2L finds law school opens new doors of opportunity for making an impact
By: Madeleine Thomas
For 2L Ayesha Cotton, a first generation undergraduate and law school student, a legal education at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law means a chance to find her voice in the legal profession, without saddling herself with a financial burden.
“What actually drove me to want to go to law school is that I had seen my father incarcerated,” Cotton said. “As I got older, I started examining how many people I talked to didn’t understand the implications of what they were sentenced for, or what the law was. It was just a lack of knowledge, especially within the African American and other minority communities. I also realized it was difficult for me to find African American and female lawyers to talk to. I want to add to the legal field that doesn’t have as many people that look like me.”
Cotton co-chairs the Student Bar Association’s (SBA) admissions committee, serves as a diversity and inclusion liaison for the Office of Admissions, is a staff editor for the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, and is actively involved in the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), the Program on Law and Leadership (PLL), the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF), and the Truancy Mediation Project. Cotton is also preparing to compete in the Emory Civil Rights & Liberties Moot Court Competition, which is held at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta each fall. The tournament places a special focus on contemporary civil rights issues, and the final round is decided by Fifth Circuit, Eighth Circuit, and Georgia Supreme Court judges.
“Moritz really exposed me to how much I’m capable of,” Cotton said. “I feel like I can go and practice any area of law from doing criminal to tax, because I feel like something has been instilled in me that if I want it, I can do it, I can learn it, and I can achieve it. When I came here, I didn’t even think I could do it. By taking a chance and having the support system of the faculty and the staff, my family, and people I’ve met here so far, I’ve been able to accomplish so much more than I had imagined.”
Cotton currently externs with Moritz alumnus, the Hon. Guy Reece II ’81, presiding judge at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. She also served as a legal intern this summer at the Columbus-based Law Office of Isabella Dixon and the Thomas Ingram Law Group, both tightknit work environments that felt like family, she said.
Each experience has been transformative in its own right, Cotton adds, from the insider’s look behind the bench that her externship with Judge Reece affords, to working closely and finding mentorship with other African American legal practitioners in Columbus. She even honed a newfound passion in business law, after completing various assignments for local businesses and other clients throughout the course of her internship at the Thomas Ingram Law Group.
“Coming in to law school, I told myself that I was going to be a hardcore criminal defense attorney, but I realized there are other areas of the law that I can make an impact in too,” Cotton said. “My internships this summer took a chance on me. That’s what students need because many possess the skills and ability, but lack the confidence. They need someone to believe in them enough so that they can believe in themselves.”