Virtual learning means an early-to-bed, early-to-rise commitment for Macchiavello, who logs in to class from her apartment in Los Angeles. The three-hour time difference from the Law School means that her Constitutional Law class begins at 5:30 a.m. and her Contracts class at 7 a.m. In addition to her classes, she works virtually as a fellow for the Center for Legal and Court Technology (CLCT) at the Law School and as a legal intern at Thrive Causemetics, a cosmetics company in Los Angeles. Though the hours on Zoom each day are long, she hasn’t second-guessed her decision to begin her studies this year. “This what I signed up for,” she said.
Her single-mindedness about law school might not come as surprise when you learn that she was a gifted athlete from an early age. She first held a racket at age four and attended the IMG Academy in Florida, which is internationally renowned for its tennis program. She went on to play Division 1 tennis at Norfolk State University at the young age of sixteen, serving as team captain, and graduating summa cum laude with a degree in Business Entrepreneurship in 2016.
Her devotion to the game and to doing well in school left little time outside of her studies for anything but tennis. However, she always an eye on a future career in the legal industry after hanging up the rackets. “I have always been so curious about ‘why’,” she recalled. “As a child I would oftentimes get in trouble for always questioning ‘why.’ Some adults would see it as ‘talking back’ while others encouraged me to pursue my thirst for curiosity and deeper understanding. I would never take something as absolute, I always wanted to know why we do things a certain way and why not find a better way.”
She put the idea of law school on hold after graduation from college. She was accepted into the Microsoft Academy for College Hires (MACH) program and spent the next four years pursuing a business career at Microsoft in Bellevue, Washington, and then at a recruiting agency in Los Angeles.
She felt it was time for a change of direction in 2020. “Because of tennis, I have friends everywhere,” she said. “So, I made a plan that I was going to start visiting my friends around the world.”
She thinks back on that months’ long period of travel as her own version of “Eat, Pray, Love”: chapter one, enormous fun; chapter two, friendship; and chapter three, slowing down and thinking about her purpose in life going forward. “Being thousands of miles away from anyone you know forces you to reach within,” she said. She was in a Buddhist temple in Bali, she recalled, when she experienced a sense of clarity: “I am going to law school. I am going to be an attorney.”
When asked about her experience over the past year at William & Mary, she was quick to talk about the hardship and heartache wrought overall by the pandemic and the challenges it has presented to students, faculty and staff.
Machiavello is thankful for her family and people in the Law School community who have been especially supportive of her.
Professor Fred Lederer, director of the Center for Legal and Courtroom Technology, reached out to her during the admissions process. She recalled thinking that “if he was representative of what the faculty of William & Mary is like, then I want to go there.” She now works at CLCT remotely as a fellow and described Lederer as being genuinely interested in students, extraordinarily caring and accessible. “No matter what challenge I’ve faced or when I needed to speak with him, Professor Lederer has always made himself available,” she said.
She has formed an informal study group with two of her classmates,Trey Tucker and David Wilde. Their backgrounds, political leanings and life experiences could not be less alike. She likes to joke, “what happens when you put a Southern military man, a Canadian Mormon and father of two, and an immigrant Latina together? A whole lot of jokes, new learning, new appreciations, and an ever-lasting friendship.” In an unexpected way, she said, virtual learning may have fostered a bond that may not have formed as readily if they had been sitting next to each other in class. They get on Zoom to talk about coursework and life in general and sometimes just to check in on each other. “I could not have gotten through these days without them,” she said. “The craziest thing is that I’ve never met them in person.”
Macchiavello facilitated a gift to the Law School community from her internship placement. Thrive Causemetics’ mission is “bigger than beauty” and the company donates an item from their product line for every product purchased to support women’s empowerment and to help women thrive.
“Thrive is an incredible company, and I know how difficult this year has been for everyone,” she said. She was delighted when the company readily agreed to donate products to the Law School, the first gift they have made to a college or university. Macchiavello said she hoped the items would help boost spirits in the days ahead for students, faculty and staff.
Legal education in a university setting began at William & Mary in 1779. Now in its third century, America's first law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.