Growing up in Uzbekistan, as a first generation college student, I never considered being a lawyer. However, from personal experience, I have seen how much the law affects people’s every day lives. My passion for a career in law has grown ever since.
Before attending PLEN’s Women, Law and Legal Advocacy seminar, I still wasn’t convinced that I wanted to be a lawyer. Since many legal practitioners are perceived as aggressive and outspoken in today’s society - two qualities that do not pertain to me - I thought for sure this was not the career for me. However, PLEN showed me that my own perceptions of the field were holding me back from following my passion and finding ways I can make an impact in society to enrich lives.
At Robert Morris University, I hold a Vice Chair position in Student Executive Committee in the Women’s Leadership and Mentorship Program, where we empower women to lead. We also get weekly newsletters with different opportunities to advance in our careers and our leadership skills. A week before the scholarship was due, I read about PLEN’s Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy Seminar. After learning about all the workshops, panels, and opportunities that the seminar offers, I knew this would be a great opportunity for me to learn more about the legal field and careers. I was so excited to get the scholarship that I didn’t even think about traveling alone for the first time to a new city, especially where I didn’t know anyone.
The experience exceeded my expectations. The first presentation we had, we talked about networking, which is the most crucial aspect of every opportunity. Building great interpersonal skills leads to great opportunities, and can help anyone be more successful in law school and in life. I underestimated how much networking could help to build a reputation and get career and life advice.
Allyson Perleoni taught everything about networking, starting from generating a contact list to maintaining those relationships and the following up to reference in the future. In addition, I was able to use those skills throughout the seminar to build my network and find mentors.
In the following days I met with great women leaders who served on the panels. They talked not only about their professional, but also personal life. Hearing from them gave me a better idea of what the legal field looks like. I also learned about the importance of a lawyer keeping her professional and personal lives separate. Listening to panelists, I learned how many careers there are in the legal field. There is space in the legal profession for everyone. The best advice I received is to pursue what you are passionate about and what fits your personality. Attendees were encouraged to shoot for what we want and not to be afraid to express where we want to end up.
My greatest takeaway from PLEN is to always stay open-minded. I am known to be a very organized person, with not only a week planned out, but my entire career path. Being only a sophomore, I have already started studying for the LSAT, planned out every step to get to law school right after graduating from college. However, I have learned that a gap year can serve as a benefit to get experience and use that knowledge in law school. This revelation also has helped me be flexible and acknowledge that this course might change. Things will eventually work out the way they are supposed to and I should welcome changes. While I am focused on my goal, now I am more open to exploring different opportunities.
My favorite part of the seminar was being surrounded by strong, powerful and like-minded women. I am not talking only about the speakers and panelists, but also about the attendees. There wasn’t any competition. Instead I was surrounded by women ready to support and uplift each other. During those three days I had an opportunity to not only learn about the legal field and how to succeed in law school, but I also met great mentors and made lifelong friends. While PLEN didn’t change my course, it reaffirmed my choice to pursue a law career. Seeing such a diverse group of strong women leaders in the field gave me confidence and brought me a step closer to my goal.
I will be forever grateful to have had such an amazing opportunity to attend PLEN’s Women, Law and Advocacy seminar. Now I am open to new opportunities and am more inspired than I have ever been!