Changing lanes: Howlett leaves trucking for law school

It’s not very often a person’s resume includes working as a trucking dispatcher and as a lawyer, but that’s exactly what the case will be with Pam Howlett.

Employed in the trucking industry just three years ago, Howlett will receive a law degree at today’s Commencement.

Pam Howlett
Pam Howlett (right), who will receive a law degree today, talks with her friend Mary Ann Clifford, director of admissions in the School of Law. Howlett says Clifford was an immense help as she applied to the law school. Admissions office staff members “promptly returned my phone calls, were incredibly friendly and took the time to explain things to me,” Howlett says. – Photo by Carol House

“I wanted to go to law school when I was in college, but it was so exhausting to be an East Asian languages and civilizations major that I knew I couldn’t go straight through,” says Howlett, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1990.

“So I decided to take time off to learn some other skills, like confrontation and presentation skills.

I just wanted to be able to deal with many different types of people.”

What better way to learn those abilities than to work in the trucking industry, she thought. So she took a job in management with Roadway Express, a national, unionized trucking company based in Ohio.

“My mother owns a blue-collar bar in Cleveland,” Howlett says, “so I grew up around truck drivers and that was something I was at least familiar with. So I applied to Roadway and went from there.”

She started out in low-level supervision, then went into sales before moving on to office manager and ultimately running a large trucking terminal in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Every time she thought it might be good to move on, she got promoted, which made it tough to leave.

“Finally, I thought, ‘If I don’t move now, I never will.’ And that’s when I finally quit,” she says.

Washington University was the only school to which Howlett applied to pursue her dream of getting a law education.

School of Law

“I knew the University had a great academic reputation,” she says. “And I was incredibly impressed when I called the admissions office. They have terrific people working there. They promptly returned my phone calls, were incredibly friendly and took the time to explain things to me. I was very happy to get in.”

Howlett studied several areas during her three years here, including international law and labor and employment law.

She plans to work for Bryan Cave LLP in St. Louis after she takes the bar exam this summer. She enjoyed her studies in the different areas of law so much that she will work in whichever practice area suits the firm best.

She recently had her note on labor law published in the Washington University Law Quarterly, an accomplishment of which she’s very proud. She also was in the top 10 percent of her class, despite the time constraints of getting married during law school and working throughout her second year in the law firm of Spencer Fane Britt & Browne LLP in Clayton.

“Pam is a model law student and a joy to teach and work with,” says Kathleen F. Brickey, J.D., the James Carr Professor of Criminal Jurisprudence in the School of Law. “Pam not only excels academically, but approaches everything she does with boundless energy and enthusiasm.

“She is outstanding in every respect.”

Howlett thoroughly enjoyed her experience at the University.

“I don’t think studying at the law school could have been better,” she says. “It started with the admissions officers who were so helpful to me. I asked them to let me know early if I was going to be accepted or not, because of my career situation, which they were able to do.”

When Howlett was an undergraduate, she was never taught how to look for a job. But, “The career services department at the law school was wonderful,” she says. “They had me thinking about my career during my first year.

“And the professors are very easy to talk to. I could contact any of them at any time. Several professors not only taught me the law, but they gave me invaluable advice about life as a lawyer.

“All the way around, it’s been a wonderful experience.”