“First year of law school,” Kim Kardashian West told US Vogue in her May cover interview, “you have to cover three subjects: criminal law, torts, and contracts.” (For the record, there are a few others, too, including constitutional law and civil procedure). For Kardashian, “Torts is the most confusing, contracts the most boring, and crim law I can do in my sleep. Took my first test, I got a 100. Super easy for me.”
Kardashian announced this week in the same interview that she began a four-year apprenticeship with a law firm in San Francisco last summer and wants to take the California bar exam in 2022. (She is not enrolled in law school. Under California law, aspiring lawyers can undertake an apprenticeship and if they pass the bar exam, they can practice law — even without a law school degree).
The reality superstar’s pivot to becoming a lawyer — apparently motivated by her stated desire to do more to improve the criminal justice system, “to fight to fix it,” — has prompted a mixed response. Many have predictably derided the move as idiotic, telling her to stay in her lane. Others have called the criticism sexist, highlighting the obvious comparison between Kardashian and Reese Witherspoon’s character in the 2001 movie “Legally Blonde,” Elle Woods — also initially dismissed in her law school efforts because of her looks and past persona.
The bottom line is this: Kardashian is inspiring for choosing a new path as a 38-year-old mother of three — and she is also the nauseatingly privileged proof that in today’s America, no option is off-limits for the very wealthy.
In many ways, this is the most interesting thing Kim Kardashian West has ever done. And it says a lot about the susceptibility of the public and press to her carefully-constructed image that so few saw this coming.
There are some obvious ways in which this path makes sense for Kardashian. Her father, Robert Kardashian, was a well-known lawyer, part of OJ Simpson’s defense team. She has already demonstrated an interest in the law, making herself heard on criminal justice issues and playing a significant part last year in President Trump’s release of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old woman who’d been in an Alabama prison on a nonviolent drug charge since 1996.
Meeting with Trump, alongside CNN commentator and activist Van Jones, plus several lawyers, Kardashian West helped persuade the President with a force of argument Jones described as “the most effective, emotionally intelligent intervention that I’ve ever seen in American politics.” She has also worked for months with #cut50, a bipartisan advocacy group aiming to reform the criminal-justice system. Compared with some of her other ventures — advertising dangerous slimming teas to her legions of young female fans, for example — this looks not just like a step in a far more positive direction, but a break from the brand the Kardashian family has built over the years.
The Kardashians are described in public discourse variously as mercenary, feminist, impressive, groundbreaking, and sickeningly superficial. There are strong arguments to be made for every case, but despite so many opposing characteristics, they tend to be referred to as a monolith — not individuals so much as component parts of a vast, unprecedented money machine.
Kim Kardashian, for years the most famous member of her family, was somehow the most Kardashian. She was the most polished, the most bankable (until sister Kylie Jenner’s ascent), almost inhumanly adapted to the constant whirl of 5 a.m. workouts, three-hour makeup sessions, photo shoots and paparazzi that the machine demanded. She leaned in to the living doll persona, which the media so eagerly bestowed upon her, and as a result, many now have difficulty imagining her as anything but that.
Throughout 16 seasons of the reality show that made her family world-famous, Kim’s demeanor has scarcely changed. A couple of upsetting instances aside, she has remained placid throughout, more prone to asking questions than volunteering confidences herself. When emotions ran high as Caitlin Jenner went public with her transition, Kim was often the mediator, allowing everyone their say, but intervening to defuse tense conversations when necessary.
In a way, it is her predictability that makes Kim Kardashian such comforting television. With her, you always know what you’re getting. In retrospect, some of those considered responses signpost a personality that could be mesh with a career in law.
When in 2017, Kardashian described the process of identifying the men who robbed her at gunpoint in her Paris hotel room in October 2016, she was matter of fact. She itemized events without adding color or emotion, even noting that the men who had attacked her were ‘pretty honest’ in their recall of that night. Her most revealing comment was that it was “interesting” to know that they had been following her for over a year. She added that she was “thankful” for the experience, as it had afforded her “all the background info'”she needed on how she could protect herself in future.
Her recent foray into criminal justice also isn’t the first time that digging below her contoured surface has revealed unexpected depths. Following the Parkland shooting last year, she tweeted to urge Congress to do its job and “protect Americans from senseless gun violence.” She also took to Twitter in 2015 to denounce lax gun laws, after David Conley bought a gun online to kill his ex-girlfriend, her husband, and her six children, including his own son (she tweeted, “Does this not sicken you?”). She did so again after the 2017 Las Vegas music festival shooting to share an image denouncing high capacity firearms as inconsistent with the Second Amendment.
Every time she has spoken out on gun laws, Kim has been met with derogatory remarks such as, “Stick to selfies.” But she has backed up her tweets. In 2016, she met with gun violence survivors from Sandy Hook and San Bernardino. For several years, she’s been a creative council member of the organization Everytown For Gun Safety, which is dedicated to gun safety and fighting for legislative reform. In 2017, she recognized National Gun Violence Awareness Day by speaking out against a bill signed by Trump that revoked an Obama-era regulation. She may not always broadcast it, but Kim Kardashian does her homework.
As far as her metamorphosis from reality star into woke lawyer goes, the proof will be in the pudding. If her previous activities — not to mention the acquisitive tendencies of her mother, Kris Jenner — are any indication, within the next decade we will see a Kardashian law firm, capitalizing on the family name but well-stocked with qualified lawyers to ensure it goes the distance (and makes as much money as possible). For now though, as a woman whose career thus far has been fed by sex appeal and social media, Kardashian’s move is a bold one, picking a direction that demands a completely different skill set, and flies in the face of expectations. When asked by Vogue what she will be remembered for, she replied aptly, “For my many talents.”