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FROM THE ALABAMA LAWYER - Birmingham School of Law: Prominent Female Graduates

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By Brandy L. Robertson and Laura S. Winston

Birmingham School of Law extends our appreciation to the Alabama State Bar, Allison Skinner, and the editors of The Alabama Lawyer, Greg Ward, Wilson Green, and Rudy Hill, for allowing our submission in this issue of the Lawyer. Due to unforeseen circumstances, a submission was not able to be provided in time for publication in the March 2022 issue.

In 1915, Judge Hugh A. Locke had a vision for a non-traditional law school that would serve men and women who wanted to pursue a legal education, but had neither the time nor money that a full-time law school required. Birmingham School of Law was born out of that vison with classes originally being held at Birmingham-Southern College.

During World War II, the school lost many male students to the war effort, and the classes were mostly women seeking a legal education. Judge Locke was proud of the school’s female students and supported them in founding Alabama’s first chapter of Phi Delta Delta legal fraternity during the 1950s. In 2019, a group of women created the Birmingham School of Law Women’s Association to provide guidance and support to students from within the school and from the legal community by building a mentorship program, hosting monthly meetings with students, and bringing in attorneys, professors, and judges from across the state. Today, 63 percent of the Birmingham School of Law student body is female, and below are just a few of these distinguished graduates.

Judge Marshell J. Hatcher

Judge Marshell Hatcher, a Birmingham native, is a circuit judge for the Tenth Judicial Circuit. She was elected to the bench in November 2018 and began her judicial duties on January 15, 2019, serving in the civil division.

Prior to joining the bench, Judge Hatcher served as a deputy sheriff with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department; was a solo practitioner twice, focusing on family law, probate, bankruptcy, housing law, criminal law, and general civil litigation; and practiced housing law, real property law, employment law, and contracts as associate counsel for the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District.

She taught criminal justice and paralegal studies at Virginia College and real property, contracts, and constitutional law at Miles Law School, receiving the 2017 Bridge the Gap Award.

During the 2017 legislative session, Judge Hatcher worked as a legislative analyst with the Alabama Law Institute, assisting members of the Alabama House of Representatives in establishing new legislation.

Judge Hatcher volunteers extensively and is a member of many judicial and legal organizations. She received the Beatrice C. Foster Award, Community Worker of the Year Award, Sunday School Servant’s Award, Distinguished Professional Award, and Wonderful Outstanding Women (WOW) Award (Law).

Jacquelyn H. Wesson

Jackie Wesson is a partner at Wesson & Wesson LLC with offices in Birmingham and Warrior. Her practice includes litigation in state and federal court. Jackie received undergraduate degrees from UAB and Samford before graduating from the Birmingham School of Law in 2004. Her primary practice areas include domestic relations and family law practice, contested probate matters, civil litigation, bankruptcy, extensive appellate work, and civil rights litigation.

In addition to her law practice, Wesson was elected to the Warrior City Council in 2012 and then twice re-elected. She is now mayor pro tempore. Her mother, Rena Hudson, served for 24 years as mayor of the City of Warrior.

Wesson has taught at the Birmingham School of Law since 2005 and is a registered mediator with the Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution. Before practicing law, she worked as a registered nurse, and she maintains this licensure. She has written for post-secondary textbooks, most recently being Legal Issues and Responsibilities, ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer, 5th ed.

Robin S. Drake

Robin Drake is a native of Huntsville. She attended Auburn University and graduated with a degree in psychology. Drake was first introduced to the legal world when she was employed as a student summer hire at the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command at Redstone Arsenal, under the supervision of Chief Counsel John Cady. Later in her career, she worked full-time at Northrop Grumman while attending law school in the evenings at the Birmingham School of Law, graduating in 2011.

Her 10-year career began when she opened her law office in Madison County. Drake was in private practice for a few years before accepting a position as an assistant district attorney with the Madison County District Attorney’s office. While there, she was assigned to the National Child Advocacy Center, prosecuting cases involving child abuse and sex crimes. She is now back in private practice and enjoys working in family law, criminal law, education law, and general business.

Drake enjoys volunteering her time as a board member with the Winning Foundation, the J.E.E.P program, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women-Greater Huntsville Area Chapter, where she serves at the parliamentarian.

She is married to Mark Drake, Sr., and they have three sons, Jordan, Mark, Jr., and Julius, and attend First Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville.