By Katherine Larkin-Wong • October 10, 2011•Mentoring and Networking
The Ms. JD fellowship is in it's second year now and we're pleased to report on some of the exciting results we're already seeing from the women involved! As you may know, the Ms. JD Fellowship is a partnership between Ms. JD and the ABA Commission on Women. Founded in 2010, the fellowship pairs 2L law students (who participate in the fellowship throughout their 3L year) with the Commissioners and Margaret Brent Award Winners in an effort to provide mentorship to young, successful women who have already demonstrated leadership potential. In the short term, this relationship provides the fellows (or Brentees as the Commission calls them) a strong mentor who can provide the fellow career advice. In the long term, Ms. JD hopes that this relationship provides a foundation for future women leaders.
As Eva Merian Spahn tells us, the fellowship is actually much more. Eva was a 2010-2011 Ms. JD Fellow. She graduated from University of Miami Law School in May and is now a first year associate at Greenberg Traurig in Miami. Since landing on UM's campus during the fall of her 1L year, Eva had been involved with the women's organization on campus. It was a great community, she says, but she was searching for more professional programming and a larger organization to become involved with. Then, in her 2L year, an email came across the listserv announcing a fellowship from an organization called Ms. JD. "To be perfectly honest, it was the first time I'd heard of Ms. JD!" she says, "but as I looked into the fellowship more, I liked the idea of geating involved with the ABA and a group of women who had a larger and more national organization. I decided to throw my hat in and see what happened."
As she went through the fellowship process, Eva says she felt a kinship to the women she spoke to. "Jessie was an instant connection. Even though the fellowship required "interviews," they felt more like conversations. I felt like Ms. JD was really trying to get to know me and what I wanted. I felt like I had found my place. The more I learned about the organization, the premise, the women, the more I thought this could be awesome! By the conclusion of the application process, I was really hoping I would actually get the fellowship." Land it, she did, and a few months later she found herself joining many of the other fellows in San Francisco, CA for the ABA annual meeting.
As fellows, the women are all invited to attend the ABA annual meeting including the ABA Commission on Women's annual panel and Margaret Brent Award luncheon. (For coverage of the 2011-2012 fellows experience, including their involvement in a panel on mentorship, check out www.ms-jd.org!) The 2011 annual meeting was in San Francisco. Eva says, "This is when I really became a Ms. JD devotee. It was just much more than I expected it to be. I met the other fellows and really bonded with several of them. Even though we don't have the same local presence, I feel like I could reach out to these women for advice. On top of that, being at the ABA meeting, where the Brent Awards were distributed was just inspirational. I was sitting in a room with a national stage and seeing all of these women who are truly an inspiration. I kept thinking to myself that all of these extremely accomplished women were exactly where I'm sitting now at some point. It was really very inspiring, it gave me a sense that I could accomplish that too someday."
While at the ABA Annual Meeting, Eva made another connection that has served her well. "After the Commission's panel meeting," Eva explains, "the fellows were meeting many of the current commissioners and the panelists. I remember that Dorian Denburg was there from NAWL (National Association of Women Lawyers). At that time, the fellows were talking about how amazing everything had been and that we really needed to find another way to get together again. Dorian overheard us and mentioned the NAWL mid-year meeting which was coming up in February. She said that all the fellows should go."
One of the other fellows asked about the location and Dorian mentioned Miami. Eva says, "All I remember was saying, 'Oh, that's awesome, I'm local. If you need help let me know.' I wish I could take credit and say that I pushed it but Dorian really ran with that and I became involved with NAWL's planning committee for the mid-year and the logistics subcommittee. If it hadn't been for Ms. JD putting me in that position it never would have happened. I didn't even really know NAWL existed at that time." As part of her committee duties, Eva helped organize a young lawyer's happy hour and recruit students to volunteer their time and attend certain events.
Then, at mid-year, Eva was asked to join the NAWL Board for dinner. "I went and sat with Dorian and met a lot of people. It was another incredible moment of being surrounded by these amazing, inspiring women. I also met some of the actual staff members who I got along with really well. They were the ones who told me that I needed to join the permanent programming committee. So, I agreed to get involved. All I remember thinking at the time was, all of this is happening and I'm still in law school, I'm not even an attorney yet!"
As part of the planning committee, Eva and another young woman have expressed an interest in developing programming for young lawyers. Eva says she immediately went back to Ms. JD to inquire about interest in getting involved as well. "For me, it's such a great opportunity to give back to both organizations. NAWL is more focused on improving partnership statistics. Ms. JD provides incredible programming for young lawyers and law students, as I learned myself when I attended the annual conference in Los Angeles in April. I came away from LA feeling like I had built tools in a safe space where we were all working together to ensure that we could all succeed. I think there's a great opportunity for joint programming which we're working on now."
So what does Ms. JD do for Eva? She says simply, "Ms. JD fills the gap for me. More than anything, I didn't know that any of this was out there until I became involved with Ms. JD. The opportunities just wouldn't have been there had I not been a fellow." We're proud of Eva and all of our other fellows as well! They are truly amazing women.
For more information about the fellows program, please contact our Executive Board Member in charge, Katie Larkin-Wong at email@example.com.