: Nir Maoz, Class of ’15

Nir MaozNir Maoz, Class of ’15, graduated from UC Berkeley with a major in Political Science and Legal Studies. He then attended Berkeley Law, receiving his J.D. in 2019 with a Certificate in Business Law. Maoz is currently an associate with KTBS Law LLP, a Los Angeles-based law firm that focuses on corporate restructuring. Maoz has the longest-standing affiliation with the Institute of any student, having been in the first cohort of Undergraduate Fellows; he remained involved as a law student, helping facilitate the Undergraduate Fellows Program. He currently sits on the Institute’s advisory board. 


How did you initially become involved with the Helen Diller Institute?

My freshman year of undergrad I started attending a lot of Institute events. At that point, there weren’t as many opportunities for student engagement because the Undergraduate Fellows Program didn’t exist yet. I took a class on Comparative Constitutional Law with a visiting law school professor from Hebrew University, Barack Medina. Through this course, I connected with Institute staff, who let me know about the Undergraduate Fellows Program they were hoping to start. I applied and started as a Fellow my sophomore year.


What was it like to be among the first cohort of Undergraduate Fellows?

 In the beginning it was really exciting because it was a new program, and we all had a lot of freedom to explore our own interests. We were able to just run with it and create the types of programming that we found interesting, which I think is largely similar to what the Institute still provides to Fellows. I was really interested in innovation in Israel, so as a Fellow I was able to lead a DeCal about innovation and entrepreneurship. We looked at innovation from a comparative standpoint, studying innovation both in the United States and in Israel. We brought a lot of interesting speakers from both Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley.

The other very exciting thing we all did as fellows was hosting an exhibit called “From India to Israel”, which coincided with an exhibit at The Magnes about the Cochin Jews. Many of the Jewish and Israel-focused groups on campus teamed up with South Asian student groups to celebrate the intersections of these two cultures. We had Israeli food and Indian food, and the Jewish acapella group and the South Asian acapella group did a performance together. It really highlighted an interesting aspect of Jewish history.

I also took a class with Itay Fischhendler, an Institute Visiting Professor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, about water and border disputes. We started talking about how, in addition to water, there are other natural resources that countries rely on, and those resources are often used in political disputes in the form of sanctions. Professor Fischhendler decided to write an article on this topic, and we ended up working together on the research. I went to Hebrew University in Jerusalem for a few months to continue the research project after I graduated with my bachelor’s. Professor Fischhendler and I ended up publishing an article in a highly rated journal, which was a huge academic highlight for me. The article wasn’t directly related to Israel, but it certainly was inspired by a lot of the interesting things that I was exposed to as a Fellow.


How did the Institute change your experience as a Jewish student and as someone interested in Israel Studies?

The Institute allowed me to explore my interest in Israel and Judaism through an academic lens. It really complimented my cultural and political interests and created a more holistic understanding of what it means to be someone who cares about Israel, someone who is Jewish, and someone who has a strong Jewish identity. Growing up, I was always exposed to Judaism through my parents and friends and was exposed to Israel by visiting and having family there, but learning about both in an academic manner really helped me solidify my identity.


You are the student with the longest-standing relationship with the Institute, having been an Undergraduate Fellow, been involved with the Institute in law school, and now through your service on the advisory board. How have you grown through this relationship?

Shortly after I got my bachelor’s degree, I joined the advisory board of the Institute along with a few other former students. I was involved even before starting law school. Although the Institute was housed in the law school when I was in undergrad, there wasn’t a lot of interaction with law school students and professors. As a law school student who already knew about the Institute and its resources, I was able to bridge that gap by connecting the law school groups with the Institute and hosting events. We brought Israeli lawyers who talked about interesting cases that had to do with Israel. I took a class with Professor Bamberger on Jewish Law, which was one of my favorite law school classes. It allowed me to gain a unique perspective on the law. There were very smart legal thinkers a thousand years ago who wrote the Talmud. Obviously U.S. law is very different, but that mode of thinking informs much of what I do today as a lawyer.


What have you been up to since law school?

I am a corporate restructuring attorney in Los Angeles. I work for a small law firm. I love being an attorney because it’s both challenging and interesting. There are new problems that need to be solved that come up every day. I constantly get to learn new things, which I think is one unique thing about being a lawyer — you are always learning. The corporate restructuring practice also has a lot of room for creativity, which perhaps is why I truly love what I do.


Do you have any specific pieces of advice for undergraduates interested in pursuing a career in law?

Students interested in law school and being attorneys should really try to explore why that is. Take some time to see what else is out there. One summer I interned in DC at a think tank and was very interested in national security work. Although I liked it and had a great time, I learned very quickly that I would never want to pursue it as a career. If, after exploring other options, you still want to be a lawyer, then go for it. Taking a Jewish Law class with Professor Bamberger highlighted to me how I really love that way of thinking. I love analyzing interesting and complex legal problems and working my way through them. Even though it was in the context of Jewish law, that same mode of thinking applies in every type of legal work. It cemented the fact that being a lawyer was the right career path for me.


Exploring other interests is really useful. There may be a class you’re very interested in taking but it isn’t in line with your plan. If you’re a political science student and there is a music, econ, or French class you’re interested in, you should take it even if it doesn’t count for anything. You’re only a student once (or maybe twice at most), so really take advantage of the time you have to learn.