As the first person in her family to graduate from college, third-year student Andi Schlut has helped other first-generation students at the University of Virginia School of Law find their footing, and even helped bring laughter back with a Law School tradition.
Schlut, a native of Denver, earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and sociolegal studies from the University of Denver.
At UVA Law, Schlut serves as editor-in-chief of the Virginia Sports & Entertainment Law Journal, programs editor for the Journal of Law & Politics, president of Virginia Law First-Generation Professionals, a director for the musical sketch comedy Libel Show and as UVA’s American Bar Association representative on the Student Bar Association. She is also a Peer Advisor, a Legal Writing Fellow and a Prosecution Clinic participant working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Richmond.
In our occasional series “Star Witness,” Schlut discussed bridging divides for fellow first-generation students and how the Libel Show, which will return next week for its first in-person performances since 2019, has fostered a return to normalcy at the Law School.
Why law school?
I’ve always been drawn to the lawyers I met, most of whom were parents of my friends. I was constantly fascinated by the fact that they always had somewhere to go and something important to do. As I grew up a bit, I realized that they always seemed busy because they always had people who needed their help relying on them, but I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to be one of them. Then, in college, I discovered a passion for research and writing, and finally decided that becoming a lawyer would allow me to do all the things I wanted to do: constantly have the opportunity to help people while also doing something that I truly enjoyed doing.
Tell us about your work with Virginia Law First-Generation Professionals.
My work with VLFGP has been some of the most fulfilling and exciting work that I’ve done in my time at UVA Law. We have a huge first-generation community here, and our organization’s goal is to provide resources and opportunities to those students to help them thrive both in law school and in their legal careers. We host events with employers, advocate on behalf of our community to the administration and the SBA, and provide mentorship opportunities to our 1L members. But easily my favorite initiative we’ve done during my time on the VLFGP executive board is our 1L Glossary, which we distribute to all 1Ls who sign up for our email list. One of the simplest ways in which first-gen students can be made to feel isolated and inferior is by not knowing the law school “lingo” that some of their peers might know. We wanted to address that disparity by providing 1Ls with a list of terminology to help them navigate their first year of law school. Now, they know what “moot court” and “journals” are without feeling embarrassed because they have to ask, and that seemingly small change can make a huge difference as first-years attempt to gain their footing and fit in with their peers.
What are some challenges, and rewarding moments, directing the Libel Show during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I was also a vocal director for the Libel Show last year, when we made the decision to do a completely virtual show in the style of a feature film. That was a challenge because it involved a lot more work on the part of the directors, who had to become sound and film editors overnight. This year has presented different challenges as we transition back to a more traditional stage show. Conducting auditions and rehearsals in masks is no small feat, and it makes it difficult for our performers to practice conveying certain emotions when half of their face is hidden! But the most rewarding part of directing this year is working with my peers on the leadership team — Lauren Johnson, Stan Birch and Chance Maginness have really made directing a fun, instead of stressful, experience — and bringing such an important UVA Law tradition back. I can feel the UVA Law community rebuilding while we are rehearsing — laughter and human connection and camaraderie are back in the halls of the Law School, and I am incredibly grateful to play a small part in that.
Describe your most interesting law school experience.
Last semester, I had the amazing opportunity to extern at UVA’s Athletics Compliance Office. Easily the best part of that experience was the sideline pass for all of UVA’s home football games, but it was also a great opportunity to work in the collegiate athletics space during a time when the legal landscape is changing so rapidly and significantly. I got the opportunity to watch as UVA, the commonwealth of Virginia and the entire country grappled with the new normal. It was a really exciting time to be working in collegiate sports and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch the law change around me.
The biggest change happened just last summer. The NCAA used to prohibit student-athletes from profiting from use of their name, image and likeness, which essentially meant that they couldn’t sign endorsement deals or serve as brand ambassadors for companies. That changed following the Supreme Court’s decision in NCAA v. Alston, and student-athletes can now enter into those types of deals so long as they do so in accordance with state law. The Athletics Compliance Office at UVA is in charge of ensuring that all deals comply with state law, so we had to act quickly to adjust to this new reality and educate student-athletes about what that meant for them. The Virginia state law was enacted in August, and UVA has its own internal policy as well. So we had to interpret all these new rules and regulations, pass that information along to coaches and athletes, and then actively oversee all of the deals that athletes were entering into. It was a steep learning curve, but also very interesting and exciting!
What’s next for you?
I’ll be clerking in the Northern District of Texas following graduation and then working in Sidley Austin’s Dallas office. But the ultimate goal is to find a job that taps into both of my passions: entertainment and law. I have always loved everything about sports, music and film, and I would love to practice law in that industry.
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.