From literary adventures to legal pursuits, 3L Katelyn Larossa navigates the intersection of passion and purpose
Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Born and raised just outside Baltimore, Maryland, Katelyn Larossa grew up in a close-knit family with two younger siblings. From an early age, she was captivated by literature, especially stories of international adventure and teenage spies. Little did she realize that her early fascination with global affairs would shape her journey toward a future career in law.

“When I was younger, I was fascinated by books about teenage spies who traveled around the world," Katelyn recalls. "This probably has roots in my first memory being home sick from school and witnessing the atrocities of 9/11 with my mom. Together the tragic and scary events of 9/11 and these books solidified an interest in national security and global affairs. I didn’t want anything like that to ever happen again.”

As she got older, Katelyn’s passion for global affairs flourished. She pursued a degree in International Relations at Liberty University in Virginia. Eventually, she ventured abroad, studying Latin American politics in Guatemala, and exploring international relations and political philosophy at the University of Oxford in England. It wasn’t until Katelyn’s junior year internship at the U.S. Embassy in London, against the backdrop of Brexit negotiations, that ignited her passion for law.

“I was in London during the Brexit negotiations, so I had the opportunity to observe the intricacies of trade negotiations with American lawyers,” says Katelyn. “Witnessing firsthand the complexities surrounding international trade, I came to appreciate the impact legal expertise can have on shaping global affairs. This experience was the driving factor behind my interest in law.”

Despite her new interest in law, Katelyn had already secured a job. After graduating from Liberty University in 2019, she began her career as an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. After two years in her role, Katelyn’s curiosity about the legal realm never diminished. When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the world, she seized it as an opportunity to revisit her passion for law.

“I always envisioned myself working in foreign affairs and national security, but my interest in law continued to linger in the background. So, when COVID-19 happened, I realized that if I wanted to pursue law, now was the best time,” she says.

After applying to several law schools across the country, Katelyn found herself drawn to Iowa Law, especially for its welcoming and collegial student body and faculty.

“Iowa Law felt the most like home,” says Katelyn. “I was applying for law schools during the pandemic, and Iowa Law was one of the only ones that allowed me to visit in person. I thought this spoke dividends about the school. Having the opportunity to know my classmates and my community was something I wanted and valued. Iowa Law just gave me that close-knit feeling.”

During her visit to Iowa Law, Katelyn had the privilege of staying with a friend she had met during her study abroad program. Through this connection, Katelyn was introduced to her friend's Bible study leader, who happens to be an Iowa Law alum. This fateful encounter ultimately confirmed Katelyn's decision to attend Iowa Law.

“My friend’s Bible study leader, coincidentally an alum of the Law School, had welcomed a baby just the week before my visit. I tagged along with my friend to deliver her a meal, and she graciously insisted we stay,” Katelyn recalls. “Despite recently giving birth, she shared insights about Iowa Law and her experiences for another 45 minutes.”

Taking a leap of faith, Katelyn ventured hundreds of miles away from her family to begin her studies at Iowa Law in August 2021. Over the past three years, she has embraced academic and professional opportunities within and beyond the classroom. Katelyn credits much of her growth to the nurturing guidance of the faculty, with a special acknowledgment to Professor Stella Elias.

“At Iowa Law, the faculty’s open-door policy has been invaluable for me, especially when seeking advice on various learning opportunities and career paths,” Katelyn says. “Professor Stella Elias is someone who stands out. Not only is she busy leading many of the international law programs and the London Law Program, but she also offers personal support to students. With most of my family living on the East Coast, her support has been incredibly reassuring. Professor Elias has always been willing to help with open arms (and a cup of tea), whether about course selection, job applications, or just needing someone to talk to.”

Professor Elias commends Katelyn for her ability to work hard, overcome adversity, and foster unity among diverse individuals, qualities that will propel her to succeed in the workplace.

“Katelyn has thrived here at Iowa Law as a law student and a leader in our law school community. She hasn't hesitated to take on challenging and demanding roles, such as serving as the editor-in-chief of our Journal of Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems or as co-president of the Federalist Society,” says Professor Elias. “She has excelled in her academic work, provided outstanding support as a research assistant, and has played a leading role in our student organizations, which she has done effectively, with great competence, grace, and kindness. She has also clearly built terrific friendships with her wonderful classmates, which I know will endure long past her graduation from Iowa Law.”

While she initially envisioned a career in international law, Katelyn’s experiences at Iowa Law exposed her to a broader range of legal subjects, particularly corporate law. Under the guidance of Professor Joe Yockey, Katelyn discovered a newfound passion for corporate transactions.

"When I first came to law school, I envisioned a path solely focused on international studies. However, the reality of course availability pushed me to explore other areas of law," says Katelyn. I discovered a new passion for corporate law in Professor Yockey's business associations class. The course really opened my eyes to the breadth of the legal profession and brought me back to that summer in London."

Even though the business associations course marked Katelyn's first real dive into corporate law, Professor Yockey acknowledges her unwavering commitment to learning and envisions a promising trajectory for her career.

“Katelyn will be an outstanding corporate lawyer – I say that knowing she’ll thrive in whatever practice area she chooses, but if it is corporate, I can’t think of anyone better suited to excel. Indeed, there’s not much more we can teach her! She has an excellent command of the issues and matters that arise across the corporate law spectrum, and her dedication, work ethic, knowledge, and community spirit will take her far.”

Despite the evolution of her legal interests, Katelyn views it as a natural progression, enriching her future career rather than altering its course.

“Although my focus has shifted towards corporate transactional work, I will always have a passion for international law,” Katelyn says. “In today’s interconnected world, understanding global dynamics is essential, even in seemingly local transactions. Sharing this awareness to help others broaden their perspectives is essential, and it’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

As editor-in-chief of Iowa Law’s Journal of Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems (TLCP), Katelyn has cultivated a platform for her peers to exchange insights and perspectives. TLCP addresses issues and challenges that extend beyond national borders, offering the international and comparative law communities a unique platform to explore topics often overlooked by other journals.

“I’ve been truly inspired by witnessing fellow editors and student writers as they deepen their understanding of international law and tackle pressing global challenges,” says Katelyn. “Seeing the other students thrive and grow into their own writing style has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my time at Iowa.”

In addition to her contributions to TLCP, Katelyn has fostered insightful discussions and broadened perspectives as co-president of the Iowa Law Federalist Society. This distinguished student organization fosters intellectual discourse on legal and public policy matters. Throughout the academic year, the society organizes debates, lectures, and discussions featuring esteemed scholars from Iowa and universities nationwide, as well as Federal Judges.

“My position as co-president has been extremely rewarding, as it’s allowed me to provide platforms for meaningful conversation and understanding among students with diverse perspectives,” Katelyn says. “It’s helpful to recognize my peers’ varied beliefs, as it enriches our discussions and encourages us to find common ground. Understanding the complex approaches to different subjects has been invaluable in my understanding of the broader discourse on some of these at times contentious issues.”

Reflecting on her time at Iowa Law, Katelyn expresses gratitude for the invaluable support and camaraderie between her classmates.

“My classmates have significantly impacted my time at Iowa Law. We all have such varied backgrounds and diverse perspectives, but at the end of the day, we’re there for each other,” says Katelyn. “I know we always use collegiality to describe the culture here, but it’s true. Iowa Law is where if you’re having a bad day and just need a friendly face, you’ll probably bump into one as soon as you turn a corner. It’s that close-knit feeling that’s made all the difference.”

After graduating from Iowa Law this spring, Katelyn will begin her new job at BrownWinick Law Firm in Des Moines, Iowa. Her advice for incoming students highlights the importance of staying true to yourself and remaining open to new experiences. 

“It’s natural for everyone to experience moments of uncertainty or doubt about their place in law school, academically or otherwise. Remember, you were chosen to be here for a reason, so don’t underestimate your capabilities or dismiss your passions. My own journey, transitioning from international relations to corporate law, taught me the value of embracing various opportunities. Sometimes, the most fulfilling paths are the ones we least expect.”