With a mission dedicated to fostering a strong sense of community and service for others, it should come as no surprise that students at Catholic Law not only excel as individuals but also thrive in opportunities to serve others. Throughout her life, third-year law student Isabella Richardson has gotten a deep sense of satisfaction from serving the numerous communities of which she is a part. “I definitely think of myself as a champion of others. I love watching other people succeed and fulfill their dreams. Sometimes that means helping them explore what they’re passionate about or just listening as they consider possibilities.” Now in her final semester of law school, Richardson reflects on her time at Catholic Law.
Richardson has deep roots in the D.C. metro area. Born and raised in Montgomery County, Maryland, Richardson attended Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in North Bethesda for grades Pre-K through 12. As an avid lacrosse player, she attended Washington College, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where she played for one of the country’s most storied NCAA Division-III programs. It was during her time there, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Business Administration, that Richardson discovered a passion for the law and criminal justice. While her grandfather William Richardson ’42 had been a successful tax law attorney in D.C., it was finding mentors in her college professors—including Professor Joseph Prud’homme, Dr. Melissa Deckman, and Dr. Christine Wade—that confirmed for Richardson that she wanted to attend law school.
Richardson explored law schools in D.C. and Philadelphia but ultimately decided that D.C. was the better fit for her. During the decision-making process, Richardson received some sage advice—you have to truly see yourself in the community—and she could see herself at Catholic Law. “I was impressed with the inclusive community Catholic Law had, the accomplished faculty, the numerous clinic and externship opportunities offered, the ability to attend law school in D.C, and the supportive classroom environment that exists on campus.” Choosing to study so close to home also came with some built-in benefits. “Obviously, it is such a robust area in terms of the law and career options, but just being able to have family, friends, and resources in the area have been really pivotal to my success in law school. It’s also opened a lot of doors for me in terms of opportunities and networking so, it’s been awesome.”
Right from the start, Richardson has leaned into the rigors of law school while being fully engaged with all that Catholic Law has to offer. Richardson has utilized skills she developed as a college student-athlete to help set herself up for success. “It was in college that I continued to develop and hone in on the importance of being proactive, advocating for myself, developing skills in time management, and being successful on the field that I began to see myself as a leader.” She stated, “Being able to balance a full law school class load and an internship was a challenge I was prepared for because of my experience as a college athlete.”
In addition to her classes, Richardson has regularly participated in practical experiences that have allowed her to hone her skill and assume responsibility for real legal cases. Richardson has worked in the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office Special Prosecution Division, was a judicial intern for The Honorable Judge John Maloney in Montgomery County, and this spring, she is eager to begin working with the Rule 19 Student Attorney Clinic. “It’s a program that Catholic runs with Donna Fenton ’95 who is the Deputy Chief of the Major Crimes Division in Montgomery County and a seasoned prosecutor. She is the teacher and supervisor for the clinic. Donna Fenton holds weekly classes with the students participating in the clinic and students are then paired with an Assistant State’s Attorney with who they shadow and attend court. Eventually, students are able to try cases in district court under the supervision of their ASA.”
Co-curricular involvement has also played an important role in Richardson’s Catholic Law experience. “Ever since I can remember, I have enjoyed bringing people together from different backgrounds and creating groups to participate in activities we would all enjoy.” Catholic has a lot of great opportunities to get involved outside of academics which helped me build friendships and networks. For me, it’s really important to have a well-rounded law school experience.” Currently, Richardson is Justice of Catholic Law’s chapter of the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, Co-President of the Criminal Law Society, Media Coordinator of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society, and a member of the Barristers’ Ball Committee. “I’ve always been interested in and willing to take on leadership roles because that’s just part of who I am. I was always encouraged to think that way. I think being a part of co-curricular activities is a great way to be involved, but it’s also a great way to mentor younger students. To be able to serve in that capacity is really satisfying and it brings me a lot of joy.”
Her work in these positions has kept her busy. As a national organization, the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity prides itself on its dedication to service. This year, Catholic Law’s chapter boasted its largest induction class in recent history and has held a number of successful events. Richardson highlighted the fall food drive that was conducted on behalf of the University’s food bank, Cardinal Cupboard. “We felt during this time, with the pandemic, with so many people struggling, we wanted to help out our fellow Catholic school community.” The Criminal Law Society has also had a very active fall semester. They held a fundraiser that raised money for the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop—an organization that provides writing and reading resources to previously incarcerated and incarcerated individuals in D.C., and a book drive for the D.C. Books to Prison organization—collecting 330 books that were all donated to the organization. They’ve also held a series of “Crime and Coffee” events at Starbucks with some of the criminal law professors like Dean Mary Graw Leary. “Those events are just a way for students to drop in and chat about current events in the criminal law field and see if they might be interested. So, we’ve been busy.”
Richardson reflected, “Sometimes being a leader means you do a lot behind the scenes. Being recognized on the Pro Bono highest honor roll meant as much to me as the number of books we collected for the Criminal Law Society book drive.”
With such a full plate at the law school, one might assume that Richardson would save what little spare time she does have for herself. Instead, she uses it to build community through serving others. Richardson coaches for a travel lacrosse team, Next Level, for the club’s 5th-grade squad. The team practices three times a week with games or tournaments on the weekends. “It’s been a really great way for me to stay involved with the lacrosse community and help mentor lacrosse players. Just getting out there with the girls, forgetting about school for a little bit, and watching them get better has been so satisfying. It has also opened so many unexpected opportunities for professional networking and community involvement through the Next Level parents. So many of the parents have helped me with everything from the Criminal Law Society book drive to offering to meet and talk about my career in the legal field.”
Richardson has also served as an Alumnae Board member at Stone Ridge since 2020. “It’s been really great to stay involved with my Stone Ridge community because it was an integral part of my life for the 14 years I attended as a student. Now, as an alumna, I still consider Stone Ridge a big part of my life, just in a different way. It has been great to give back and to be able to engage with other alums, the administration, and current students. Being able to improve and strengthen everyone’s relationships with the school has been really satisfying.”
With just a few months left until graduation, Richardson has already accepted a judicial clerkship for next year with The Honorable David Boynton of the Montgomery County Circuit Court and is excited to take the next step in pursuing a career in prosecution. She concluded, “I am really grateful to so many who influenced and support me along the way and helped me get to where I am today. One of the most surprising parts of this adventure has been the outpouring of support and encouragement from people who want to see me succeed. In a way, when I walk across the stage May 20, 2022, I will be receiving a diploma for all of my efforts but at the end of the day it really was a team effort.”