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UHLC alumna Nigam '01 fights for human trafficking victims

Anjali Nigam '01

Anjali Nigam '01

March 8, 2021 - When Anjali Nigam heard about an injunction brought against victims of human trafficking, she was shocked to discover the plaintiffs were the very governmental institutions that were supposed to protect them. 

"Human trafficking is described as modern-day slavery," Nigam, a 2001 graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, said. "Victims of human trafficking are subjected to atrocities most of us can never understand. Victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation are compelled to engage in prostitution and other criminal activity."

The State of Texas and Harris County brought forth an injunction with the goal of shutting down prostitution on what is referred to as the Bissonnet Track in southwest Houston, an area infamous for open air illicit activity.

"They filed this suit because they believed this injunction would help fight prostitution," Nigam said. "They were wrong."

The injunction, titled the 2018 Bissonnet Zone case, raised numerous Constitutional concerns and Nigam revisited what Professor David Dow taught her during her 1L year at the Law Center.

"I had to pull out my handwritten notes from back in the day," Nigam said.

The injunction was non-suited in January, and Nigam said she considers it among the best moments of her career. Nigam is naturally passionate about pro-bono work, but her fire burns brighter when taking on cases that deal with vulnerable populations.

"The core of every lawyer should be to help others," Nigam said. "Pro bono work is part of that duty we have as lawyers to help others. If as lawyers we do not protect those who need defending, we have not done our job."

Thanks to her selfless work and commitment to aid the Houston legal community, Nigam is set to take office next year as president of the Houston Trial Lawyers Association, an organization that prides itself on diversity. 

"As an organization dedicated to plaintiffs' lawyers across Texas, we have actively worked on increasing diversity, community service and helping the legal community," she said. "Diversity in leadership is very important. The Houston Trial Lawyers Association actively works on making sure leadership and involvement with the organization reflect the melting pot in Houston and Texas."

One of Nigam's primary goals to tackle once in office deals with mental health in the legal arena.

"Raising awareness and acceptance regarding mental health issues in the legal industry is key," Nigam said. "Daniel Horowitz, a prior HTLA president, made it his mission to address this issue within the legal community. I would like to continue this work."

In her career as a trial lawyer, Nigam is able to apply the lessons and methods of preparation she learned from law school.

"Everything starts with the Socratic method," she said. "I remember being called on by Professor Meredith Duncan. The pressure of having over 100 pairs of eyes on you while answering challenging questions gave me the confidence to stand up in a courtroom.

"The Socratic method also taught me about being prepared," she said. "Success in the courtroom starts with preparation. A trial lawyer knows one wrong move can destroy a case. The intellectual stimulation is fantastic."

In addition to her pro-bono efforts and her role in HTLA, Nigam is the founding attorney of The Nigam Law Firm , where she fights for clients who have experienced traumatic and life-changing events.

"The best part of running my own firm is getting to decide what cases I will take," Nigam said. "Representing people who are hurt taps into my desire to help the community. When someone comes to you in need, and you help them; you know you have done something good. As a lawyer. There is nothing better."