submitted by Isa Buoscio, UCLI Intern
LaShel Shaw is the Secretary for the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion. Besides working in the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office as a civil litigator, LaShel belongs to multiple legal groups supporting diversity and inclusion within the state of Utah. To LaShel, diversity and law should go hand in hand.
Being in the 23% of women lawyers in the state of Utah is no small feat, yet it is one that LaShel may have been preparing for all her life. LaShel grew up in a working-class family. Her mom worked while putting herself through nursing school and raising kids. LaShel learned the importance of education from her mother, who taught her to read at three years old. Being homeschooled by her mom and working at her own pace led to LaShel graduating high school when she was 12 years old. Most colleges don’t have workable programs for 12-year-old first-years, so LaShel attended Eastern Oregon University online, completing an undergraduate program at age 16.
After her undergraduate degree, LaShel didn’t know she wanted to be a lawyer. “I didn’t know any lawyers growing up, I just liked to read and write; I wanted to read and write for my career,” she reflected. After receiving a master’s degree in history from Utah State University, LaShel applied to and attended Notre Dame Law School.
Deciding to practice law in Utah as a woman was an intimidating experience for LaShel. When initially researching if she wanted to work in Utah, the Women Lawyers of Utah’s report of the wage gap concerned her. According to the 2020 Civil Rights and the Gender Wage Gap Report from the Utah Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Utah has one of the country’s worst gender pay gaps at 70 cents per dollar.
To LaShel, the community of attorneys and judges in Utah is what makes practicing here worthwhile. When obstacles arise, LaShel feels she has a fantastic support network of people who understand, people who know what it’s like to experience professional challenges. “My female attorney friends get me through it,” she said. Between women lawyers in Utah, there’s a large sense of comradery. LaShel knows her coworkers are people she can lean on, turn to for advice, or reach out to for solidarity.
“For anyone feeling anxious about pursuing law, having a community is the most important thing,” she advised. LaShel believes anyone can succeed as long as they like the work and care about the profession. “No one is born knowing how to go to law school,” LaShel stated. “Law can be a great career; don’t let people scare you off.” LaShel recommends that any student thinking of pursuing law should take advantage of opportunities to get to know practicing attorneys and justices. She also mentioned that UCLI is a fantastic tool to help pair students with mentors who can support them.
“With the challenges I’ve faced as a white, cisgender woman, I can’t imagine what other groups experience. There is a genuine need for diversity in Utah, and I welcome anyone considering a career in law.”
Thank you, LaShel, for the work you do for UCLI and for Utah’s underserved, underrepresented, and marginalized communities. Your contributions to the aims of diversity, equity, and inclusion are sincerely appreciated.
Pictured: LaShel Shaw, Deputy District Attorney, Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office