Among an estimated 118 women elected and re-elected to Congress in Tuesday’s midterm elections, roughly one-third will be putting their law degrees to work in their new legislative duties.
The 37 lawyer-legislators are diverse in race, ethnicity, law schools and legal experiences. Thirteen of the 37 are first-time legislators who won open seats or unseated incumbents.
Two of the first Native American women elected to Congress—Sharice Davids of Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico—are graduates of Cornell University School of Law and the University of New Mexico School of Law, respectively.
Davids, a former mixed martial arts professional, started her legal career at the international law firm SNR Denton, which later merged with European and Canadian law firms to become Dentons. Haaland, most recently chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party, is former chair of the Laguna Development Corp., which runs the Laguna Pueblo’s gaming enterprises and other businesses. She also worked as a tribal administrator.
Another first—Rashida Tlaib of Michigan is one of two Muslim women elected to Congress for the first time. Tlaib is a graduate of Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Sylvia Garcia is one of two Latinas to represent Texas for the first time in Congress. She attended Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
The newly elected women attended 28 different law schools, including Ivy League Harvard and Yale as well as Cumberland, Santa Clara, George Washington, Cleveland-Marshall, University of Chicago, University of Virginia, Touro and others.
Georgetown University Law Center can claim four graduates, and there are two each from law schools at the University of New Mexico, Cornell University, UCLA, University of Chicago and William and Mary.
A number of the women have Big Law experience. William and Mary graduate Elizabeth Fletcher of Texas began her legal career in 2006 at Vinson & Elkins. A few years later, she joined Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing, a 50-person firm based in Houston that focuses on business litigation. She became the firm’s first woman partner in 2015.
New Jersey’s Mikie Sherrill, a Georgetown graduate, was an associate in the Kirkland & Ellis litigation department in New York before become an assistant U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey in 2015.
For the past 15 years, Pennsylvania’s Mary Gay Scanlon, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania law school, has served as pro bono counsel at Ballard Spahr, overseeing 600 lawyers in 15 offices—her program received the American Bar Association’s 2018 pro bono award.
Their backgrounds also include experiences as local, state and federal prosecutors, a water rights attorney, legal aid attorney, consumer protection attorney at the Federal Trade Commission, criminal defense attorney, and municipal judge.
Pennsylvania’s Susan Wild, a George Washington University law school graduate, litigated at Allentown’s Gross McGinley and served as that city’s solicitor. William and Mary graduate Jennifer Wexton of Virginia was a partner in the Laurel Brigade Law Group, a substitute county judge and a state prosecutor. Oklahoma’s Kendra Horn, who graduated from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, began her legal career with a small Dallas firm and later opened her solo practice.
And in one of two races still too-close-to-call, Harvard Law School’s Katie Porter is a law professor at the University of California Irvine School of Law where she teaches consumer law, securities and consumer bankruptcy. Over in Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema, who graduated from Arizona State University School of Law, practiced in that state’s Washington Elementary School District.