Erin Wiley

Meet Louise Arbour

I have come to realize that role models and mentors play important parts in the lives of aspiring female lawyers.

I knew that I wanted to study law when, in 2000, I attended a presentation by Louise Arbour, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and now United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. As a fifteen year-old young woman, I was inspired by the intelligence, passion, and concern for the world which she demonstrated. I was also moved by the contribution she has made in the world through her work in the field of law as a strong person and as a woman. In her speech, Louise Arbour stated that she believed in the importance of the law, and the legal process, which allows us to "collectively demonstrate our commitment to the impartial exposure of the truth, and in which we restate, time and again, the values upon which we have constructed our will to live together as a civil society." It was then that I decided that I, too, wanted to study law in order to contribute to the advancement of the values upon which our legal system is based. It is largely because of Louise Arbour that I decided to pursue a legal education.

Role models and mentors--these people, I have come to realize, play important parts in the lives of aspiring lawyers, and especially in the lives of aspiring female lawyers. Since beginning my study of law, I have been lucky enough to have been motivated and inspired by several special mentors. In the classroom, my Constitutional Law professor has served as my principal mentor. As I met my professors throughout the first week of law school, common threads began to emerge. They were all highly accomplished, they were all incredibly smart, they were all quite intimidating, and they were all men. Then one early morning, a young-looking, stylish woman walked to the front of my first Constitutional Law class. My Constitutional Law professor began to teach the class, while also beginning to impact my law school career in tremendously positive ways. She is highly accomplished, incredibly smart, was initially intimidating, and she is also a woman. She represents what is possible for women in the legal field: professional recognition, career success, intellectual excellence, and a full and joyful life. It was with great pleasure that I spoke at the ceremony honoring this professor as she received the Dean Lukingbeal Award, from Cornell Law School, for her promotion of women's issues on campus and in the law school.

My mentors have also had an impact on me beyond the classroom. As a former 1L Representative and current Vice-President of the Cornell Law School Women's Law Coalition, and as a National Advisory Board Member for Ms. JD, I have not only had the opportunity to work with advisors like my Constitutional Law professor, but also with some incredible female peers who inspire me every day. I have enjoyed organizing charity events with them, socializing with them, studying with them, and traveling with them to conferences, such as the Ms. JD conference at Yale this past year. I look forward to continuing to interact with these diverse and powerful women throughout my time at law school and on into our careers.

This summer, as I begin working for a Federal District Judge for the Southern District of New York, I am lucky enough to have a female mentor right in my office. One of the clerks, who happens to be a woman, has given me incredible support, from sharing stories about law school at my interview, to advising me on the proper dress code for the office--something which, humorously, none of her male counterparts could provide any real assistance with. I look forward to working with her and all of my colleagues throughout the summer.

Finally, I have been lucky enough to have a female mentor who remains outside of the legal profession, but who has had an incredible impact on my road to, and journey within, law school and the legal profession--my mother. My mother, an incredibly intelligent and successful woman in her own right, has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and to live to my fullest potential. It is with her support, love, and inspiration that I have developed into a person who believes that being a strong woman is important and that feminism, in whatever form it takes for someone personally, is not something of which to be ashamed, but rather is something to celebrate.

While reflecting on being a woman entering the legal profession, it seemed only fitting to write about my mentors. These women are the people who have guided me throughout my education and who have motivated me in life. I also strive to be someone who can serve as a role model for my peers and for future generations of lawyers. Louise Arbour stated in her 2000 speech at the University of Alberta, in regards to the role of the law today: "...we are collectively becoming more conscious of the need to develop a framework within which the most basic human needs and values will be protected and nourished, not only in our communities, but everywhere." The presence of strong women within this process is essential and I am ready to become a part of this process as a lawyer and as a woman.

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