Nicola Pidala ‘21
A group of us founded Virginia Law First-Generation Professionals (VLFGP) in April 2019 to facilitate the transition and integration of first-generation professional students into Virginia Law and the legal profession through mentorship, career advising, academic support, social activities, and more. In forming the organization, our intention was to build a community of first-generation students at the Law School to provide support to one another and other resources that we believe would have benefited us during our first year. Many students who identify as first-generation professionals lack access to some of the class-based privileges of our peers, which can feel like a glass ceiling for advancement in the legal profession. Through programming aimed at addressing such economic and educational barriers, we hope to make the profession a more inclusive space for students of diverse backgrounds and let first-generation students know that they are welcome and supported in an environment that may not seem designed for them.
Our organization welcomes students from a variety of backgrounds, including students who grew up in working-class or low-income communities, students who are first-generation Americans, and students who are first in their family to attend high school, college, or graduate school. We recognize that the issues first generational-professionals face are not solely limited to these groups and encourage those who may not identify with these groups to engage in the organization to broaden the concept of diversity on Grounds and address barriers to entry that persist in the profession.
This upcoming year, we are interested in hosting a mix of formal and informal events for our members and the broader Law School community. For First-Generation Student Day on November 8, we plan to have an event to celebrate the success of our members and first-generation professionals in the legal field. We also hope to organize events with faculty and staff at the Law School, career development offices, law firms, and other student organizations to connect our members with different resources and opportunities at Virginia Law. Lastly, our mentorship chairs—Erin and Josh—have been developing our mentorship program to connect 1Ls with 2Ls and 3Ls. Through this program, we hope to provide a forum to discuss various topics, including financial considerations associated with law school and career opportunities, balancing academics with competing professional and personal demands, what “Big Law” and “business casual” mean, and what electives to take Spring 1L. Additionally, we hope to provide community and mentorship to first-generation students.