‘The programs I went through are meant to give opportunities to people who come from different cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds.’
Julie Ansanelli, Amityville
“When I told my guidance counselor in high school that I wanted to apply to NYU, she told me not to bother. Against her advice, I decided to apply anyway. My parents didn’t make a ton of money, and I knew they couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket for me to go there. But my aunt had a friend who went to Columbia through this program that helped economically disadvantaged and diverse applicants pay for college. NYU had the same program, so I applied, was accepted and began my time at NYU, which was nothing short of amazing.
“Senior year, I took the LSAT, and my scores were not great, but good enough to pursue law school since I had a strong GPA. I decided to go to Touro Law on Long Island, which was the best decision ever. I loved my professors, my classmates and the education I received there. I even graduated [as] valedictorian.
“At Touro, our career services director suggested I apply to the New York City Bar Diversity Fellowship Program, which gives diverse applicants an opportunity to work at big law firms. It was a rigorous application process, and they only pick a few students from each school.
I’m lucky to have an amazing support system that allows me to work while also being the best mom I can be.
“I was chosen for the fellowship and placed at my current firm. I had no idea what this world even was because it never seemed like a possibility for me, but I was elated. In the beginning, I remember feeling insecure because everyone around me came from top law schools — Harvard, Yale, etc. But when they made me a full-time offer, it was really validating. I think I always knew I was as capable as my peers from top law schools, but knowing that my firm agreed really crystallized that for me.
“The programs I went through are meant to give opportunities to people who come from different cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds. I think that’s important because if every person at any job comes from the same background, you’re not going to have enough diversity of thought and perspectives. Without that, it’s extremely hard to have progress and growth.
“When my husband and I had our two kids, my priorities changed. I’m so proud of the work-life balance we have. I’m lucky to have an amazing support system that allows me to work while also being the best mom I can be.”
Interviewed by Maggie Rose Melito