The Dallas Women Lawyers Association’s sponsored a “Law and Leadership Symposium” for students at Dallas ISD’s Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School. The Jan. 23 event, held at the University of North Texas School of Law, featured “speed mentoring” by experienced women lawyers and law students.
The event was attended by 21 Rangel students who are considering a career in law. The symposium was the culminating service project for DWLA’s first Leadership Class, which brought together 12 students from area law schools and mentors them on becoming leading lawyers.
The Rangel students also heard from 116th District Judge Tonya Parker; a panel discussion among deans from the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, Texas A&M University School of Law and the University of North Texas Dallas College of Law; and a panel of current law students made up of members of the DWLA’s Leadership Class, which includes law students from SMU, UNT and TAMU.
“It was amazing to see successful female lawyers and judges answer the call for support without hesitation,” said Ashley Jones Wright, a second-year student at UNT Dallas College of Law and co-director of the symposium. “It took each and every one of them to make the program a success.”
Niki Mirshams, a third-year at Texas A&M School of Law and the symposium’s other co-director, said the Rangel students “are the future leaders of the Dallas community.”
“We wanted these girls, through exposure to top Dallas women lawyers, judges and law school deans, to learn that opportunities to be a leader in the community are available to them every day and are within reach,” Mirshams said.
The Rangel students who attended the event were effusive.
“Every speaker told us that law school was hard work and dedication, and instead of getting scared, I became more interested,” said 8th grader Guadalupe Roman. “I cannot describe the confidence booster you all gave me at the symposium of actually pursuing a career in law.”
Rubi Hernandez, a senior, agreed.
“I really liked the insight that I received from women in the field and learning about how they’ve gotten where they are now,” she said. “My favorite part was hearing from the law students because their raw advice showed us how it really is.”
The day’s keynote speaker was Dallas’ 116th District Judge Tonya Parker, who told the prospective lawyers to “strive for excellence, not perfection.”
“Sometimes we confuse excellence and perfection,” she said. “This is dangerous, especially for women, because we often try to be all things to all people…. I am not capable of being perfect. None of us are. No matter how talented, smart, or well-intentioned we are, we will never be perfect. The danger in confusing the two concepts is that you will end up feeling like a failure for not being perfect, even when you have been excellent.”
DWLA leaders said the event was an unqualified success.
“The most rewarding part about supervising the Symposium was watching women unite, celebrate one another, and work together to ensure the next generation builds on the successes of the last,” said Nicole Knox, DWLA Immediate Past President and vice president of the Leadership Class.
DWLA President Angela Zambrano concurred: “I was so impressed by the students. Their questions went straight to the issues in a thoughtful and poised way. If we don’t have a great group of future female lawyers at Irma Rangel, then we have a bunch of Barbara Walters in the making.”
Quotes from students, mentors
“I really liked the insight that I received from women in the field and learning about how they’ve gotten where they are now. My favorite part was hearing from the law students because their raw advice showed us how it really is.
– Rubi Hernandez, 12th grade,
Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School
“My favorite part of the event was seeing the deans from SMU, TAMU, and UNT Dallas, who usually are competing for student applicants, come together to support the leadership class and inspire the next generation. Their support was instrumental to the success of our program. Similarly, it was amazing to see successful female lawyers and judges answer the call for support without hesitation. It took each and every one of them to make the program a success.”
– Ashley Jones, UNT Dallas College of Law
Second Year law student, Symposium Co-director
“The most rewarding part about supervising the Symposium was watching women unite, celebrate one another, and work together to ensure the next generation builds on the successes of the last.”
DWLA Immediate Past President, VP Leadership Class
Keynote speaker; DWLA Advisory Director: Hon. Tonya Parker, Presiding Judge, Dallas County 116th Judicial District Court. (taken from her keynote address)
“You, young ladies, are our future, and our future is bright because of that.”
“Be bold and be wise, and you must be both because one alone is pointless.”
Parker challenged the students, “Take your actions and embed them, and import them, and impart them so that they are beneficial to others.”
Parker described that no one posed the question, “What Impact Will You Have?” to her until she had been practicing law for 10 years, and she wonders “how her life might have unfolded” or “where she might be” if someone would have asked her this question in high school. She challenged the students, “move through the world thinking about this question.
Strive for excellence, not perfection. “Sometimes we confuse excellence and perfection. This is dangerous, especially for women, because we try to be all things to all people….I am not capable of being perfect. None of us are. You will never be perfect. The danger is that even when you have been excellent, you have not been perfect and you feel like a failure even when you have excelled.”