Megan Scalia Carries on Family Tradition

Incoming Law Student, Granddaughter of Late Justice, Influenced by UVA Mentor
Megan Scalia

Megan Scalia earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from UVA in 2019. Photo by Julia Davis 

August 12, 2021

Despite her famous lineage, law school wasn’t a forgone conclusion for Megan Scalia.

Scalia, who earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia, is joining its incoming J.D. class this month. She is a granddaughter of Antonin Scalia, the late U.S. Supreme Court justice who taught at UVA Law early in his career.

“I knew him as Pop-Pop, not Justice Scalia,” she said.

Even though she was close to her grandfather, the influential justice didn’t attempt to guide her in any particular career direction. Nevertheless, the story of her educational journey is very much rooted in family, as well as the influence of a mentor at UVA.

Scalia’s grandfather wasn’t the only relative to become a lawyer. Her father, Eugene Scalia (Col ’85); an uncle, John Scalia; and a cousin, Will Courtney (Col ’13), are attorneys.

As a child, she had heard her family’s law-related conversations and wasn’t too intrigued. What fascinated her more were her siblings and how people who were so genetically close could have such different personalities and dispositions. She is the second oldest of seven children.

Maureen, Megan and Antonin Scalia
Megan Scalia and her grandfather, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and grandmother Maureen Scalia share a moment during her high school graduation. Courtesy photo

So with a psychology major in mind, she began classes at UVA, following in the footsteps of her father and her mother, Patricia Larsen Scalia (Col ’91).

In her third year of undergraduate work, Scalia elected to take a course taught by a former attorney, Professor Sherri Moore in the McIntire School of Commerce, who was highly praised by Scalia’s classmates. Moore and her Commercial Law course “had a huge impact on me,” Scalia said. “Growing up, I saw the law as a little dull. That course really brought the subject to life and showed me a deeply human side of the law.”

Eager to learn more, Scalia took Commercial Law II with Moore, and Media Policy and Law with Christopher Ali the following semester. In her fourth year, she became one of Moore’s teaching assistants for Commercial Law I. Scalia documented lectures and helped Moore answer students’ questions, which deepened her understanding of the material.

“It’s one thing to learn it yourself,” she said, “but it’s another to explain the material to others with varying levels of familiarity with the U.S. legal system.”

With her new interest, Scalia decided to explore whether she really wanted to become a lawyer. Following her third year she interned with the Washington, D.C., firm RuyakCherian, where she went on to work as a legal administrative assistant after graduating in 2019. She helped prepare court documents and exhibits, and even participated as a “witness” in mock depositions.

“I think working at a small firm provided room for growth and hands-on exposure to the legal process that I might not have had at a larger firm,” she said.

Scalia is looking forward to starting classes and figuring out how she might work her interests in psychology and children into her studies. A former tutor at UVA’s Madison House, she is considering joining the Youth Advocacy and Holistic Juvenile Defense clinics.

She’s also interested in extracurricular activities such as Common Law Grounds, a discussion group at the Law School that encourages conversation across differences.

“One of the things that makes UVA great is that diversity of thought and opinion is valued,” Scalia said. “In law school, it seems you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the lived experiences of your classmates.”

Now that she’s on course to earn a J.D., her family naturally has opinions about the direction she should take once she’s a practicing attorney. Scalia will be the first female lawyer in her family. Her grandfather died in 2016, before he could learn of her choice. She wishes he could somehow add his thoughts to the family conversation.

“Of course, I really wish he were here so I could ask him questions,” she said, “but I remember a professor at UVA told me after he passed that, because of all he’s written, I’ll still have access to him throughout the years.”

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