In September 1918, Fordham Law School welcomed its first cohort of women students. Eight women dared to study alongside 312 men. Three years later, three of those women earned their law degrees and became the first women in history to graduate from Fordham Law. Today, 100 years after their welcome to the School, women students not only permeate the Law School but also lead—for the first time ever—all the School’s student-edited journals, the moot court program, and the Dispute Resolution Society.
“I endorse a leading-by-serving model,” said Emilia Brunello, editor-in-chief of the moot court board. Overseeing 124 board members, Brunello stressed how the strength of her leadership depends on her dual abilities to accommodate others’ needs while advocating for her own judgments. “You are only a leader insofar as people want to follow you.”
Like Brunello, the seven other women leaders manage massive boards, often comprising dozens to hundreds of fellow students. Each of the 3L women stressed how the management aspect of their positions often poses the greatest challenges.
“We are all incredibly busy, and it is a struggle to balance classes with extracurricular activities,” said Natalie Jensen, editor-in-chief of the Fordham Environmental Law Review. “Managing others becomes an even greater struggle when accommodating hectic schedules and tight deadlines.”
Each of the women emphasized the importance of empathy, confidence, and the promotion of group cohesion. Some of their leadership tactics include keeping perspective, encouraging others to keep perspective, and inspiring others to care about the journal or program.
“You have to inspire people into caring,” said E. Alex Kirk, editor-in-chief of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. Kirk has also previously published a note in the journal.
“You have to inspire the members to care about the organization’s success in the future,” agreed Nicole Comer, chairperson of the Dispute Resolution Society. Last year, Comer won a mediation award at the INADR International Mediation tournament in Glasgow. “Being a leader is about relationship building.”
In addition to Brunello, Comer, Jensen, and Kirk, four other women students serve as editors-in-chief. Elizabeth Evans spearheads the Fordham Urban Law Journal, while Julia MacAllister leads the Fordham Law Review. Tess Sadler directs the Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law, and Julia Tallarico heads the Fordham International Law Journal.
Several of the women addressed the challenges of developing confident voices to advocate for their ideas.
“I needed to learn to trust my judgment,” said Evans. “Sometimes it’s also helpful to admit your lack of knowledge.” She stated that such honesty often allows her to pick up on convoluted language or an author’s failure to give enough legal context. This, in turn, leads to more polished articles for the journal to publish.
Despite their fears, the women have achieved great success. They have developed a commitment to confronting unfamiliar situations and to tackling problems head-on.
“I try to throw myself into situations that make me deeply uncomfortable,” said Brunello, who had been in the workforce for seven years before pursuing her law degree. “The only way out is through.”
The women agreed that their leadership roles, as part of their legal education, have augmented their practical skills, and their editing and management responsibilities have given them new perspectives on the legal world.
The Law School, too, is reaping benefits. Under the women’s leadership, the journals continue to publish top-notch articles, and the competition societies continue to rack up impressive wins.
When asked to give advice to current and future women law students who seek leadership roles, all the women agreed: Act now in pursuit of your dreams. Do not hesitate or discourage yourself.
“Just do it,” said Evans. “Once you’re in, deal with the day-to-day challenges as they come.”
“My recommendation is to just never give up,” said Tallarico. “Be persistent and push for things for the well-being of the student group, whether it be a journal or competition team. Be confident and listen to your peers, as they will probably teach you just as much as the actual work you are doing.”