Alumna who sparked hit “Serial” podcast helps others understand the criminal justice system

Millions of people were captivated by the murder mystery case involving Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee, after George Mason University law school alumna Rabia Chaudry took the case to NPR and the hit podcast “Serial” was born.

Syed, who was convicted of murdering his high school ex-girlfriend, Lee, was sentenced to life in prison. But Chaudry, a family friend of Syed and attorney who got her start at Mason, has been advocating for his innocence for two decades. In March, she brought the story back to the national stage in HBO’s new documentary series, “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” where Chaudry is an executive producer and appears in the show.

She credits her time at Mason, particularly her first-year constitutional law class, for helping cultivate her strategic thinking.

Portrait of Rabia Chaudry. Woman wearing head scarf leans against the iron gate of an old building, gazing at the camera thoughtfully.
Rabia Chaudry 
Photo by: Ayesha Ahmed

“[My professor] employed the Socratic method, and he taught me to think differently,” said Chaudry, who was originally a pre-med student but switched to law after taking a stab at the LSAT and scoring in one of the highest percentiles.

“When you come from a science background, it’s mostly rote memorization,” Chaudry said. “With the Socratic method, it’s not just an answer you’ve memorized—you have to really think about what’s at the foundation of that answer, [and analyze] how can two people look at the same set of facts and come away with different conclusions?”

The Socratic method, along with in-class assessments, simulations, and field experiences, helps students learn to think like lawyers, analyzing problems so they can present their clients with thoughtful solutions, said Victoria Huber, the Scalia Law School’s associate dean for professional development who also taught Chaudry.

At Mason, graduates receive additional training, such as double the amount of legal research and analysis courses as compared to most other law schools, Huber said. “Those rigorous courses mixed with our tradition of students working in the field over multiple semesters really makes our law graduates ready to distinguish themselves in their fields of choice.”

During Chaudry’s time at Mason, she also took advantage of professional development opportunities in the Washington, D.C., area with an internship at a local immigration firm.

“I worked for the first year on only asylum cases and appeal work, and I loved it,” she said.

After graduating in 2000, Chaudry practiced immigration and civil rights law for more than a decade. Last year, she further helped her local community by doing legal asylum work, and she has been actively involved in interfaith work.

“My work seems really diverse, when people look at it on paper, but it’s not really,” Chaudry said. “Immigration, national security, and criminal justice are all in­timately intersectional."