Graduate Puts 'Having It All' to the Test — and Passes
Casey Trombley-Shapiro Jonas, an enthusiastic advocate for women's rights who will participate in commencement at the University of Virginia School of Law on Sunday, chose to add a sweet little challenge to her three-year law school experience.
She became a mom midway through her studies.
"Law school with a baby is harder than law school without a baby," said Jonas, whose son, Coplan, turns 1 on May 23. "Something that I'm pretty sure I will start to cry about at some point during the graduation process is just how much support I have here."
It's not uncommon for law students to also juggle parenting duties, though having a baby during law school is rarer. Coplan has snoozed while his mom has caught up on work in Scott Commons, been a late-night study partner, and become a popular '0L' around the Law School, as Jonas' classmates have helped babysit him and the entire community has doted on him.
The "love and support [for] him is just overwhelming," she said.
Jonas, a Berkeley graduate, came to the Law School with some experience in women's rights issues. The native Minnesotan had worked for U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Barbara Boxer — the latter of whom was chairperson of the foreign relations subcommittee that addresses global women's issues. Jonas, for example, got to sit in on talks related to female representation during the Arab Spring.
"I took a lot of meetings on how to get women to the table when deciding how to structure governments moving forward," Jonas said.
Once she arrived at UVA Law, Jonas joined numerous groups, but Virginia Law Women was the student organization she was most excited about. It was a group she set her sights on eventually leading.
During her first-year summer, Jonas also interned with the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, where she worked with alumna Christine Tschiderer Dinan '12. Jonas helped out on cases to protect mothers and other caregivers from family responsibilities discrimination.
Jonas and her husband, David T.S. Jonas, who is policy director with the Tom Perriello for Governor of Virginia campaign, joined the caregiving ranks as they welcomed Coplan into the world shortly after her second-year spring exams.
From that day forward, Jonas said, the little joys of being a mother only added to her law school experience.
"Yes, he's very distracting and he's very cute, and so on one side, it's harder to do my reading when I'd rather play with my baby," she said. "But on the other side, it's really rewarding and easier in a sense that I'm doing my reading and I look up and there's an adorable baby who wants to play with me — as opposed to sitting by myself reading casebooks all day long."
Throughout law school, Jonas invested her time in student groups that serve the community and experiences that would make her a better lawyer. That included service as vice president, then president, of Virginia Law Women, through which she helped launch the first Women in Public Service reception. Jonas also worked in her second year with Professor Kerry Abrams, a family law expert, to complete a directed research project and a note on family responsibilities discrimination.
In addition, Jonas was on the executive board of the Program in Law and Public Service, was a member of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, was an articles editor for the Virginia Law Review, served as the voter protection director on the executive board for the Virginia Law Democrats and was a Virginia Law Ambassador. She was also involved with the Extramural Moot Court Team, National Trial Advocacy Team, Public Interest Law Association and Feminist Legal Forum.
"I have exceeded any goals I could have set for myself in coming here," she said. "What I've found here is a lot of people who are passionate and dedicated to what they believe in and what they're looking for, and that's beyond inspiring."
After graduation, Jonas will return to California to clerk for Judge Paul J. Watford on the 9th Circuit in Pasadena for a year. Then, for the 2018 court term, she will clerk for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington.
Though Jonas hasn't made plans for after her clerkships, she said she knows she wants to be an advocate for women, wherever she lands.
"The amount I've changed since I started 1L to now, where I have an almost-1-year-old, is fairly significant on a lot of levels," she said. "I know that I'm in the right field to use my skills and my passion to affect the world."
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Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.