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UCLA Law Student Competed in Survivor Instead of Getting a Summer Job
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Bradley Kleihege

Summary: A UCLA law student gave up a summer law firm job to compete on the reality TV show “Survivor.”

While most law students are busy working for law firms during the summer, one law school student from UCLA was spending his summer on an island. The island Bradley Kleihege was visiting was not all pool time with fruity drinks. Kleihege was participating in the CBS reality TV show “Survivor.”


Kleihege explained to the Daily Bruin that the sacrifice to his legal education was worth it. The law student has been watching the show since he was 9-years-old. When the opportunity came for Kleihege to appear on “Survivor: Ghost Island,” the 36th season, he took it.

Taking a summer off can be a big risk for a law student. The students know that in order to be competitive for the best jobs after graduation, they need to have every summer filled with experience with major law firms. Kleihege said, “I don’t have a job lined up right now, but I think the experience is one that I definitely wouldn’t trade.”

As devote Survivor fans know, blending in is key to lasting longer on the show. Kleihege did this by hiding the fact that he was a law student from the other castaways. Instead, he told everyone he was a graduate student studying geography. Kleihege did in fact graduate from Michigan State University in political science, but he had more credits in geography so he knows the material.

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He said, “I think most people think of law students or lawyers as very analytical … they know how to read people, they know how to ask the right questions – which is perceived in the game of ‘Survivor’ as being a threatening skill set. I (also) think that nonlawyers have the perception that all lawyers are super wealthy, and that also doesn’t really help you win a million dollars.”

Kleihege didn’t head off to the reality show without preparing. UCLA School of Law associate dean for academic and student affairs Emily Scivoletto worked with him to make sure everything was taken care of before leaving. She said, “I basically said to him, …’We’re going to take care of things for you here, I just don’t want you to leave ‘Survivor’ with an idol in your pocket.’”

Scivoletto was referring to the hidden immunity idols placed in the environment around the show’s location for castaways to find. The idols help prevent that person or someone else from being voted off the show. However, sometimes a contestant does not realize they are going to be voted off that round so they fail to play the idol.

Kleihege first applied to the show five years ago but was cut late in the casting process. He kept following the show, hoping he may be considered another time. “I almost made it on and then didn’t, and it was heartbreaking, and I kind of was in the mix every year after that. It just made me love ‘Survivor’ more,” he said.

This time around, he prepared physically for the show by using the 10-week Bruin Health Improvement Program for graduate students at the John Wooden Center. The instructors did not know that they were helping him prepare for the show.

Kleihege believes that his law school experience helped him think on his feet and interact with people better. He notes the knowledge he learned from a class on lawyer-client relationships in helping him know how to ask the right questions when trying to interact with the other contestants.

He does not regret competing on the show. He feels that he gained experience that helped him learn not only about himself but the world. He said, “I came in with expectations that were sky high – being such a huge fan – and they were completely blown out of the water. It’s a life experience where you can learn a lot about yourself, you learn a lot of about interacting with other people. … I think all of that stuff is so valuable in terms of interpersonal communication and interaction that it will definitely be an asset in my career.”

Do you think Kleihege’s experience will help him get a job with a major law firm? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about UCLA School of Law, read these articles:




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