MJ Townsend is from San Clemente, California and grew up a lover of nature and all things outdoors. Labeling herself as a tree hugger, she believes law school is truly for everyone and does not require anything fancy or special. After completing an undergrad at BYU in Environmental Science, an interest in the legal and policy side of things inspired MJ to go to law school. Her mission in New York City, where she worked mainly with Spanish speaking immigrants, also shed light on the many problems and conflicts surrounding immigration.
Despite acceptance to several schools in California, MJ chose BYU Law School. This was largely due to amazing interactions and first impressions she had with professors. MJ felt deeply that BYU Law School was the best fit for her. These first impressions with professors only grew for MJ as she looks back and admits that her professors were by far her favorite part of BYU Law School. MJ said that “so many of them literally changed my life and the way that I think of things” through the ways they taught her both professionally and personally.
This was exemplified by her trip to Uganda with Professor Brigham Daniels. Not only was the legal experience amazing, but traveling with a professor made her realize what good people her professors were outside of the classroom. MJ reflects, “In addition to just learning the law I felt like I was learning how to be a better human by incorporating these ideals of racial justice and kindness through experience.” Club involvement and even running the St. George Half Marathon with Professor Kif Augustine-Adams were also special experiences to learn with her professors outside of the classroom. These relationships were especially critical for MJ as she dealt with the unique challenges of online learning in a Covid-19 world.
MJ managed to play on 14 intramural teams (and secured two (additional) intramural champion t-shirts) during her three in-person semesters at BYU Law. Team sports have always been a big part of MJ's life, and she tries to carry a "team mentality" with her in all her endeavors. Law school was no different. So while Covid and the resulting switch to online learning put an end to her time on the sports field, MJ still cherished her experiences on the law review, journal of public law, moot court, and various other "teams" at the law school until she graduated with honors in 2021.
MJ admits that law school was challenging in many ways, but she enjoyed it. The way law approaches difficult realities pushed her to learn in uncomfortable ways. She remembers confronting difficult parts within herself as classes covered raw and controversial issues. She reflects that “learning things about myself that were hard to admit and think through allowed me to grow and reconcile with them.” What was not challenging for MJ, however, was clutching four intramural championships during her time at BYU, two of which were won in law school.
Even as a recent graduate, giving back is a big deal to MJ. “BYU Law has shaped my life experience in so many ways. Instead of thinking of BYU Law as a building, I think of my professors and the career and lives that they built to help me. If I can contribute to their wellbeing or a student's wellbeing in any way, then that’s what I want to do.” MJ feels that sometimes giving back isn’t just monetary; even something as simple as showing up to the annual 1L breakfast makes a difference. As secretary for the Alumni Board, she hopes to continue enriching the future of the school in any aspect and spread awareness of future opportunities to connect.
After her graduation, MJ began clerking for Judge Ryan D. Tenney on the Utah Court of Appeals. She recently finished that clerkship and is now working for The Appellate Group, a small appellate litigation firm in Utah. In her spare time, MJ enjoys playing sports, traveling with her husband, and sneaking to her favorite surf spot in her hometown of San Clemente, CA as often as she can.