Martha White

Martha White

Martha White, Class of 2015

Undergraduate: Illinois Wesleyan University '06; B.A., Philosophy

Why did you choose to pursue a law degree?

Law school had always been tucked in the back of my mind as a possibility. I was inspired to go when I became a single parent to a 1-year-old at the age of 27. While my college friends were graduating with their advanced degrees, I was trying to settle a divorce. I met my attorney through a non-profit legal clinic. She was the best advocate I could have possibly imagined. Her legal skills were exemplary, but more importantly, she was on my side. This was extremely important in a divorce situation, where not even friends and family always know how to act because they've known you and the adverse party as a couple. My attorney was behind me all the way, and her efforts gave me strength to pick up and keep going, no matter how hard things were. When I got back on my feet again, I resolved to go to law school because I had a new perspective on the good that lawyers can do for their clients. I did not initially set out to be a family attorney like my lawyer — I just wanted to show clients in general that I was behind them 100 percent and that they are worth all of my effort. My lawyer showed me that, and it changed my life forever.

Why did you choose the University of St. Thomas School of Law?

St. Thomas was always warm and accepting of me and my situation. I knew I was taking on a lot by pursuing a law degree as a single mother to a toddler. My conversations with the admissions staff were not only encouraging that I would have the resources here to succeed; they also reflected that the staff members were excited for me and this step I was taking. They made it clear that they didn't just want me to come and be a student; they wanted both my son and me to join the greater community and further the school's mission.

Now that you’ve had the experience of being a student at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, what do you think makes it special?

The strong sense of community distinguishes St. Thomas. I grew up in a family of four children, all very close in age, and all very ambitious. My experiences in the law school community mirror my experiences as the third of four strong children being raised together. Everyone here has been successful in life, has boundless potential, and has the talents to succeed in law school. Sometimes we have fun together; other times we get on each other’s nerves. But always, always, always we support each other and share a sense of being on this path together. I know most of my classmates, and I care about them. I am excited to see where their journeys will take them. And I know that they feel similarly toward me.

What do you hope to do with your law degree?

I want to work with families in one way or another. There is hopefully general family practice in my future. Ideally, I would like to practice in adoption and surrogacy law, or any kind of practice using a collaborative model.

What is the best advice you can give an incoming student to the School of Law?

I would say to see your legal education is something bigger than your personal ambition. It has helped me through long nights of studying to remember that my efforts serve a greater purpose than my own. My learning will benefit the single mom hobbling into my office one day with hollow eyes and little hope — which is a position I was once in. Years from now, my education will show my son that it's never too late to explore the bounds of your potential. One day I want to say to my clients and my son alike, “It can be hard, but I do this for you. You are worth every effort.” That hope is more motivating than any degree or professional license at the end of this journey.