Tessa Bayly, who graduates in May with her J.D. from the UToledo College of Law, didn’t follow a traditional path to law school. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, her post-graduate life won’t exactly follow a straight road, either.
Bayly was about two months into her dream internship when COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the country. Instead of waking up in Washington, D.C., and heading into work at the Securities and Exchange Commission, she now rolls out of bed and works remotely from her home in Waterville, Ohio.
“I’m thankful I had the opportunity [at the SEC] in the first place and that they allowed me to continue to work remotely, even if the experience looks different than I expected,” she said.
Bayly’s entire academic career has looked different than she expected. She started out as a UToledo mechanical engineering student and switched to law and social thought after her second year.
She graduated in 2017 with her bachelor’s degree and went directly to law school, where she has set her own course.
“Tessa is a bright and inquisitive student, who has shown a limitless enthusiasm about learning the law,” said Law Professor Eric Chaffee. “I am excited to see where these qualities take her in her career. I am sure that she has a bright future ahead of her.”
When she first started law school, Bayly said she felt a bit adrift. She had no lawyers in the family. She only knew a handful of attorneys.
During a meeting over coffee, a former UToledo law student recommended Bayly join Toledo Law Review. Bayly took the advice and eventually won a spot as a note and comment editor for the student-edited journal.
Law Review became a defining experience, Bayly said, and the best preparation for her legal career.
“It opens doors,” she said. “Having that on my resumé helped me. It helped me become a better writer. I even had the chance to speak at the student symposium. It was a great opportunity. Presenting to all of those people was terrifying, but it showed me that, with God, I could succeed in the opportunities he’s provided me.”
The willingness of her professors to chat with her about career prospects was also helpful, she said, as were the networking opportunities that the UToledo College of Law offered with alumni and other legal professionals.
“It was nice for someone like me who didn’t know many lawyers or really what it meant to be a lawyer,” she said.
After her first year, when she took some contracts and property classes, Bayly said she found her niche — corporate law. She secured two internships at an investment firm in the Chicago area.
At the SEC, she works in the Division of Enforcement investigating potential securities fraud, market manipulation and the like.
The abrupt end to her law school career feels anticlimactic, Bayly said. She didn’t get to say goodbye to her classmates or collect her diploma at a live commencement ceremony. Since starting law school, she’s looked forward to participating in her first graduation day. She didn’t attend her high school or undergraduate ceremonies.
She plans to take the bar exam this summer, hoping the state doesn’t cancel the July administration. She’d like to apply at the SEC ― one of her top job choices — which generally requires applicants to have taken the bar.
But Bayly has proven time and again that she’s nothing if not flexible.
“Everyone’s experiencing disappointment right now,” she said. “You just have to roll with it.”