Chicago-based lawyer Maria Z. Vathis has recently been elected as the President-Elect of the Federal Bar Association (FBA). Starting on October 1, 2018, Ms. Vathis will be responsible for leading an organization of more than 15,000 federal lawyers and judges. The mission of the FBA is “to strengthen the federal legal system and administration of justice by serving the interests and the needs of the federal practitioner, both public and private, the federal judiciary and the public they serve.”
As a student interested in debate and journalism, Maria was drawn to practicing law because “it is a wonderful profession if you enjoy being challenged and working with people.” With an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a J.D. from DePaul University, and a certificate from Fordham Law School’s Fashion Law Institute, Maria specializes in corporate law across the retail, insurance, and regulatory industries. Recognized as “Lawyer of the Year” by the Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois for her work as an attorney at Bryan Cave, Maria views her FBA presidency as a chance to expand the influence of law beyond the courtroom. One of her favorite FBA initiatives is the National Community Outreach Project. During the month of April, FBA chapters across the country work with their local courts to provide middle school and high school students with an inside look into the legal profession through courtroom tours, mock trials, and visits to federal agencies.
In addition to the National Community Outreach project, the FBA supports students through its annual essay contest that awards scholarships to the top high school and college entries. Throughout the year, the FBA’s Civics Education Resources Initiative allows FBA members to visit classrooms to teach students about the different career paths available to aspiring lawyers. For young women interested in pursuing a career in law, Maria recommends finding a mentor who can share lessons from her professional journey. “Since there are a variety of ways you can utilize a law degree, it is important to get different perspectives from people who have demonstrated their expertise in this field,” Maria advises. “It is critical that established professionals pay it forward and promote collaboration in the legal community.”
Maria practices what she preaches and has volunteered to host a virtual mentoring session with a young woman in the GenHERation community. If you are interested in learning more about Maria’s work and how you can learn from lawyers at the Federal Bar Association, please enter our lottery by Friday, June 22, 2018 here.
Contributors: Keerthi Jayaraman and Erika Lopez