Graduate Profile: Cortez Downey, L’22

Student leader pursuing a passion for privacy law

Cortez Downey in graduation regalia
Photo courtesy of Cortez Downey.

During his second year at KU Law, Cortez Downey took a course in Privacy Law. The class, taught by Professor Najarian Peters, set Downey on a career path.

“Professor Peters introduced me to the complex, fascinating, and ever-changing world of privacy law, and it has become a passion of mine,” Downey said.

After graduating this month, Downey plans to join a large law firm in Houston as a data privacy and cybersecurity attorney. In addition to taking courses in privacy and cybersecurity law, Downey founded the KU Privacy & Cybersecurity Society, a student organization that promotes current legal issues in the field. He also attended the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) Global Summit in Washington, D.C. in April.

“KU Law prepared me for the workforce by offering several classes in my field of interest – privacy and security,” Downey said. “Also, I found it beneficial that some of my courses were taught by adjunct faculty currently working in their respective subject area. This positioned them to incorporate some of their day-to-day into the learning, which I found valuable.”

This semester, Downey joined nine classmates in Washington, D.C. as part of the 6th Semester in D.C. Program. Students in the program spend their final semester of law school working in field placements and taking classes in the nation’s capital. The experience of being in D.C. during the historic confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court was especially impactful, Downey said.

“Being in a new and exciting city – particularly one with so many lawyers – was a great way to meet people and expand my network,” Downey said. “Being in D.C. during Justice Jackson’s confirmation and being able to attend the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) Global Summit were amazing experiences.”

Downey has been an active student leader at KU Law, working with organizations including the Black Law Students Association, Student Ambassadors and Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council. As president of the Black Law Students Association, Downey facilitated self-care, wellness education and meditation sessions for fellow students, and led efforts to raise over $4,000 for local charities during the annual Food & Textured Hair Care Drive. Downey has been co-president of the law school’s Student Ambassadors for two years, planning recruiting events and mentoring incoming students.

In 2021, Downey received the Law Class of 1949 Award for Leadership for the 2L class. The award is given annually to students who, in the opinion of the faculty, contributed most significantly to the overall experience of students in Green Hall. During three years at KU Law, Downey built a record of service and scholarship that completing legal internships through the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic and Mediation Clinic.

His favorite law school memories are of celebrating local teams with his classmates – from the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl win during his first year to “watching the Jayhawks win the NCAA championship at a local KU alumni hangout in D.C.,” Downey said.

Originally from Edmond, Oklahoma, Downey earned his undergraduate degrees in biology and Spanish from Oklahoma State University. He worked for four years with the Houston Independent School District as a high school teacher and college & career advisor before enrolling at KU Law.

As he gets ready for his career in privacy and cybersecurity law, Downey is looking forward to a new type of advising role.

“I am excited about growing in my capacity as an attorney and mentoring other aspiring attorneys, particularly those interested in privacy and/or security,” he said.

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the third in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2022. Check out previous stories about Olivia Black and Parker Bednasek. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.