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20 Questions With 3L Laura Puleo, a 'Miss Virginia' Contender

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

We often talk about lawyers who do strange things with (or in spite of) their legal education: spirit healers, musicians, and startup titans are just some of the roads less traveled.

But a beauty pageant contestant? Laura Puleo is the first we've heard of, and of course, she goes to the greatest law school in America -- Washington and Lee, where this blogger also went to school.

I emailed 20 questions to Puleo -- who's set up a page on GoFundMe (after all, student loan payments don't leave a lot of leftover cash for pageant gowns and the like) -- about her two paths: aspiring lawyer and Miss Virginia contestant. Here are her answers:

W&L law student Laura Puleo hopes to be the next Miss Virginia.

W&L law student Laura Puleo hopes to be the next Miss Virginia.

1. Are you a regular reader of FindLaw's Legal Pro Blogs? If not, why the hell not? Don't worry, I have found my way to FindLaw several times before. I have found the legal practice tips very helpful, especially during my summer associate placements.

2. Our dear alma mater just dropped 17 spots in the rankings. I cried. How did you feel? To be honest, it didn't bother me or many of my classmates that much because we all know the quality of a W&L legal education... We also have a secret weapon when compared to other schools -- an *incredible* alumni network.

3. You entered law school in, what, 2012 or so? (Crap, I'm old.) Why, considering the bad rap legal education has gotten lately? Because I really enjoy a good mental workout. After graduating from Duke with a degree in ancient Latin and Greek, I figured that my best option for a mentally stimulating career was either academia or law. Law seemed like the more practical choice.

4. What's your favorite legal case? Stambovsky v. Ackley. Who doesn't love a good ghost story?

5. Least favorite case? Pennoyer v. Neff. I think most people had a similar feeling of confusion and dull frontal-lobe pain the first time they read it. I think it is one of the last forms of officially sanctioned hazing of 1Ls.

6. Favorite class and professor? Brian Murchison. Hands down. Admin law can get pretty dry. Not so with "Murch." ... He's the best!

7. Favorite Supreme Court justice? For my all-time favorite, I'd go with John Marshall (I know, it's a cop-out, but how can you not?) followed by Lewis Powell. Powell's writing always has a logical precision to it that I really like -- plus, I study right by his old Supreme Court chair in the W&L library!

8. How about career plans for after graduation? My career plans are still up the air. ... My fiancé is going into Navy JAG -- so, while we don't know where we'll end up right now, it's going to be an adventure!

9. Aren't law students supposed to look, I don't know, more like Janet Reno and me? You haven't seen me during exam week!

10. Do you find idiotic assumptions like that to be a prevalent issue in the legal industry? I do. ... My identity doesn't fit neatly into many people's preconceived notions of what a pageant girl or what a law student should look and be like. I see it daily in school and that can sometimes throw people for a loop.

Going solo out of school? Spend more time developing practice skills and leave the marketing work for the experts.

11. Serious question: What'd you think about the Confederate Flag controversy in the Lee Chapel? I don't think I could come up with a more intelligent or fair answer than what President Ruscio recently released.

12. Less serious question: Which is better: Macado's or The Palms? (Ed. Note: Lexington, Virginia is small. It has two, maybe three bars.) Palms for the food. Mac's for the sports.

13. Favorite drink? I don't drink often, but when I do, I'll take a Jack and Coke.

14. Lets hear about the pageant: Is this your first one? Nope! I competed last year in Miss Virginia USA and placed second runner up! I treated my final question like a cold call (so it gave me a last second jolt of confidence) while dressed in a red carpet ready gown. So fancy!

15. Besides beauty pageants and soon-to-be lawyering, what are your hobbies? My family is my life, and so keeping up with my five brothers and sisters' lives is my hobby. ... Mom and Dad too!

16. In law school, I was too busy socializing (The Palms!) studying really hard to have any hobbies. How do you find time in your schedule? I make time. Past a certain amount of effort in law school, you run hard into diminishing returns. I try to work efficiently rather than make myself miserable by working 80+ hours/week.

17. What do you think about W&L's "Third Year Program™"? I think it's a great idea! For years, med students have had a 3+ year residency requirement after med school, whereas law students were set free into the wild after law school with no practical experience. I think the Third Year Program has been getting better and better every year, and it's starting to catch on in other top notch schools across the country, so I'm looking forward to it!

18. Of the five types of law students that you meet in 1L Hell, which archetype most closely resembles you? (Note: If you're a gunner, that may impact our readers' willingness to contribute to your crowd-funding campaign.) I don't resemble any of the archetypes -- not even a little bit. They all are melodramatic and that's just not me.

19. My brother is headed to law school this fall. Any advice for him and other pre-law folks? In my opinion, the students who leave law school best prepared to enter the profession are those who balanced work and life well and thoughtfully. It's far too easy here to let your health take a back seat to a higher class rank, and it's scary how easy it is to develop self-destructive tendencies.

20. OK, so some dude with potato salad ambitions just crowd-funded $55,000 off of Kickstarter. How much does a pageant run? How can we help? Classic law student response: It depends! Like anything, you can spend or not spend as much as you want. I have the work ethic, drive, and service-oriented mindset for what I would consider a strong representative for Virginia, but what I don't have are the flashy gowns and sponsorship that make a pageant a pageant! Those numbers hit the thousands -- entry fee, travel, hotel stay, wardrobe, etc. Because I'm financing the pageant on my own, I've become even more frugal than I usually am and I'm also reaching out to the community for help. I've created a webpage at GoFundMe. Any amount is appreciated!

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