photo illustrations by Mason Thompson

Miami women navigate the pre-law track

In the early 1970s, Beth Naylor’s father returned home from arguing a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. He had brought home a souvenir for his pre-teenaged daughter: a sweater with “a woman’s place is in the house and the senate” emblazoned on the front.

Her dad, her role model, believed in its message and so did she.

Naylor graduated from Miami University in 1982 with a political science degree. She obtained her Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1986.

She’s practiced law for over 30 years, now a senior partner at Frost Brown Todd in Cincinnati, Ohio. Among other accolades, she received the Ohio Glass Ceiling Award in 2013 from the National Diversity Council.

But Naylor’s success began at a time where it wasn’t quite as common for women to practice law. During her undergraduate years at Miami, she didn’t know any other women who wanted to pursue a law degree. There was no place to search for that community, either – no pre-law track, no on-campus organization for pre-law students.

Naylor could look around her and see women who would go on to find success in other fields. But among the women she knew, law was the exception.

“Point blank, you’re asked, ‘Why do you want a job? Don’t you plan on getting married and having kids?’” Naylor said. “Which was kind of a legitimate question back then that you had to respond to. But society was different.”

She wasn’t deterred.

“We really didn’t see that there were obstacles [to success],” Naylor said. “You didn’t know what you didn’t know.”

An annual study by Enjuris revealed that in 2016, more women were attending law school than men for the first time. That proportion continued to grow in the following two years.

Out of 111,619 law school students last year, over 50% identified as female.

When the American Bar Association published that in 2017, women made up roughly 35% of the legal profession. That number increased to 38% in 2018.

So, not quite half – nonetheless, it’s another statistic on the rise. And as such, women pursuing the ideal of law school today are the future of the profession – they’re the ones tipping the scales.

But at what cost? And with numbers increasing so consistently, at what point does it become clear when one is “cut out” for the legal profession?

Haley

Growing up with a mom who took in heaps of rescue dogs, Miami senior Haley George saw real-life animal rights issues in her very own home. Now, Haley wants to take up her mother’s mantle in her own way.

She fell in love with the court system her junior year of high school.

Haley took AP Government that year and, with her class, placed second statewide in Wyoming’s branch of We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution. The competition required her class to research as much as they could about the content of the U.S. Constitution and, in small groups, make arguments based on what they knew in front of a panel of judges.

When Haley was researching court cases for the competition, she soaked up details for every decision she could.

With her group, she jumped headfirst into cases on freedom of religion, cases dealing with the education system, every impetus for said cases and the impact they have on day-to-day life. She was fascinated.

“I was really good at it,” she said. “The memorization aspect.”

So when she arrived at Miami, she immediately began shaping her education to look like a lawyer’s might.

Political science major? Check. Pre-law track? Check. Law and Public Policy Academic Scholars Program? Check.

She even tacked on an English literature major to strengthen her writing skills and a management minor to gain familiarity with the business world.

Just in case she’d need it in court.

Haley got a job at Miami’s Susan J. Henry Center for Pre-Law Education. She went to Law Day – the center’s annual event where students meet with law program representatives galore – every year she could. She helped run the event last fall and even became secretary of the pre-law society.

The pre-law track led her to an internship at the Office of the Wyoming State Public Defender the summer after her first year at Miami.

Then to an internship at the Butler County Courthouse in the spring of 2019.

And the subsequent summer, that track led her to an internship with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, a California law firm dealing with cases of medical malpractice.

“And I just never got off that track.”

She was banking on law. Every move she made was designed to make her an excellent candidate for a J.D. program. She shouldn’t want to get off the one-way train to the legal profession.

But she’s tried.

Dee

Miami senior Deanna “Dee” Ponzani stumbled upon an interest in law completely by accident.

She used to watch every crime drama on television and fell in love with forensic anthropology – “Bones,” the “CSI” franchise and “Law and Order.” While she loved the genre, she knew her favorite procedurals would never reflect the reality of the career. She wanted to find out the facts about the legal profession herself.

So for a required high school project, the Cleveland native pursued a week-long mini-externship at Parker-Hannifin’s legal department.

“I remember them handing me this giant stack of papers,” she said. “I think most people would probably get up and leave if that happened.”

When Dee saw the tall stack of papers, she saw promise.

“Just read a couple of pages, interpret it, tell us what you think,” her supervisor told her.

So she dove into the massive document.

“I started reading,” she said, “and I thought it was fun. And I’m sure most people would think it was awful, but I thought it was so interesting.”

She flipped through page after page, consuming heaps of content about mergers and acquisitions. International law, business law, businesses succumbing to wealthier entities…

Dee was addicted.

And when her supervisor checked on her, she had quite a bit more to say than just her interpretation of “a couple of pages.”

She told the vice president of Parker-Hannifin’s legal department how thrilling it was to read up on mergers and acquisitions. He was surprised – and impressed.

“You really have an eye for this,” he told her.

So she kept her eye open.

Kelly

Unlike Haley or Dee, Class of 2019 Miami alum Kelly Burns didn’t come into college with a fervor for the legal system.

But during junior year, Kelly took a Journalism Law and Ethics course and loved it.

Sure, igniting her interest in law at age 21 may have been a late-game revelation compared to others with the same interest. But it didn’t matter.

She loved the in-class mock trials. She loved discussions about fair use and copyright. She received an A on every assignment. She raved about the class to other journalism majors and encouraged them to also take it. She cited it as her favorite class she’d ever taken.

That was when she first thought about the legal profession as a post-graduation endeavor. Being an attorney pays, and if she didn’t hate the subject matter, it might just be something she could stomach long-term.

She told her mom the following Thanksgiving that she wanted to go to law school. Kelly’s goal was to work with a publishing house and help to avoid libel lawsuits.

“Yes!” her mom exclaimed as the two sat together in her mom’s car. “Yes, oh my God, yes. You should go to law school!”

Resounding approval. Good. She wouldn’t be met with resistance from her family on this.

She signed up to take the LSAT. It was real, then.

At least, that’s what her mom thought.

“It wasn’t really me wanting to be a lawyer,” Kelly said. “It was … I don’t want to be poor.”

Haley

As Haley headed out one morning to her California internship at Lewis Brisbois, an email notification popped up on her phone. Her LSAT scores were available.

She took a deep breath. This was the metric for her success in the legal profession, right?

Yet despite weeks of studying, her result was lower than she’d scored months prior on a practice LSAT — a practice test she’d taken with no preparation.

Sitting in her aunt and uncle’s guest bedroom, she shed a couple of tears. But she had to walk through the house to leave, and she decided she couldn’t let her relatives see her cry.

She rushed out the door, keeping her composure, dashing to her car. She got inside and sobbed alone. In her mind, her whole life plan was falling apart before her very eyes. All because of one email.

She started breathing heavily. Panicking. Feeling what she thought might be her calling slip away.

To Haley, her low score was proof that she wouldn’t succeed as a lawyer.

She called her parents, hours away in Cheyenne, Wyo. No one saw her cry, but her mom and dad heard her cry.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do… I’m gonna join ROTC,” she said to her mom, weeping over the phone. “I’ll learn how to fly a plane. That’s what I’ll do.”

But her ideal future, after raising animals with her family all her life, was to help defend animal rights cases in the court system, or craft legislation to defend animals.

“A lot of people maybe aren’t as close to the issue as I am,” Haley said. “So I want to represent animals and give them a bigger voice in the community.”

She couldn’t give that dream away. At least, not yet.

Dee

“I started studying for the LSAT just for fun,” Dee said.

With inspiration to succeed from her favorite crime shows, Dee began what she called “casual studying.” Most students start studying three to six months in advance. Dee had been studying for a year by the time she sat down to take the LSAT at University of Texas at Arlington.

The July 2019 administration of the LSAT was the first time some test-takers took the Digital LSAT – a version of the LSAT run entirely on a touch screen tablet with a stylus for writing.

Technical difficulties ensued when Dee’s stylus stopped working. Later, her tablet died – twice.

The LSAT is normally a three-hour test. Dee sat in that testing room on UT-Arlington’s campus, cramped into a plastic chair with her body hunched over waves of faulty tablets for almost seven hours.

Trapped without the ability to leave the room with only the trail mix and water bottle she brought to nourish her, Dee’s first LSAT was, as she described, “a disaster and a half.”

As she exited the university building into the daylight of a sweltering Texan summer, she called her dad.

“How’d it go?” he asked. He’d been waiting at home all day for news about his daughter’s results.

“Terrible!” she laughed into the phone.

Her score was 10 points lower than the scores promised by her anthologies of practice tests. On a test scored between 120–180 points, that was significant. But luckily, all test-takers who took the digital LSAT in July could retake the test for free.

Dee instantly canceled her score and scheduled a retake for February.

Kelly

Seven months after Kelly decided to pursue law school, she found herself at a pool party, day-drunkenly splashing around with her friends over Memorial Day weekend.

She checked her phone to find a “friendly reminder” email.

A reminder that she would be taking the LSAT in one week.

“Shit,” she said. “I thought this was in, like, three more weeks.”

So Kelly dusted off the book she’d brought with her to Luxembourg, where she’d studied abroad for the recently wrapped semester. She’d taken the book with her to study while traveling, but never got around to opening it.

“I just didn’t care enough,” she said.

She got a “fine” score on that LSAT – a 157 – but would have needed a higher score to get into her dream media law program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

So she planned to take the test one more time and set the date for September. Another date to look forward to. Or dread.

Then, two months after Kelly took the LSAT, she was hit with a blast from the past.

Her brother’s best friend and recent law school graduate, George, found out that Kelly wanted to go to law school.

They’d known each other since they were young. His arrival put more pressure on Kelly’s back to succeed

“Where’s Kelly?” George asked upon entering her home. “I want to talk to Kelly.”

George not only instructed, but seemingly demanded, in front of Kelly and her mom, that she should be studying for an hour every single day. Oh – make that two hours every Saturday.

“First, you need to get in a prep class,” George said, “then you need to take the LSAT, write a killer essay on your application, get into law school, then step on everyone’s necks to get to the top.”

No sarcasm.

There was a brief pause. Kelly awkwardly laughed, unsure of how serious George was. She could only envision herself stepping on so many necks.

Her mom looked at her, then at George, then back at her.

“You know she’s not that competitive, right?” her mom said.

“What do you mean?” George asked. “She’s been playing video games for as long as I’ve known her.”

He laughed.

“She’s been competitive since she was nine years old!”

Kelly sat down with her mom after that conversation.

“Uh, yeah, you’re right,” Kelly said, a little shaken. “I’m really not that competitive.”

Her mom smiled.

“George is hyper-competitive. Let’s not use him as an example.”

Haley

“All of the internships I’ve had have been male-dominated,” Haley said.

At the Butler County courthouse, the judge was a man.

The prosecutor at the Butler County courthouse was a man.

Almost every figure of courthouse authority who she worked under was a man. Rarely did she see women in attorney roles.

At the Wyoming state public defender’s office, the public defender was a woman, but it was still mostly male-dominated.

“You’d see women working in lower positions,” she said. “But it was mostly men at the top.”

In California? Haley was one of the only women at the firm.

“It’ll be interesting,” she said, tapping her fingernails on the table in front of her, “to see if more women going to law school helps get more women in the field.”

Dee

This past summer, Dee was a supply chain intern in Fort Worth, Texas.

She was the first intern that office had ever hosted.

She was the only woman in that office.

She didn’t mind it at first. Her office was underneath fighter jets – “which was pretty sweet” – and she loved the projects she was assigned. After all, she’d cycled through different business majors at Miami to finally find what she liked.

From her viewpoint, work was great.

“The people?” Dee said through a nervous laugh. “Not so much.”

Every person that Dee worked with was a former male member of the armed forces. She felt like they judged her for being, in more ways than one, the odd woman out.

“It’ll be interesting to see if more women going to law school helps get more women into the field.”

She often found herself hiding in her office. While most of her coworkers worked in a nearby hangar, she had a conference room to herself in a different building.

She minimized her time in that hangar. She’d spend all day alone just to avoid the people around her.

“I would have to, like, cough,” Dee said, “because I hadn’t talked to people for so long.”

And ultimately, she learned it would be “best” if she didn’t come to the hangar some days.

Why?

“You’re just a big distraction,” her coworker once told her before a procedure in the hangar. “Whenever you walk in here, everyone drops what they’re doing to look at you.”

Dee was afraid to wear anything at work. Whether casual or formal, she felt like she would always be met with sexist comments on her appearance. From how she dressed (a t-shirt and loose jeans) to the way she did her nails, nothing seemed immune from sexist scrutiny.

“Oh, you can get any job,” Dee was told by a male coworker while musing about post-grad plans. “All you have to do is put your picture on the resume and you’ll get it.”

“You would do amazing in the military,” another peer said. “You’re really pretty. People would do all the work for you.”

Eventually, she was fed up.

“Hey,” she said to her supervisor, “I’m not really comfortable with some of the things you’ve been saying.”

Her supervisor looked surprised – who was this tall, curly-haired intern telling him what to do?

“If you’re going to compliment me,” she’d told him, “could you maybe compliment me less on my appearance and more on my work ethic?”

He apologized the next day.

Months later, she’s convinced herself to view it as a constructive learning experience.

“Now,” she said through half-hearted laughs, “if something else sucks as bad in the future, I guess I’ll know how to deal with it.”

Kelly

I chose Miami University to get my journalism degree, Kelly wrote on Facebook, but I figured I’d switch it up and now I’ll be going to law school at Marquette University! I’ll be starting in the fall so if anyone has any links for potential roommates or people I should know, let me know!

She paused. She thought she should probably thank her parents, too. Her mom was ecstatic about this, after all.

Huge shoutout to my mom and my dad for supporting me way too well in this and everything.

She attached a couple photos and posted her big announcement.

On the last day of one of her last-ever Miami classes, one of Kelly’s professors asked seniors to declare their post-grad plans.

“I’ll be going to law school at Marquette,” Kelly said.

“Oh!” her professor said. “That’s great!”

Kelly nodded.

“Yep,” she said, without much enthusiasm.

She never knew how to feel about telling others she’d be attending law school – some people dream their whole lives of becoming lawyers only to fall short at the application stage.

When Kelly found out she’d gotten into law school – not even one of her top choices – she cried. She texted her roommates immediately, a late night digital celebration from the comfort of her own bed.

Kelly had made it. The work had paid off – the test-taking panic, the painstakingly crafted personal statement she’d made her friends proofread, the flurries of rec letters she’d asked professors to send – it was worth the hassle.

She was going to law school.

But she wasn’t necessarily happy about it.

“I was more happy that I wasn’t too dumb to be rejected,” she said.

Haley

At home in Wyoming after her internship ended, Haley spoke one-on-one with an attorney who knew her father.

“If you still want to have a family,” the attorney had told her, “you really have to know this is what you want to do.”

Haley sat and listened to her family friend talk about battling a brain tumor. Facing the very concept of death, the woman regretted not spending more time with her family.

She didn’t have that time because of her job.

That thought was terrifying. Was Haley giving up the very idea of having a family to call her own? Would she be too busy to enjoy doing anything but being a lawyer?

Was this still a good idea?

Haley thought about jumping off the pre-law track, again, after that conversation.

Dee

“There’s always going to be men, or other people, who don’t know how to respect people around them,” Dee said.

She has higher hopes for the legal field when it comes to social equality in the workplace.

“I think, by [entering law school], you have a better understanding of what’s appropriate and what’s not,” she said. “By the time you get through college, you kind of learn those things.”

She now worries, instead of comments on her appearance, she might face sexist comments about her intellect as a woman.

“The LSAT is not easy, studying is not easy, getting to law school is not easy,” she said. “But if anything, there might be a problem with people questioning if I’m qualified to be in law school.”

She started laughing, with anxiety lacing each chuckle.

Dee’s blonde curls bounced as she nodded to assure herself that she was, in fact, qualified to be in law school.

Looking ahead to life post-undergrad, Dee wants to find a full-time supply chain job — with an employer who will pay for her education — before transitioning to law.

Returning to the male-dominated world of supply chain was a necessary stepping stone in her eyes. But she felt prepared. She felt like she could take on whatever the business world might want to throw at her for a couple of years.

“I always try to think of, like, ‘Legally Blonde,’ and how kind of empowering that movie is.”

“I always try to think of, like, ‘Legally Blonde,’ and how kind of empowering that movie is,” she said, “no matter how much [protagonist Elle Woods] is seen as a joke by other characters.”

Elle Woods still got the job done when she went to law school. Dee hopes she will, too.

So she’s keeping her eyes wide open.

Kelly

“Saying that I wanted to go to law school is a bit of a strong statement.”

About a week and a half into her law school venture, Kelly found herself sitting in Marquette’s Eckstein Hall doing homework with her new friends Carsyn and Lauren.

She hadn’t told them yet; Kelly planned on dropping out of law school in a few days.

Lauren stressed over the hours of homework she’d done the night prior and work she’d have to put in the following night.

Carsyn complained about a specific assignment that had taken her over two hours to finish.

Kelly silently listened. It had only taken her 30 minutes, maximum, to complete the same assignment, but it didn’t matter anymore.

While Carsyn and Lauren frantically typed and searched for solutions to law problems, Kelly worked on narrative arcs for the novel she’d dreamed of writing for the past year.

No law readings. No cramming. No memorizing facts – just fiction.

She saw it as an emblematic moment for her law school career.

“If this was a story I was reading,” Kelly said, “I would be like, ‘damn, what a clear sign this girl isn’t supposed to be here.’”

Because when she realized she’d need to withdraw fairly soon to get most of her tuition deposit back, she stopped prioritizing law homework and started prioritizing what she wanted.

Haley and Dee

The sun was setting on Labor Day, its golden rays leaking down Oxford, Ohio’s uptown.

Haley sat outside Kofenya, sipping coffee as the day turned to night. While her posture was upright, her figure was obstructed by two LSAT prep tomes.

“LSAT LOGIC GAMES BIBLE,” a thick green book read. “A Comprehensive System for Attacking the Logic Games Section of the LSAT,” the rather lengthy subtitle continued. Beside this “Bible” laid another – the blue “LSAT LOGICAL REASONING BIBLE.”

Haley took a brightly colored mechanical pencil to a notebook, careful not to knock over her coffee cup – though it was empty for who knew how long – when she heard a familiar voice.

Dee was leaving Krishna, an Indian restaurant just two doors down from Kofenya, and had started to walk toward her house with two friends.

Just as she left her peers, Dee’s squinted eyes caught Haley’s – and froze at the sight of her LSAT prep books.

“Haley!” Dee called. “What’s up?”

Haley looked up from her studies, smiling as Dee walked over to Haley.

“Hey,” Haley said, hints of fatigue lacing her voice.

“What are you up to?” Dee asked.

Haley motions to her study books. Dee smiles – a recognition of a shared struggle.

Kelly

As Kelly ticked “yes” on the confirmation of the Marquette enrollment form, she felt her anxiety compound.

As Kelly toured Eckstein Hall with her mom – “Isn’t this so gorgeous? Oh my god, we have to go inside. This is so pretty!” – all she wanted to do was leave.

As Kelly listened to her boss at her paralegal job over the summer talk about case after case after case – moments where he’d had to compromise his morals for the sake of the job – she thought, I don’t want this. I don’t want to do this, I can’t do this, I’m not cut out for this.

As her boss joked, days before she left for Marquette, that Kelly wouldn’t want to be a lawyer after working with him for a whole summer, she felt a pit of guilt in her stomach. He was right. It wasn’t his fault, sure, but she still didn’t want to be a lawyer.

As Kelly sat down in her law classes for the first time, she thought if she could just sit in the back of the classroom and go unnoticed by the professor, no one would be able to tell the difference if she later decided to leave Marquette.

It was a rainy Milwaukee Monday the day Kelly dropped out of law school, just two weeks after her arrival in August.

She’d packed up her belongings and loaded them into her brand new car, just recently christened with the long drive up to Milwaukee.

She’d arranged to live with her aunt Eileen during her law school years. But barely a couple weeks in, Kelly announced she was moving out, that she was no longer going to attend Marquette.

“Just do whatever you need to do,” Eileen said.

Luckily, her aunt told her she thinks it’s better to realize you hate law sooner rather than later. Kelly was realizing sooner. There wouldn’t be a battle to fight there, unlike with her mom. Eileen, at least, understood.

She had made a couple of friends at Marquette – Lauren and Carsyn urged her to “give it at least one more week” before dropping out – but she made up her mind months prior.

She told the office of the registrar that she, emotionally, couldn’t handle the stress of law school, and that this wasn’t a good time for her to pursue a J.D.

“I’m still not sure if this is what I want to do.”

“I hope we see your application again next year,” the registrar had told her, politeness oozing from her lips.

And she left.

The rain, a literary symbol for rebirth, comforted Kelly as she returned to her car, ready to leave Milwaukee for the foreseeable future.

She deleted Carsyn and Lauren out of her phone. She was thankful for their kindness over the course of her short semester but acknowledged she’d probably never see them again.

Kelly packed up her car, said goodbye to her aunt and began the long drive back to her suburban Chicago home.

She wasn’t leaving behind a sunny, blooming metropolis. She was leaving a gloomy city she called a “prison.”

Free of her own worries, free of her mom’s expectations – she could finally breathe again.

Haley

In late September, sitting in the quaint, quiet wooden chambers of Oxford’s O’Pub, Haley sipped water while her friends talked about jobs, internships and post-graduation plans.

She wasn’t the focus of the conversation, which was fine – it was her friend Charlotte’s birthday, everyone was keeping track of how much her friend Nicole was drinking, and Haley was the only sober one at the bar. Regardless, through Nicole’s undecided plans and Charlotte’s prestigious job offer, the conversation drifted to Haley, who was swirling the ice in her glass.

“What are you doing after graduation, Haley?” Nicole asked.

“Law school,” she said with a relatively straight face, almost fatigued. As though she was tired of answering the question.

To friends like Charlotte, who know Haley more closely than the average acquaintance, this comes as no surprise. There’s not much novelty in Haley’s voice when she announces it. It’s a question she’s been answering for years.

“I don’t want to go to law school for the same reasons as everyone else,” Haley said, cryptically, in the pub.

And yet weeks later at October’s end, Haley sat three days before her second attempt at the LSAT in King Library.

Twelve chairs occupied the study room, but it was only she who sat hovering over an open LSAT preparation book.

Haley despises the LSAT. Retaking the test is the last thing she wants to spend her time on.

But after her first result, she knew she could study harder. She just knew she could do better.

And even just a handful of days out from her second LSAT, Haley can’t bring herself to even say out loud that she wants to go to law school. Despite the fact that the two of us were alone in a King Library study room, she was terrified of someone discovering her uncertainty.

“I think a lot of people in my law school class know this is what they want to do,” she said.

Her voice turned to a whisper.

“I’m still not sure if this is what I want to do.”

But she thinks that a J.D. will be beneficial for what she wants to do professionally. Working on animal rights legislation is her dream – she’d even worked with animal rights organizations on campus before, another piece to her perfect J.D. candidate puzzle.

She should still go to law school.

That’s what she keeps telling herself. That she is good enough.

Dee

Dee accepted a full-time job with the same company she interned with last summer – the same company where she’d faced loads of sexism.

She was hesitant at first – “I put it off for the longest time” – but realized how much she loved doing the work. She expects to have more of a voice than she did as an intern.

She believes that she will be placed in a different unit than the one she worked with in summer 2019. She requested this upon being hired and has full hopes that if her experience sours for a second time, she can turn things around.

“As a full-time employee, I have so much more power to speak out,” Dee said. “A lot of people in HR would not put up with that.”

Dee’s second LSAT went more smoothly than the first, but she’s learned not to put so much emphasis on the test itself rather than what she can do with her score.

“It has nothing to do with law. If I’m not meant for that, that’s okay. I don’t want a test to determine whether or not I’m going to be good at law,” she said. “But there’s so many people who want to be lawyers. If I’m gonna go to law school, I need to be going to a good law school.”

Ultimately, as LSAT scores stay eligible for five years, Dee still hopes to use her scores on law school applications down the line.

“It’s just best that I work for a while,” she said. “It would be nice for an employer to pay for [law school], but if that’s not the case and I still really want to go… you have to invest in yourself.”

Haley

Later in the fall, when Haley met up with a friend who’d graduated from Miami a year early, they traded stories about their journeys with law school.

While he’d been accepted to University of Michigan’s law school the year prior, he’d instead been completing a term with City Year, an AmeriCorps program in which participants work as classroom aides in schools across the country.

In the past, Haley had heard from law students and attorneys alike that taking a gap year between their undergraduate education and their pursuit of a J.D. was one of the best decisions they’d ever made. Haley, engrossed in the throes of law school applications, believed it was too late to plan a gap year – until she applied for City Year.

“I just thought I was a little too far behind to have a constructive way to spend a year off,” she said. “I heard about the opportunity and went for it.”

Haley was raised by two teachers, so her mind had wandered to pursuing education in the past. But she still plans to pursue law school in the fall of 2021 – assuming she still wants to.

“I still want to apply after taking a year off, refocusing,” she said. “It’ll just be good to make sure being an attorney is the route I want to take.”

***

Beth Naylor was elected president of the Notre Dame Law Alumni Board for the 2013-14 school year. She’s worked with prospective law school applicants as well as students looking to get into the field, and as such, has been able to see firsthand what struggles exist for students today.

She’s seen that now, there’s more information to prepare women for law school than ever – but with information comes a burden as well.

“You get in your head about it … you can’t let it defeat you, you can’t focus on the negative things so much,” she said. “I wonder if it was better to not be aware of that from the get-go.”

While women now make up over half of law school students, the numbers don’t reflect women occupying positions in the legal profession with that same proportion. Neither do the experiences of Haley, Dee or Kelly.

Naylor’s solution?

Resilience.

“Put up the good fight. Stay in the game,” she said. “Are there going to be challenges? Yes, any job is going to have challenges, but stay in the game. If we don’t stay in the game, we’re not doing anybody favors.”