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Zoom School of Law: From meme to moneymaker

Struggling to find joy in online classes, Sadie Hillier a joke that ends up helping vulnerable people nationwide.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, one clever law student transformed the distressing idea of online law school into a multi-thousand dollar organization. Sadie Hillier’s Zoom Law School merchandise raised more than $46,000, all of which was donated to Feeding America and other nonprofits.

A meme goes viral

Hillier was in her last semester at Harvard Law School when she received news that classes would continue online. Like most law students, she struggled with the transition to video conference classrooms, conducted on Zoom at her school. To lighten the mood, Hillier used Photoshop to create a meme with a “Zoom School of Law” logo. She posted it in a Facebook group for fellow law students and deemed it “our new law school crest.”

The photo was an instant hit, and Hillier realized it could be used for more than comic relief during the pandemic. She chose to sell merchandise with the Zoom School of Law logo and donate the proceeds to charity.

However, finding a clothing company to endorse the idea was no easy feat. With new public-health restrictions in place and international unease setting in, many companies worried Hillier was making light of the pandemic and declined to produce the merchandise. After much perseverance, Hillier finally connected with a design company that agreed to take on the project.

To Hillier’s surprise, Zoom School of Law merchandise raked in 4,610 orders totaling $31,800 in just two weeks. Due to high demand, Hillier has since renewed the merchandise six times for further sales.

“I set out thinking we would make $500,” said Hillier. “I checked every hour expecting sales to stop, but they just kept growing.”

The drive helps cross country

All the proceeds from the first campaign were donated to Feeding America. Once the organization gained substantial public support through social media campaigns, Hillier shifted to donating the proceeds to other charities.

Students who follow Zoom School of Law on Twitter suggest groups or individuals who need support for Hillier to consider.

So far Hillier has donated to eight different nonprofits, including the Audelia Community Response Team, the Homeless Black Trans Women Fund, The Navajo Nation and White Mountain Apache COVID-19 Relief Fund, the Metro Atlanta Mutual Aid Fund, the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign, and the Formerly Incarcerated Small Business Rescue Fund. Donations have also been given to a woman who was unable to afford medication refills and an indigenous low-income family battling eviction.

Hillier continues to donate the proceeds from Zoom School of Law sales to nonprofits recommended by her Twitter followers. The merchandise will remain available until classes return in person.

A dedication to service

Hillier dedicates her legal education to reforming the country’s criminal justice system. As a student, she served as the co-executive director of the Prison Legal Assistance Project at Harvard, through which she advocated for parole expansion. Now Hillier balances studying for the Massachusetts bar exam with a move to Phoenix, where she’ll work with the Capital Habeas Unit representing persons sentenced to death.

“This is literally my dream job, and to get it straight out of law school is super exciting,” Hillier said.

Hillier’s experience with Zoom School of Law improved the lives of many throughout a strange time in our country’s history. She cherishes the opportunity to stand in solidarity with other law students and face the challenges of a global pandemic together.

“My favorite thing to come out of Zoom School of Law has been the unity,” Hillier said. “If Zoom School of Law had a motto, it would have been ‘we’re all classmates now.’”

Alexandra Brod Alexandra Brod is a rising 2L at Widener University Delaware Law School. She graduated from The University of Iowa and was the editor of the Iowa Journalist Alumni Magazine.