W&L Outcomes: Gabby Emge ’23 Gabby Emge ’23 will be pursuing her J.D. at Harvard Law School.
Post-Grad Plans: J.D. at Harvard Law School
Areas of Study: Cognitive and behavioral science
What will you be doing after graduation?
I will be pursuing my J.D. at Harvard Law School.
How did your career plans evolve over the course of your time at W&L?
W&L fostered my intellectual curiosity and gave me a real love of learning. I came into college wanting to go into a legal career, but through my W&L education, I found a passion for constitutional law, utilizing law as a means of helping rehabilitate people who have committed crimes, and working for a legal system that helps individuals overcome adversity rather than merely punishing them for their unchosen and unchangeable lived environment or genetic makeup. Thanks to the engagement and energy of my professors, I have become increasingly interested in public interest law and have found such a strong passion and desire to pursue this work. Over the course of these past four years, I have become a regular at the Rockbridge County Regional Library, devouring knowledge on the Constitution and the intersections of poverty and the law. I began listening to Supreme Court oral arguments and catching up on news at scotusblog.com. After my time at W&L, I am so thrilled about this next chapter of my life because I have truly come to love learning about the law.
What internships or other summer experiences did you partake in, and how did those experiences shape you and your career plans?
The summer after my sophomore year, I participated in the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty internship program. I was matched with the Guilford County Public Defenders in Greensboro, North Carolina, and spent eight weeks meeting with clients, shadowing attorneys, observing court proceedings, and even aiding attorneys with trial preparation. This experience solidified my desire to work as a public interest attorney and exposed me to special courts such as Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts, and Juvenile Courts. Through witnessing the positive impacts and diversion potential of these courts, I became increasingly passionate about rehabilitation-based alternatives to our traditional punitive and retributive legal system. The following summer, I completed an international law tutorial at Oxford University. The tutorial system greatly improved my research, writing and debate proficiency; I spent each week researching and writing an essay on a new topic, and meeting one-on-one with my tutor to engage in lively conversation about what I had learned that week. These skills will be immensely valuable to me in law school and beyond, and my international law education has made me eager to explore new areas of the law.
What did you study here, and what are some skills or learnings you will take from your academic experience into the professional world?
As a cognitive and behavioral science major, I have become increasingly interested in the intersection of psychology and law. My most captivating coursework revolved around concepts such as decision-making, the importance of childhood environment, the impact of adverse experiences like poverty and discrimination on a developing brain, and how seemingly trivial genetic differences can increase the likelihood of antisocial behavior when coupled with certain environmental influences. Throughout law school and my career as an attorney, I plan to draw upon this knowledge to fight for justice for those frequently marginalized in the legal system and advocate for a system rooted in rehabilitation and restorative justice.
What career-related advice would you give to next year’s graduating class?
I want to tell next year’s graduating class to take advantage of the interdisciplinary nature of W&L’s liberal arts education. Despite coming into college knowing that I had an interest in the law, I did not want to lock myself into a four-year curriculum of law and politics. Instead, I spent a great deal of time in the Science Center and learned about biology, neuroscience and psychology — all of which I have been able to connect to the law and which have informed my intended pursuits as a public interest attorney. I also have rounded out my undergraduate educational experience with classes in French, poverty studies, English, and even art history and data science. While these classes do not all directly translate to a career in the law, they have helped me to become a more multi-faceted person who is prepared to engage with the students and professors I will meet come this fall, coworkers and employers in the years to come, and anyone else I may come across in the future.
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