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Dayton Docket

Racing Into A Successful Legal Career

By Carole Judge

As a rower, Taylor Gillespie understands the work that can go into any journey.

But the 2020 University of Dayton School of Law graduate has also seen how that effort takes you in the right direction.

Today, Gillespie is an assistant district attorney for Erie County in her hometown of Buffalo, New York. It’s the culmination of a course she charted as far back as high school.

When the U.S. House of Representatives Page Program ended in 2011, Gillespie was among the last class of select high schoolers who spent their summer in Washington, D.C. serving legislators. Her mother is also a lawyer, but this experience increased her interest in law.

Her academic life then took a circuitous route across the nation, first to the University of Oklahoma where she was recruited to row for the Division I school, then to the University of Dayton School of Law.

“I took several legal courses, including American Indian Federal Law and Policy and The Environment and the Law, that solidified my ambition to pursue a legal career,” Gillespie says. “Rowing varsity for four years had its challenges but overall was a rewarding experience. I developed many skills as a student athlete, such as accountability and discipline, which I relied on throughout law school.”

With a bachelor’s in Environmental Sustainability and a minor in Native American Sustainability, Gillespie took a year off after graduating, traveling, working for the IRS – and forming her plans. Then she joined a new crew at Dayton Law where she found a welcoming community.

“On my initial visit I met with members of the Black Law Students Association, other law students, and law professors. It was a supportive environment where I knew I would obtain the skills necessary to have a successful legal career,” recalled Gillespie, who went on to become a Dean’s Fellow through an application process which requires academic achievement and seeks potential for leadership.

In that position, like her position in a competitive boat, Gillespie seemed to be driven by strategy like an engine – and she’s willing to share her tips for success with others. Dean’s Fellows teach and encourage. Now, as a professional, she’s still volunteering in her own community to help young people.

“I value being a resource to the community, guiding youth in discovering their passion and refining their skills,” Gillespie says. “This inspiration has led me to coaching novice rowers and teaching Business Law as an adjunct professor at a college in Buffalo.”  

Gillespie credits the many coaches, mentors and professors who paved the way and helped her reach her goals.

“Their influence and encouragement were invaluable,” she offered, including a professor who suggested which bar exam to take during the pandemic when many were delayed. She crafted a plan that worked.  

Even during quarantine, she completed special training in Basic Mediation and Advanced Civil/Commercial Mediation. She also served as a Fellow for the American Bar Association. Gillespie’s capstone at Dayton Law was in advanced dispute resolution.

In her early days with the district attorney’s office, Gillespie worked on domestic violence cases – a challenging assignment. Currently she is assigned to the Justice Courts Bureau, a post that requires traveling throughout Erie County. This gives her perspective and understanding about the wider community and how she can make a difference. 

“I participate in many of the community engagement activities at my office, including an upcoming diversity career fair,” Gillespie says. “Our goal is to continue to increase diversity in our office. I will be interacting with potential new hires and explaining my duties and responsibilities as an ADA.”

Gillespie has advice for future lawyers which includes being open to different areas of the law. At first, Gillespie was certain she’d focus on federal law with an emphasis on the environment, but then she discovered a strong interest in criminal law.

“For incoming students, I advise them to be strategic about internships and fellowships and watch for early deadlines,” Gillespie says. “A deadline for a summer internship can be as early as the fall before. Always be prepared with an updated well drafted resume and cover letter with a list of confirmed references. I’ve developed lasting relationships with classmates and professors and have remained engaged with the school as a mentor to law students and as a Road to Bar Passage essay grader.”

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