Recent CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law graduate Tayler Gill ’22 believes that the world desperately needs change and that everyone must fight for reform. Her passion and determination to use her legal education as a catalyst for the change she desires are among the reasons Tayler was selected as the 2022 recipient of the Dean’s Learn Law. Live Justice Award.
Each year, a graduating student receives the Dean’s Learn Law. Live Justice Award not only for their academic success, but also by demonstrating what it means to live justice ─ being committed to making clients’ lives better and the community stronger. Tayler was nominated for the award by members of the CSU C|M|LAW faculty and staff.
“The ‘Learn Law. Live Justice’ Award is more than a title, it is a way of life,” explained Tayler. “This Award is a symbol of a commitment to making the people and community better. As cliché as it sounds, leadership is truly my calling.”
Tayler started law school at the age of 20 but has been an advocate for change long before stepping foot on the CSU C|M|LAW campus. Since the age of three, she has been a person to speak up and advocate for those who were afraid to stand up for themselves. It was when Tayler was nine years old – when President Barack Obama was first elected to the Oval Office – that she knew she wanted to attend law school. She was not interested in politics, but like President Obama, wanted to use a legal education to “change the world.”
CSU C|M|LAW Professor April Cherry is confident that Tayler will make that kind of positive impact. “When I was trying to decide whether I should go to law school or to pursue a PhD in history, I asked my mother for advice. She said one sentence that I will never forget: ‘Lawyers change the world,’” said Professor Cherry. “I have no doubt that Tayler will be that kind of lawyer. I continue to admire her brilliance and her ability to see through all the chatter.”
For the past two years, Tayler has served as the student Co-Chair of the Racial Justice School Climate Work Group (along with Co-Chairs Professor April Cherry and Assistant Dean Sarah Beznoska) as part of the law school’s Racial Justice Task Force. The work group is tasked with creating a more inclusive and supportive environment at CSU C|M|LAW. As part of her work on the Work Group, Tayler has moderated a student-only discussion on school climate, moderated a teach-in on the murder of Breonna Taylor, and helped select a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) assessment and training provider for the law school.
“No person – including all our students, staff, and faculty – has done more than Tayler to keep our collective focus on keeping our commitments in our June 2020 Call to Action to address racial and social justice, and antiracism,” explained CSU C|M|LAW Dean Lee Fisher. “We charge our students and each other to advocate for justice everywhere, to fight against injustice anywhere, and to help heal our nation, and no student better represents that enduring commitment than Tayler Gill.”
Tayler was motivated to join the Task Force and find her voice regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives after the death of George Floyd and the implications in its aftermath.
“Between the COVID-related changes and cancellations and the chronic mistreatment of marginalized people in this country, I felt like my world was falling apart at that time,” said Tayler. “George Floyd’s murder was a heart-wrenching loss for the black community. Imagine being engulfed by a fire fueled by grief, stress, anger, anxiety, and depression – that’s how I felt, and I didn’t know what to do.”
Tayler talked with Assistant Dean for Student Success Nick DeSantis, who encouraged her to use her voice and actively seek change. Tayler had utilized the law school’s Academic Support resources as a student and became heavily involved working for Academic Support, serving as an Academic Excellence Program (AEP) Fellow, Academic Support Coach, Peer Tutor, and a Peer Mentor. She worked as DeSantis's Research Assistant and became the first student to co-teach the school’s Jump Start course, a free program designed to help incoming 1Ls acclimate to law school by introducing them to the law school experience, including instruction on basic study and exam-taking skills.
Tayler developed an interest in business litigation because of the broad needs of corporate clients during law school and will be starting her career at Tucker Ellis this coming fall. Looking forward, Tayler could see herself drawn to working in legal education, working as an adjunct professor or in the general counsel’s office of a university. Her time as an AEP Fellow showed her how much she loves helping students while her participation in the Dean’s Leadership Fellow program opened her to the potential impact of working for a University. As a Dean’s Leadership Fellow, Tayler was assigned Sonali Wilson, General Counsel of Cleveland State University, as her leadership coach and Tayler has great respect for Sonali’s wisdom, guidance, and support.
Tayler also intends to expand her work in the DEI field on a larger scale. She would like to start a nonprofit organization that assesses and educates organizations on DEI issues.
“My fellow graduates, as we embark on our next journey, whether it be as an attorney or otherwise, do not let anyone or anything take your fire away, not even yourself. Be the change amongst the stagnant. Be the voice amongst the voiceless. Be the dissatisfied amongst the complacent. Never stop fueling your fire.”
Tayler Gill, 2022 Commencement