In a few short weeks, the 2nd Annual Lara D. Gass Symposium will take place. United States Federal Bankruptcy Judge Rebecca Connelly of the Western District of Virginia has written this post for Juris Sophia in honor of Lara.
On October 30, 2015, WLSO will hold the Second Annual Lara D. Gass Symposium on Women in the Law. This event is named for a law student who was instrumental in the symposium’s creation.
Lara Gass attended Washington and Lee School of Law from August 2011 until her untimely death in March 2014. At Washington and Lee, Lara was a staff writer, and the Symposium Editor, for the Law Review. She served as an esteemed Kirgis Fellow, was very active in Phi Alpha Delta, worked as President of the Southwest Virginia Innocence Project, interned for a federal judge, and poured herself into WLSO, her classes, and the school. While at W&L, Lara was also inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), the National Leadership Honor Society. And somehow, she still found time for long distance running, competing in half marathon races.
As a 3L, Lara became pivotally involved in the creation of a symposium on women in the law. Working closely with professional women in law, WLSO, and the law school, Lara oversaw the first WLSO event on the topic. In true Lara form, she adroitly managed the vast details while never diminishing the quality of her work or ignoring her friends. Not only did she handle the details but she also saved the event as a whole when, at times, its progress appeared to falter. Whether it was funding, advertising, approvals, commitments, or refreshments, Lara made it happen.
On the morning of March 18, 2014, Lara filled her car with posters and fliers advertising the event. She was on her way to her externship at the federal courthouse in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She would deliver the posters to the courthouses in Staunton and Harrisonburg before coming in to work. Lara was driving a GM Saturn. Road conditions were moderate due to a recent ice storm. When an accident occurred on the Interstate, two tractor trailers ahead of her pulled to a complete stop. Unknown to Lara, her vehicle had a faulty ignition switch that disabled her brakes and prevented the airbags from deploying. Unable to stop, and without the airbag, Lara was killed instantly when she collided with a tractor trailer.
Lara Gass was the reason for the WLSO Symposium on Women in the Law. She understood the need to seriously examine challenges facing women in the law, as well as the importance of having this conversation with both women and men law students. It is only fitting that WLSO and W&L School of Law hosts an annual symposium in her name.