Be a mentor. Be a champion for others. Acknowledge your talents. Find time for joy. These were just some examples of good advice that attendees took away from William & Mary Law School’s sixth annual Leadership Conference, held on September 15.
The day-long event—entitled “Power, Accountability & Humility”—saw 16 alumnae return to campus to share career wisdom with students and guests alike.
“Our speakers came from far and wide to be here today,” said Davison M. Douglas, Dean of the Law School. “To the students in the room, they came for you; they understand the importance of mentoring and the importance of learning from someone who’s a little further on in their career.”
Alumnae speakers included: Latoya C. Asia ’09, M. Cabell Clay ’08, Llezelle Agustin Dugger ’95, Anna P. Engh ’89, Rosa J. Evergreen ’05, Sara Beiro Farabow ’90, Arya Hariharan ’12, Chandra D. Lantz ’94, Melissa Lesmes ’93, Sherri Matson ’93, Monica Taylor Monday ’91, Sandra E. Rizzo ’92, Patricia E. Roberts ’92, Alison R.W. Toepp ’07 and Anna C. Weigand ’10. Ann Fairchild ’96 had to cancel due to Hurricane Irma.
The conference is the sixth in a series of annual events that feature women in law. The first, “Women in Big Law,” was held in 2012 in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the graduation of Virginia Mister, the first woman student at William & Mary Law School.
“In year one, it was really about women and the practice of law,” Dean Douglas said in introductory remarks. “Thereafter it was about the practice of law, even though we decided to continue with the tradition that all of our speakers are women.”
Subsequent conferences included “Lawyers in In-House Practice” in 2013, “Lawyers as Leaders” in 2014, “Making Things Happen, Getting Things Done” in 2016, and “Intentionality & Serendipity: Creating a Career and a Life” in January 2017.
During a number of panel discussions and breakout sessions, alumnae and students discussed issues of common concern, and learned from each other. Topics included “Getting Yourself Known”; “Balancing Work, Sleep, Ambition & Joy”; “How to Rebound from Professional Mistakes”; “The 10,000 Hour Rule: How to Find Your Specialty & Cultivate Expertise”; “Building an Authentic Personal Brand” and more.
Anna Engh ’89, a partner in Covington & Burling’s litigation group provided the lunchtime keynote address. Engh said that she benefited from a number of role models over the years, from her mother to William & Mary law professors to senior colleagues in the legal profession.
“Now it is my turn to be the mentor, it’s my turn to give back,” Engh said. “It’s my turn to bring along junior lawyers, including women and diverse lawyers, to empower them to believe in themselves, to tell them how important their ideas are, to be confident and not hesitant in their ideas, to show them how to take ownership on a project, to inspire them to aspire to be lead counsel on a matter, to first chair that jury trial, to run a law firm, to show the power of a law degree not only to help a sophisticated client, but to help a person who is disadvantaged and needs the assistance.”
Her advice was equally directed at the law students in attendance. “If you’re a second or third year student, reach out to a more junior student; encourage them,” she said. “If you’re a 1L, reach out to an undergraduate.”
Receiving special accolades was Jayne Barnard, James Cutler Professor of Law, Emerita, who has directed all six Leadership conferences since 2012. More recently, Barnard became coordinator of academic events and chair of the planning committee for William & Mary’s year-long celebration, beginning in fall 2018, marking the 100th anniversary of women at the university.
“The conference was wonderfully organized and inspirational,” said Latoya C. Asia ’09. “I am very humbled to be among amazing women, and so proud to be a William & Mary Law alum.”
“I am delighted that our students have such outstanding role models on whom to call,” added Vice Dean Patricia Roberts ’92. “Thanks to Jayne for a flawless program, and for bringing us all together!”
This fall’s conference was sponsored by William & Mary Law School, the Office of the Dean, Office of Career Services, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, William & Mary Business Law Review, William & Mary Journal of Women & the Law, Student Bar Association, Asian Law Students Association, Black Law Students Association, Latino Law Students Association, Muslim Law Students Association, LGBT Equality Alliance, Business Law Society, George Wythe Society, Women’s Law Society, Public Service Fund, and the National Trial Team.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.