By Eileen M. Laux
Eileen M. Laux, a 3L at Florida Coastal School of Law, is student editor of Student Lawyer.
Emily Virgin always planned on attending law school. Her father and older brother are attorneys, and she grew up taking an interest in the law. Her start to law school at the University of Oklahoma School of Law was relatively the same as everyone else’s usually is, until she became a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
She began thinking about a political career during her first semester, and after her first year she decided she wanted to run for office. She says she always wanted to be involved in politics and the current representative was outgoing, so she decided this was her chance, because running for a seat that is already open is easier.
The timing was in place and even though her parents took a little convincing, everyone was on board. Virgin says quite a few legislators in Oklahoma were elected while they were still in law school. After devoting her time to her first semester, she decided it was time to start campaigning.
“It was definitely a delicate balance of time,” she says. “I was getting to know people during spring break and knocking on doors.”
The primary followed and then in July, Virgin won the general election. Virgin now attends school in the fall and then fulfills her representative duties in the spring because the legislative session is February to May.
“It has been hard to be a full-time law student and then switch over to be a full-time legislator,” she says. “The hardest transition is going back to being a law student. But it is great to see the changes that are happening in the law while in law school.”
She says she enjoys her work and has learned a lot from her time in the legislature. She has studied the recent laws, which helps her as a law student because they are fresh in her mind. Some of her classes have been helpful to her as a legislator, including insurance law and criminal procedure because she dealt with a bill last year relating to probable cause.
She says the last two years in the legislature have been contentious. The house, which has 101 members, passed open carry legislation last session, which she voted against. “Most of the interesting pieces of legislation we’ve dealt with are focusing on social issues,” she says. Such as a bill that was passed last session similar to Florida’s legislation requiring drug tests of welfare recipients, but their version ended up “very watered-down” by the end of the session. She also voted against this bill.
Emily has introduced several pieces of legislation, close to ten bills in the last two years, some dealing with family law, special education, and insurance law. She has had four of them signed by the governor, including approving a water re-use program in Oklahoma.
As far as the future is concerned, Virgin is considering a career in politics and the law. She wants to split her time so that she is both a good legislator and a good lawyer. She definitely plans to practice law at some point. She is up for election every two years in the House of Representatives, but can only be re-elected six times in the house and the senate. She would like to potentially continue within the legislature because she has really enjoyed her time in the house. As far as future political aspirations, the political climate in her area would have to change before she would run for higher office.
Emily After Class
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Words to Live By
“Each time a man stands for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”–Robert Kennedy
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Vol. 41 No. 1