NEW ORLEANS — When Mary Petruccelli entered Loyola University New Orleans College of Law in 1969, she was one of five females in a class of 80 students.
“It was unusual for women to enter into the legal profession,” Petruccelli told the Louisiana Record. “In fact, one of my undergraduate business professors told me that the only thing I would be able to do was to be a ghost writer for a judge or for supreme court justices. Despite that advice, I entered law school.”
She graduated in 1973. By the time her daughter, Tracy Petruccelli, got there in the late '80s, there was a more even playing field. The Loyola law school class was about evenly split between men and women and the editor-in-chief of the law review was a woman. Tracy Petruccelli graduated in 1988.
Mary and Tracy Petruccelli have practiced family law at Petruccelli Law Office LLC in Covington for the last 29 years. Mary Petruccelli's granddaughter, Kristen Pouey, follows in their footsteps as a Loyola graduate, and she will begin practicing at their family firm. The women had the honor of handing Pouey her law school diploma during last weekend’s graduation ceremony, which also marked the school’s 100th graduating class.
Pouey told the Louisiana Record that it is a tremendous honor to continue this legacy.
“She (my grandmother) was told again and again that she would not make it as a successful litigator because she was a woman," Pouey said. "To hear stories of her perseverance and drive, as well as her outright disregard for the naysayers is the most motivating and humbling experience.”
Having the opportunity to grow up hearing about legal issues and to work with her family put Pouey at an advantage, Tracy Petruccelli told the Louisiana Record.
“I feel a tremendous sense of success in having been able to instill in my daughter an appreciation of the legal profession as the honorable, essential vocation it is,” Tracy Petruccelli said. “I know that she truly understands how gratifying it is to help others during difficult times, and she has the compassion and ability to have a positive effect on the lives of the people who will need her.”
Though she was always exposed to law, Pouey started out as a pre-med major at Tulane University.
“I took chemistry, biology and physics, and I volunteered in a lab," Pouey said. "However, it was becoming abundantly clear to me that my true joy came from my English and history classes and not from organic chemistry.”
Her path came clearer after she had a semester-long internship in which she coached debate at a local elementary school.
“This is what finally made me have the realization that law may be the profession for me," Pouey said. "It was that summer that I worked with my mother and grandmother in their firm. After that, law school was my obvious preference and destiny.”
As she moves forward, Pouey feels confident knowing that she has been mentored by some of the best women she knows.
“Though many young women have doubts and are discouraged from following their dreams, I was fortunate enough never to have those doubts enter my mind,” Pouey said. “I always believed that if a man could accomplish a feat, my mother and grandmother could do it better and with more grace.”