Because I grew up in a family of attorneys, I was introduced to the law and the management of the family practice when I was as young as four years old. As a kid, I remember sitting on the floor under my father’s oak desk as he drafted wills, trusts, and deeds for his growing clientele. I told my dad I wanted to be a lawyer because “you get to dress like you’re going to a party every day.” There was hardly anything I looked forward to more than bring your kid to work day, and by the time I graduated high school and entered college, I was meeting with clients alongside him. My love for all things legal began with a humorous spark and grew into a flame kept burning by my desire to help others.
I can’t neglect to mention that I had a second inspiration fueling that flame. My grandfather was a New York State assemblyman for a great portion of his life. He was the first democrat to be elected in his district in over 60 years, and he fought for the rights of workers and children with disabilities. I never got to meet him, but I always felt that I would follow in his footsteps.
With both my father and my grandfather in mind, I moved to Washington, D.C. to start my college career in the late August heat of 2016. I was ready to take on the Hill, as all newcomers studying political science are. A law degree was always in the back of my head, but I thought I would find myself as a legislative assistant or chief of staff where my political science skills would come to the forefront after I finished school. Boy was I wrong about that!
While most interns found the hustle and bustle of Congressional negotiations exciting, I found it to be exhausting. I found my niche buried in the legal jargon of House resolutions, learning about how new laws coexist with decades of old doctrine and how the constitution provides the framework for our governmental ecosystem. My favorite hearings were, not surprisingly, House Judiciary Committee hearings dealing with the federal courts and law enforcement agencies. It was at this point that I knew I was, without a doubt, meant to be an attorney (thousands of dollars of debt and all!).
A few experiences have since solidified this: two summers of estate planning focused mentorship in my father’s law firm, a summer interning in family court, a couple of constitutional law classes, an internship with the DC Attorney General’s office, and - most recently - my experience at the PLEN Women, Law & Legal Advocacy seminar.
Even though I had been living in DC for a little over two years at the time of the seminar, I found it hard to meet women in the legal field who I could turn to for advice and guidance. When I saw PLEN’s mission to “increase the number of women in top leadership positions influencing all aspects of the public policy process,” I knew I had to attend.
I went into the seminar with an open mind, not knowing exactly what to expect. My only expectation was that I would come out of it with a broader understanding of legal career options available to me besides family lawyer and prosecutor. I came away with not only that, but a greatly expanded network of highly accomplished women mentors in the areas of law that I am most interested in.
We were fortunate enough to meet with 10 women Supreme Court clerks, listen in on cyber security and immigration law panels in Cannon HOB, and gain insights into timely issues surrounding our nation’s voting rights from some of the top experts in the field over the course of the seminar. In addition, each presenter we heard from was eager to share her personal story with us, giving us valuable advice regarding our law school applications and the process of finding a career that fits our goals and values.
Throughout the seminar I felt my self-confidence grow in a group of supportive colleagues and mentors that shared the same beliefs that I did. It was so refreshing to meet women my age that are passionate about change and willing to work hard for it! The weekend was truly an unforgettable experience, and I encourage anyone with the slightest interest in the intersection of law and policy to apply for the seminar.
PLEN didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know about myself. I knew I wanted to go to law school since I was old enough to understand what it was. What PLEN did do was add fuel to the flame that was started in me over 10 years ago. I am eager to embark on my journey into the legal profession with a network of amazing women from all over the country by my side.
Nicole Pope attended the Women, Law & Legal Advocacy seminar in October 2018 with a scholarship sponsored by K&L Gates, LLP. She is a politics student at The Catholic University of America where she serves as the Managing Editor of the university’s social science research journal, Inventio, and as an attorney on the CUA Mock Trial Team. She will be graduating in May 2019 and plans to pursue her legal education as well as a master’s in public administration.