5 up and coming legal leaders share their journey

June 15, 2017

Every year, the Ohio State Bar Association extends an invaluable opportunity for new lawyers to hone their leadership skills through OSBA's dynamic Leadership Academy. Within six interactive sessions, participants are introduced to several prolific speakers and are given the opportunity to discuss issues such as professionalism. They are given the support to enhance many of their skills, including writing and public speaking. By the time they graduate, they are transformed into problem solvers and effective lawyer leaders.

Meet Rachel Sabo (Columbus), Brandon Pauley (Akron), Nick Kowalski (Park Hills, KY), Tonya McCreary Williams (Columbus) and Bradley Adams (Bellefontaine), five of the bright minds who recently graduated from the Leadership Academy Class of 2017.

Q: Why did you become a lawyer?

Rachel Sabo wanted to be a trial attorney when she was a little girl, which fueled her decision to go to law school. While attending law school, she discovered that there are a lot of different ways to use a law degree.




After completing his undergraduate work, Brandon Pauley worked for a finance company that laid off many employees at once. While he was not let go, he realized that he wanted to be in a profession where he could have his own business if he needed to.




After graduating high school, Nick Kowalski worked at a manufacturing job, but he realized that he wanted something more intellectually challenging. A career in law could give him what he was looking for and he knew he could use it to make a difference in peoples' lives. 



After six months working as a paralegal, Tonya McCreary Williams attended a seminar for legal secretaries and paralegals. She then realized there was a great deal more to be learned about the legal services industry. Over time, the lawyers she worked for and her professors encouraged her to go to law school and practice law. Because she enjoyed the work and found success in the legal field, she followed her colleagues and professors' advice.




Bradley Adams wanted to put his knowledge and a strong desire to give back to use by pursuing a career in law. "The legal system can be confusing and burdensome to people," he said. "I wanted to become a lawyer to help people."




Q: What was the path that you took to get where you are?

Sabo attended Cleveland State University for her undergraduate degree in journalism and Capital University for her law degree. When she completed law school in 2012, she started a practice with another student with whom she graduated.  Since then, with the help of a trusted mentor, their practice has flourished.

Pauley graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in finance which led him to a career in real estate. When he decided to change careers, he went to law school at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Kowalski earned a degree in international studies at the University of Dayton. While in school, he worked in the mailroom at a product liability firm. Although his interest was not ultimately in this type of practice, he pursued a career in law because of the variety of possibilities it afforded. He went to the University of Cincinnati College of Law where he had the opportunity to assist a professor with human rights work in Ireland and to work for multiple non-profit organizations in the environmental industry.

Williams worked as a paralegal for about 11 years, enrolling at Columbus State Community College to earn an AAS in the Legal Assisting Technology Program. She then transferred to Capital University to earn a BA in Philosophy/Religion/Pre-Law. During undergraduate studies, she also studied logic and the Socratic method of reasoning which gave her the comfort to engage in legal reasoning with law school professors. She attended Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University, and then participated in the Columbus Bar Association's Minority Clerkship Program and was selected to work for Litigation law firm, Isaac Brant Ledman & Teetor (IBLT), for the duration of law school.  Upon graduation, IBLT graciously offered me my first position as a First-Year Associate.

Adams pursued an undergraduate degree in athletic training, a master's in education, and a Ph.D. in educational leadership prior to earning his law degree. It was after holding a variety of athletic training positions that he entered the University of Dayton School of Law. He was hired by Air Force Materiel Command and works in the procurement fraud law division. In 2014, he also opened Adams Law, Ltd. where he provides general practice legal services.

Q: What challenges have arisen since you began your journey?

Starting a business was challenging for Sabo in the beginning. A native of Cleveland, she found it difficult to make connections in Columbus. Her advice to those in the same position is to "be resilient." In her practice, she overcame her challenges by strategic networking and meeting new people. 

The most challenging part for Pauley has been finding the law career that he envisioned in the beginning of his journey. He was aware of the uncertainty of the job market before going to law school, so he has focused on networking to open opportunities.

The diminishing job market was the biggest challenge and shock for Kowalski. When he graduated from law school, the crashing job market led him to take a job that did not meet his professional goals. He continued to apply for other positions, but struggled to find something in his preferred location that he was interested in and qualified for.

One of Williams major obstacles was entering the job market during the housing and banking crisis.

For Adams, the biggest challenge has been competition within the profession due to what he described as "the precipitous drop in employment opportunities, starting salaries, and overall law school enrollments." To overcome this challenge, he has attempted to stay current by participating in different CLE programs and working to gain knowledge in a variety of practice areas.  

Q: Has student debt affected your journey? What steps have you taken to manage that?

Like most other new lawyers, Sabo still has loan obligations from law school. She says the most helpful step she took to manage her debt was to consolidate all her loans into one payment.

Pauley says thinking about student debt shaped his path to a law degree. He was conscious of how much he'd have to borrow when choosing his law school and making subsequent career decisions, which he advises others to do. Luckily, he can say that he is not in extreme debt.

Kowalski advises: "You have to be serious about what you're going to do next because the financial obligation is just so much greater for a graduate degree." Student debt has impacted his solo practice the most and as a result, he has decided not to pursue another loan for the business. Although debt has affected his career, he finds that it is still manageable through budgeting and making higher payments.

Student debt has made it necessary for Williams to take positions that have prevented her from devoting time to building her practice. Although she is able to claim an economic hardship, the interest on student debt continues to accrue on the unpaid principal which frightens her. Williams stated: "I could have paid my loans off by now, and now, they are triple the amount of principal."

Adams is concerned about the future of the profession because the cost of legal education has quickly surpassed the early earning potential for most law students due to a competitive job market and a decrease in starting salaries. He believes that the law school community should work to better align the cost of legal education with current earning potential.

Q: Why did you decide to embark on leadership training? What expectations did you have and how has the Academy shaped you?

Sabo decided to apply to the Leadership Academy because of the wonderful reviews of the program. It has helped her to expand her network, learn new things about herself, and become a better leader. She hopes to maintain the friendships she has made and to support her colleagues in the future by referring clients or offering advice. Overall she said: "I absolutely LOVE the Leadership Academy. I have found the experience to be so rewarding and fun."

Pauley expected to benefit from connecting with people from different backgrounds, to see growth in himself, and to understand how he could continue growing. Overall, the Academy has given him the skills to take a more prominent role as a lawyer in Akron.

Kowalski was recommended to the Leadership Academy by a former participant and felt that it was an opportunity be a better person, attorney, and overall a more well-rounded professional.

Williams wants to be able to successfully navigate the legal practice and understand exactly where her abilities are most useful so she can prosper all while contributing to the legal community that has encouraged her over the years. She believes the Academy has helped her define her direction so that she will be able to discover and venture into new and promising areas.

Adams applied for the Leadership Academy to expand his professional network and to learn more about his place as an attorney in Ohio. In growing his personal and organizational leadership skills, he plans on taking what he's learned through the Leadership Academy back to his practice to make him a more effective and empowered leader.

Q: What goals do you have for your career and practice?

For her firm, Sabo hopes to expand by opening multiple offices in different states and is open to many other business opportunities in the future. In fact, she has multiple business ventures already set in motion, including her Rodan + Fields skincare consulting business. "While I will always remain a lawyer," she said, "I am focused on being an entrepreneur."

For Pauley, it's pretty simple:  "…from year-to-year I want to see growth professionally and personally." He has the same wish for his clients and the people in his community.

Kowalski's true passion is practicing international law. To reach his goals, he has joined many international groups; has founded the international law committee for his local bar association; and has attended events pertaining to his area of interest.

Although Williams enjoys what she is learning as a sole general practitioner, her goal is to become Corporate General Counsel of Ethics and Diversity with a corporation, EVP of Legal Affairs or Director of Regulatory Compliance in the Pharmaceutical industry.

Adams' goal is "to serve as an invaluable resource to my clients, community, and colleagues by offering sound, reasoned legal advice to assist them in reaching their desired goals or outcomes."

Q: Who or what has inspired you throughout your career to this point?

Sabo has had several great mentors that inspire her practice daily. Many of them have been other female lawyers that have mentored her professionally and helped her network. 

Pauley is energized by the positive impact that his work has had. "Something that they don't prepare you for in law school is that some of the work that you do, if you're lucky, has a positive impact on your clients or community."

Kowalski recalled having mentors over the years, but one in particular – the late Dan McKinney greatly inspired and influenced his career. "[McKinney] was a great model for how we should be as people," Kowalski said.

Williams has had a few mentors that have guided her throughout her introduction into the legal field, with the majority being lawyers and professors, and professors who are lawyers. Some have made mistakes and I have learned from them. Others are shining examples of what it means to be lawyers and contributing citizens. 

Adams' greatest inspiration has been his wife, Kacey, who loved and supported him as he made a substantial shift in their plans by going to law school and embarking on a career in the law.​

Click here to meet the entire 2017 Leadership Academy Class!




Staff Directory

Contact Information


8 A.M. - 5 P.M.
Monday - Friday