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Introducing Ilana Flemming, DC policy professional

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ilana Flemming about law school, her career path and her recommendations for newly minted JDs and attorneys who hope to conduct similar work.  Read about her story here:

1) Can you please provide a brief summary of your professional background?

After college, I worked as a paralegal in a pro bono legal services program for victims of domestic violence.  I eventually decided that I wanted to become a lawyer and I wanted to work on women’s issues and gender-based violence. 

I went to law school in DC because I knew that I wanted to work in federal policy. During law school, I had a variety of experiences through internships.  I interned with DC government child welfare division, several non-profit organizations, the Department of Health and Human Services and on the Hill.  As a result of these internships, I was exposed to a wide array of areas of law including voting rights, consumer justice, sex crimes legislation, and federal rulemaking.  After law school, I was a fellow in the U.S. Policy and Advocacy office of the Center for Reproductive Rights before I moved to my current position at JWI.

2) While in law school, did you know that you wanted to work in your current field?

Yes, I knew that I wanted to work in women’s issues and gender-based violence and I enjoyed working with clients but didn’t think that it would become a long-term career for me. I was interested in policy as a way of improving responses to survivors of violence from a systemic perspective.

3) You are the Manager of Advocacy Initiatives at Jewish Women International.  Could you please tell the readers what this role entails?

JWI is a historically Jewish organization working to ensure that all women and girls can thrive in health relationships, control their financial futures and realized the full potential of their personal strength. I’m the advocacy manager so I handle JWI’s federal policy portfolio.  I work on several areas including gender-based violence, reproductive rights, and women’s economic security.  I really love my job and feel strongly about these issues.

4) Did you have a mentor at any time?

I’ve never had a formal mentor but I was fortunate to forge relationships with law school professors who provided me with advice.  These relationships were built organically by taking seminar courses with a professor, attending office hours, and keeping in touch after law school with updates on my career progress. 

5) Do you have any final advice for newly minted female lawyers/JDs who are embarking on their careers?

Don’t be afraid!  Trust yourself, find what calls to you, and try not to worry too much.  One lesson I’ve learned is that you can come back from almost anything-but only if you don’t let the first failure knock you down. Be brave, keep working hard, and you will recover. Oh, and always send thank you cards! To professors, advisors, supervisors, and anyone else who helps you advance in your career. (For bonus points, handwrite your cards and send them via snail mail. Way more memorable than e-mail!)

6) Is there anything that I did not mention that would be helpful for the readers to know about your career or your current position?

Know your procedure.  Congressional procedure is as foundational to legislative work as civil procedure is to practicing law. Understanding how House and Senate members introduce, amend, debate, and pass laws will give you a great advantage in entering the policy world as a law student or a new lawyer.

Ilana Flemming, Esq. is the Manager of Advocacy Initiatives at JWI, the leading Jewish organization empowering women and girls. Ilana holds a J.D. from The George Washington University Law School and a B.A. from Yeshiva University. In addition to her professional work, Ilana volunteers with the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force (WACDTF), a non-profit organization that provides volunteer escorts to help patients safely access reproductive health clinics. A native of the Midwest, Ilana lives with her husband and their adorable rescue beagle in Washington, DC. 

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