3L Hilary Forbush faces imposter syndrome head-on

Apr 05, 2021 | Students

Why is it important for women lawyers to stay actively engaged in their communities?

That was a question posed to Hilary Forbush, then a first-year law student at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, as she applied for the Reva Beck Bosone Scholarship from the Women Lawyers of Utah in 2019.

Forbush focused her winning scholarship essay on the importance of representation – something she acutely understood the need for, as the first woman in her family to pursue a post-graduate degree.

“I had no blueprint to follow,” Forbush said. “Going to the WLU conference to accept the scholarship award was quite literally walking into a room full of all the career-based female role models I never had as a kid. It was overwhelming in the best way.”

Law school wasn’t always in the plans for Forbush. A career in the legal field made sense when she considered her desire for a job that not only provided a decent living, but also made a positive impact on society. That’s why, after she graduates this spring, Forbush is hoping her career path will include crime victim advocacy in some form.

Applying to the College of Law was a natural fit for Forbush, who grew up in Utah. Attending law school in Salt Lake City allowed her to maintain her current support system and build up a new one within the law school – making lifelong friends in the form of classmates and connecting with valuable mentors in the form of professors.

Despite a strong community connection, Forbush admits she has faced imposter syndrome as a law student.

“One of the hardest things I’ve had to reckon with in coming to law school is that I deserve my place here even though I don’t feel like I’m as brilliant of a legal mind as so many of the inspirational women in this field are – classmates, professors, attorneys, and justices alike,” she said. “We’re often fed this narrative in our society that women only deserve their place within a given profession if they run dizzying circles around everyone else and I’d really internalized that.”

But what Forbush has learned, and the lesson she hopes others learn, is that grades, rankings, and awards do not determine an individual’s worth.

“You don’t have to be an R.B.G. or an O’Connor or a carbon copy of anyone else you find inspirational to be successful,” she said. “If you’re working hard and doing your best, then you belong.”