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Annie Collart, Jennifer Randolph and Holly Norgard

Class of 2014: Top Achieving Women

Jennifer Randolph: “Everyone in law school works hard and has to learn how to budget their time, I was just lucky to find a good balance that worked for me, and to find it early in law school.”

Jennifer Randolph, Annie Collart and Holly Norgard, Class of 2014, represent the first time in Seton Hall Law history that three women have graduated in the top three ranked positions. Pictured from left are Annie Collart, Jennifer Randolph and Holly Norgard.

“I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner,” said Jennifer Randolph, Class Valedictorian. “I never thought about whether my gender would make a difference, and it was never an issue here.”

Yet as studies, such as the recent study of gender disparities at Yale Law School by the Yale Law Women, reveal, gender bias continues to be an issue in many law schools.

Professor Rachel Godsil, who writes about civil rights issues, suggests that the Seton Hall Law community has worked hard to prevent gender from being an obstacle to success. “Our history is helpful: our founder was the first woman dean of an accredited law school and we have long had a significant percentage of women faculty, which provides law students of either gender a wide variety of role models and a norm of successful women," Professor Godsil explains. 

"In addition," she continues, "the culture in the classroom favors equity – most professors “cold call” in first-year classes so all students are given an opportunity to speak in class. Professors at Seton Hall Law are enthusiastic about working closely with students, representing clients in clinics, on scholarship and in providing connections with employers. This supportive atmosphere benefits students who might otherwise be hesitant to seek out professors.  Jennifer, Annie, and Holly’s success and experience of support from professors is heartening.”

Randolph chose to attend law school after her internship in a county prosecutor’s office when she attended The College of New Jersey, where she earned a degree in Criminology. She appreciated the supportive community she found at Seton Hall Law. “I think that the quality and clarity of some of the professors was key, as well as the advice and counseling of older students,” she said. Living in Newark during law school, she also took advantage of the quick commute: “As a morning person, I loved that the building opened early so I could get my studying done.”

Randolph attributes her academic success to “some combination of hard work, time management, and luck (and also caffeine). Everyone in law school works hard and has to learn how to budget their time. I was lucky to find a good balance that worked for me, and to find it early in law school.”

This fall, she will clerk for New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, and will join Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP in 2015, where she worked previously as a summer associate.

Annie Collart decided to attend law school when she volunteered for the non-profit organization, Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Jersey (CASA), advocating for children who were in the process of being removed from their homes due to neglect or abuse. “My first case was an 18-month old girl. I visited her every two weeks and it was my job to share with the court personal details about her life and needs that the caseworkers and attorneys didn’t have the resources to observe. I was so nervous when I had to stand up in court and put my name on the record, but it was so rewarding. Now I’m thinking about how, as an attorney, I can use my training to create that kind of impact.”

Collart came to Seton Hall Law as an evening student, initially working full-time for an energy company, but she soon found experience in the law was vital. Through the Office of Career Services, she found a listing for a job at a small firm in Parsippany. “I sent an email to [OCS counselor] Joe Steinberg, who is also a partner in a law firm, for guidance on whether the position had the potential to be full time. He knew the firm I was applying to and within 24 hours had made a phone call to one of the partners and gotten back to me saying, not only that the position was full-time, but that I had an interview.”

Despite up to 60-hour work weeks at the law firm and a full evening program course load, Collart still found time to volunteer through the Pro Bono Service Program at Wynona’s House in Newark, which also supports children who have suffered abuse. In addition, she participated in the Juvenile Justice Clinic at the Center for Social Justice. Her time management skills are readily apparent, yet she believes the support from her husband, Neil, and the relationships she forged with her classmates were essential to her success.

“As evening students, we don’t get much time in the building, but what I really appreciated about SHU Law was the support I had in my classmates and friends. Whether it was through the positivity of Professors Kip Cornwell and Paula Franzese, the extra time after class in small groups at the front of the room to go over tricky material with Professors Edward Hartnett and Jon Romberg, or the much-needed sense of humor of Professors Jenny Carroll and Brian Sheppard at 10 p.m. when you were up at 6 a.m. to go for work that morning and faced the same schedule in another eight hours, the school fostered a sense of community, and created a space where our class could come together as an invaluable support system.”

In the fall, Collart will clerk for New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Patterson and the following year, she will clerk with Judge Katharine S. Hayden ’74 of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Holly Norgard’s summer internships at a law firm during her college years at Vassar sparked her interest in law school. “I knew a legal education would combine reading, writing, researching, and presenting arguments – all things I have always loved,” she explains.

She found her motivation, as she explains, “in my desire to fully understand and be able to thoughtfully write about the topics my favorite professors had worked so hard to explain and make accessible. Immersing myself in various activities at Seton Hall also allowed me to further develop important skills which I will carry with me throughout my legal career.” Among those activities, Norgard cites her participation in Seton Hall Law’s Moot Court team. A highlight of her law school experience was serving as the Student Director of the Eugene Gressman Appellate Moot Court Competition, at which Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor presided and for which Norgard prepared the case the students argued. “Having the opportunity to write the 2014 Gressman problem and bench memo for a Supreme Court Justice's reading was an amazing honor, for which I will always have Seton Hall to thank,” Norgard concludes.

She will start at Debevoise and Plimpton, LLP as an associate in the litigation department in September.