Unlike most law students, Ashley Allen, L’12, hopes to use her law degree to pursue a career in government relations. As she begins her term as 2011–12 president of the Student Bar Association (SBA), Allen hopes to gain firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by elected officials.

Allen, who served as SBA social chair last year, wanted to take on more responsibility with the organization that represents the law school’s student body to the administration, hosts student activities, and seeks to connect the law school to the broader Richmond community. Allen sees the SBA as the ideal way to get involved in law school.

“I also wanted to see what it was like to be in an office where you have to learn to balance individual needs with the needs of the whole group, in case I decide in the future that politics is something I want to pursue,” she says.

Allen, a native of Danville, Va., first became interested in lobbying as a career while she was an undergraduate at Virginia Commonwealth University. During an internship with the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association she was able to sit in on committee meetings during Virginia’s General Assembly.

“After being there for a week, I realized that’s what I wanted to do,” Allen says. She immediately switched her major from environmental studies to political science. “I love the Virginia process," she says. “I am only interested in state government relations where you can genuinely make a difference. On the state level, especially in Virginia, it’s very easy to go and see your legislator and it’s easy to talk to their assistants about legislation.”

While researching career choices, Allen talked to many lobbyists who regretted not having a law degree. She decided to avoid having those same regrets by enrolling in the University of Richmond School of Law. She chose the school partially because of its location in Virginia’s capital city. “For what I want to do, there are more job opportunities here,” she says.

During Allen’s first year of law school she worked with the National Federation of Independent Business working on small business advocacy issues. Last summer, she began working with McGuireWoods Consulting, a full-service public affairs firm that is a subsidiary of McGuireWoods law firm. Here, she researches issues for clients, and during this year’s General Assembly session, she attended committee meetings and visited legislators on behalf of the firm’s clients.

As SBA president, Allen says she plans to focus on networking and jobs; increasing student involvement in the curriculum; and keeping law school fun. 

“As law students, the number one thing on our minds is getting a job after law school,” she says. She hopes to increase the number and frequency of networking events such as the annual SBA golf tournament and to invite alumni to select SBA events. She also hopes to plan an event that includes both alumni and students from the law school and the university’s MBA program. “It would be such a great opportunity to get these groups together,” she says.

Allen also hopes to work with Phi Alpha Delta to develop its annual Public Interest Auction to involve more alumni from the community and raise more funds for the law school’s public interest summer stipend program. She adds, “I want to foster a larger effort in keeping our young alumni active and involved with the law school.”