With experiences ranging from local journalism to protecting motherhood rights to helping immigrants with paperwork, this year’s Kirsch Dillard Scholars at the University of Virginia Law School bring a myriad of backgrounds to legal studies.
Full-tuition scholarships awarded to top-notch JD candidates with demonstrated leadership qualities are a historic endowment by Martha Rubin Kirsch ’81 and Bruce Kirsch ’80, who donated $44 million to the law school in 2018 funded as part of It is named for her fourth dean of the law school, Hardy Cross Dillard ’27.
Freshman Cameron Beach, Zachary Heyburn, Maximo Martinez, Laura Louise Rice, and Toni Lynn Woods-Maignan Jr. are among this year’s scholarship recipients. They talked about their experiences prior to law school and why they chose to pursue his JD in UVA Law.
home town: Glenview, Illinois
education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Duke University
Notable work/educational experience: During my undergraduate studies at Duke University, I had the opportunity to work as a local journalist covering the courts in Durham. Part of that experience was just listening and learning. I have sat and watched and covered stories everywhere from the mundane occurrences of traffic courts to high-profile murder trials. That experience led me to cover sexual assault on campus and highlighted the many laws and de facto practices that affect women’s ability to report.
Why study law? Knowing how the courts work and witnessing the injustices that many people experience on a daily basis within their walls makes it clear that writing about the justice system is not enough. I was. I had to stay inside.
What do you want to do in law school? I am open-minded about what areas might spark interest in UVA, but as an advocate for press freedom, I would like to return to the world of journalism. I am also interested in and hopefully at some point in my three years here to work for the government.
home town: Granville, Ohio
education: BA in International Studies and Comparative Religion, University of Miami
Notable work/educational experience: One of my favorite educational experiences was the Arabic Immersion Program at Middlebury College. We students are isolated (as far as possible) from interaction with other languages, including English, and take a “language pledge” that forbids us from using any language other than Arabic at the risk of being expelled from the program. I had to. As a beginner in Arabic at the time, getting used to communicating completely in very basic and rudimentary terms was extremely humbling and led to amusing exchanges with students and staff, literally saying something else in the middle of a conversation. I was speechless. .
Why study law? I’ve always considered myself a patriot, so when I saw the events of January 6th in and around Washington, D.C., near where I lived at the time, I thought to myself, ‘Don’t let that happen again.’ I felt a strong call to duty to do so. That day and my experience during my upbringing made me realize the immense impact that law can have on our society. I believe legal means are the most effective means of healing the deep divisions in this country. In order to achieve that goal, I would like to be able to play a part in it, whether big or small.
What do you want to do in law school? For now, my goal is to practice appeals. I believe that preventing events like 1.6 is linked to sound constitutional theory and practice. Appeals allow me to contribute to such ends by placing me in a role where I can play an active role in shaping constitutional theory. It offers challenges across the board and gives me opportunities to grow and develop different skills. That being said, I am open to any opportunities and areas of practice that I believe will help me to contribute positively to society and develop my skills as a lawyer.
home town: El Paso, Texas
education: Bachelor of Business Administration, Texas Tech University
Notable work/educational experience: Through the SEO Law Fellowship program, I was given the opportunity to work for a large law firm. Learned the day-to-day work of a typical transaction and litigation attorney. We also researched the various areas of law available at our firm. I worked with law school students on various projects and was able to gain a better understanding of law school life.
Why study law? During my high school and early undergraduate years, I helped Mexican immigrants from my hometown obtain American citizenship by teaching citizenship classes and filling out U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services forms. It was fulfilling, but frustrating when legal issues arose or students couldn’t afford a lawyer. Studying law felt like the best investment for my future career after realizing I could turn this passion into a profession.
What do you want to do in law school? I’m not entirely sure what I want to do with my law degree. You might use your background in accounting to get into tax law, or you might get into immigration law based on what you learned in your citizenship class. I envision using my law degree in private practice or government work, but I’m sure law school experience will be needed to make the final decision.
Laura Louise Rice
education: BA in Medical Humanities and Public Policy from the University of South Carolina
home town: Lexington, South Carolina
Notable work/educational experience: The summer before my senior year, I interned with the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Birth Outcomes Initiative. This experience has highlighted the systemic failures and injustices many women face in accessing and obtaining quality maternal and perinatal care. Because of the bureaucracy, many of these injustices go unnoticed and women and families, especially women like me, suffer accordingly. It emphasized the importance of having a voice in the room where decisions are made and the duty to use that voice to speak out about issues, powers and responsibilities that matter to the community. your voice is preserved.
Why study law? My father always taught me that when we are in the spotlight, it is our duty to shine that light on others, especially those walking beside or behind us. I believe that my studies will empower me to shed light on the injustices of our society and the demands for justice, especially for those who are systematically ignored and overlooked by our criminal justice system. Additionally, after finding the “government bug” in high school, I was fascinated by constitutional law, civil rights, and the power of the courts, and always knew a career in law was best suited to my interests.
What do you want to do in law school? I am pursuing a career in law, so I am open minded. I want to focus my career on my personal mission to give voice to those who can’t speak for themselves, regardless of industry. My dream is to start a health justice nonprofit that provides legal assistance on health justice issues and engages in advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels.
Toni Lynn Woods Mainyan Jr.
home town: Easton, Pennsylvania
education: Bachelor of Arts in Economics, Columbia University
Notable work/educational experience: This summer, I joined Kirkland & Ellis’ Washington, DC office for the Summer Associate Program and worked as an SEO Law Fellow. Prior to that, he worked as a Legal Analyst at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. where he supported the Merchant Banking and Wealth Management Division for two years. In 2020, I graduated from Columbia University as a recipient of the Graduation Code Award in Multicultural Affairs and a John W. Kluge Scholar with a major in Economics and a Specialization in Business Administration.
Why study law? As a member of several minority identity groups in the United States, I have always felt the need to understand the laws of the land and how the country works. Studying law has always seemed like the best way to know my rights and be able to defend myself and others. I am more convinced than ever that my beliefs are true.
What do you want to do in law school? In the short term, I would like to work as a transaction attorney at Big Law in Washington, DC. I’m excited to see what else the future holds, but I know the possibilities are endless with a law degree.