An illustrative representation of Ryan Washington conducting an improv speech in front of an audience

Luggage Lost, Confidence Found

What would you do if you had to give a talk and all your notes and slides—and even your outfit—went missing? For Ryan Washington ’23, the response came naturally.
By Paula Derrow | Illustration by Tom Bachtell

When Ryan Washington decided he wanted to be a lawyer as an undergraduate at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, he didn’t have to look far for mentors. “I joined Morehouse’s moot court program,” said Washington, 26. “That’s where I met [Fordham Law alum] Darius Johnson [’21], and the rest is history.” Washington followed Johnson to Fordham Law School because “I wanted to learn the law in a place that was rigorous. Fordham gives you the skills to be able to talk to anyone, to litigate any matter.”

Those skills came in especially handy when Washington returned to Morehouse in February of 2022 during Black History Month to talk to prospective law students at his alma mater and other historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). “I’ve been an assistant coach for Morehouse’s moot court program, and I wanted to let students know that while being a lawyer isn’t just like Law & Order, it’s possible to really make an impact,” he said.

As former president of Fordham’s Black Law Student Association (BLSA), and one of two winners of the 2022 Northeast Regional National BLSA’s Chapter President of the Year award, Washington has made his own impact on the Lincoln Center campus. “Because of the pandemic, my first year of law school was over a laptop,” he said. “[As president] it was important to me to actually see Black students from different parts of the world who have the same dreams and goals as I do. Helping to put the [BLSA] community together is one of my proudest achievements.”

It felt natural, then, for Washington to extend that connection to other HBCU students. “BLSA is a very welcoming and loving community, and I wanted to reach out to places where Black students are investing in and bettering themselves, in a Black environment,” he said. “People know about Harvard Law School or NYU, and I wanted them to know what Fordham Law has to offer.”

Except things didn’t go exactly as planned. “I took a direct flight to Atlanta from New York early in the morning, and when I got there, all my luggage was gone, along with my handouts and the nice blue suit I planned to wear!” said Washington. “I was relieved that I at least had my laptop, with all my notes, but then my laptop died, and there was no way to charge it.”

With his presentation less than an hour away, Washington did what any good litigator would do: He thought on his feet. “I still had my phone, which I’d used to take some notes beforehand, so I spoke from those as well as from my own personal experience at Fordham,” he said. “The old me would have panicked, but if I’d given in to nervousness, I wouldn’t have been able to connect. So, I relaxed and did some improvising.”

As for that missing blue suit, it turns out he didn’t need that, either. “I wore what I’d worn on the plane—a hoodie and sweats,” he laughed. “I looked like a caveman, and at first, the students thought I was just another student—but no one minded. What could have been a complete disaster turned into a very personal, honest exchange.”

Want to see your @ Fordham Law story here? Tell us about it at