We are sisters, best friends, and professional cohorts.
Although primarily raised in Virginia and California, many of our defining memories come from the summers we spent in Massachusetts helping our grandparents run a campground on Cape Cod. It was where we learned to work hard. Work started around age four, counting twelve night crawlers into a dirt-filled Styrofoam cup to sell to local fisherman. Later, we worked almost every job in the business, including flipping burgers, renting boats, cleaning rental cottages, stocking shelves, and picking up trash. We cherish our memories of working a full shift and then roaming uninhibited among the trees and ponds on the property with a diverse gaggle of companions.
As we grew older and moved on to law school in Virginia (Melissa at George Washington and Catharine at the University of Virginia), we developed new bonds through the law. Our favorite legal memories spawn from our days spent as summer interns in the Major Crimes Division at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Melissa, who is older, went first and dazzled Catharine with her tales. Melissa worked on cases of victims like a prostitute who was killed by sniper, a gorgeous young model who was brutally murdered in hand-to-hand combat by a hired female assassin, and a mother whose employee stabbed her in a parking lot. Michael Jackson’s case also came to the office that summer, and the media frenzy and hype surrounding it was a quintessentially Los Angeles experience.
Catharine, of course, had to follow suit. During her summer, she worked on a serial murder case where the defendant mutilated his victims postmortem. One of her first assignments was sifting through the hundreds of crime scene and autopsy photos, leading the other interns to tell her she had to sit alone because it was too disturbing to see the images. Catharine also befriended two grizzled LA homicide detectives (who were seemingly ripped from the pages of a paperback airport novel), during a double murder trial they won. The detectives took her to an autopsy, complete with blood and bone splatter. After the autopsy, a ride-a-long through some of LA’s worst gang territories, and a tour of Men’s Central Jail, Catharine dreamed of becoming a prosecutor.
Our shared interests led us to later publish several times together. Our first venture, which was picked up by the Cardozo Journal of Law and Gender, argued for experimentation with and the expansion of specialized sex offense courts. Shortly thereafter, we wrote to encourage female law students to run for office. Most recently, we explained in a Patheos article why female Mormon voters were unrepresented in the 2016 election, and wondered whether a female Mormon candidate might emerge in the future to fill the void. Currently we are working on a piece about how some Mormon fathers are unexpectedly finding themselves becoming feminists after raising daughters with careers.
Despite our many shared interests and projects, we have pursued different professional paths. Melissa is the Vice President of Running Start, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages young women to run for political office. Catharine can brag about her by saying that in addition to her training hundreds of young women each year both domestically and internationally, Melissa also hobnobs with Congresswomen and recently served as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention. Melissa sits on several boards, including serving as the WIL committee chair for the D.C. chapter.
Catharine chose a more traditional legal path. Catharine spent her first year in private practice as a litigation associate at Jones Day. After that year, a senior partner, who had recently been reappointed as a Justice on the California Court of Appeal, surprised Catharine by taking her with him to be his first clerk. At the end of her clerkship, she accepted a tentative offer from the United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California in its criminal division, pending a successful background check; she remains with her judge while waiting for her background check to clear. Catharine is the WIL committee chair for the Los Angeles chapter, and is thrilled to have joined the international WIL board with Melissa.
Outside of our professional bond, we also share a deep personal bond. We take an annual sibling trip and have been cliff jumping, cave exploring, sky diving, mud obstacle course running, and “snuba” diving (a baby version for uncertified scuba). We often arrive on trips with unplanned matching sets of toiletries. We talk daily. We have shared triumphs, failures, and surprises. We have both dated our fair share of idiots and laugh/cried about the unending parade of resulting humiliating experiences. Our faith bonds us and we are immensely grateful to have a loving, supportive family who champions our every endeavor.
We are proud to be involved in the WIL community and look forward to many more years of service!