Wendy Wright ’13

Associate, Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein, Charlotte, North Carolina

Wendy Wright was surprised to discover her interest in transactional law in her first-year Contracts course. “I had Professor [Tracey] George for Contracts, and I really liked the class,” she said. “She’s academically tough but fair, and her approach was very problem-based.”

Approaching contracts as “problem solving aimed at helping people accomplish their business goals” resonated with Wright, who spent two years teaching reading and language arts at a failing inner-city junior high school through Teach for America before starting law school. “I taught seventh-graders in the bottom 25 percent of their class, and that meant learning how to problem-solve,” she said. Wright addressed an education-related topic—the impact of Alabama House Bill 56 on the ability of immigrant children in the state to exercise their right to an education—in her Note for the Journal of Transnational Law.

“HB 56 required Alabama schools to report which children were illegal immigrants,” Wright said. “Some parents took their kids out of school because they were afraid being deported. My argument is that while there is no federal right to education, Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from denying illegal immigrant children access to education. Recently, the adoption of more stringent state laws against education puts Supreme Court precedent in danger of being overturned. I propose codification of the prior Supreme Court decision by Congress and ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child because it grants every child the right to education.”

At Vanderbilt, Wright has not only redefined her career goals to focus on practicing corporate transactional law, but also translated her passion for education into volunteer tutoring through the Vanderbilt chapter of the Organization of Black Graduate and Professional Students, a professional and community service organization. She also serves as community service chair for the Black Law Students Association (BLSA). Through the Vanderbilt Street Law program, she has organized and taught classes addressing legal topics for teens and women at local non-profits. “I’m a first-generation college student, and it’s important to me to be involved in community service aimed at helping others succeed,” she said.

Wright had originally applied to law school during her senior year at LSU, where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in sociology. Vanderbilt was willing to defer her admission for two years when she was accepted by Teach for America. She chose Vanderbilt for several reasons, including its challenging academics, location and size. “I wanted to go to a law school where I was truly challenged,” she said. “I earned my undergraduate degree at a big school, and I wanted the small-school experience. I also liked the fact that Vanderbilt is in the South, but it’s not a Southern law school. People here are literally from all over the world.”

As the daughter of a military serviceman, Wright had lived in locations as diverse as Washington and Germany while growing up. With her family now permanently settled in Mississippi, her goal was to practice in the Southeast. She joined Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein in Charlotte, North Carolina, after graduating in May 2013.