Francesca Rollo ’20 is a third-generation WVU Law student, but she’s going to be the first female attorney in her immediate family.
And while it was male relatives who sparked her passion for the law, Rollo has made her own way in law school with the mentorship of some special faculty.
Rollo’s father, Ed ’93, and her uncle, Lance ’03, are lawyers in Morgantown. They were drawn to the law—and to attend WVU Law—by their late father, Edmund ’77.
Rollo says she has always admired her dad’s work in an array of general and complex civil, criminal and family law matters.
Above: Ed and Francesca Rollo
“My family inspired me to become a lawyer just by being themselves. My dad goes above and beyond for everyone. He’s an amazing person, and I equate that with the legal work he does,” she explained. “I have never considered doing anything other than practice law, not because a law degree was ever pushed on me, but because of my admiration for my dad and the incredible work I always saw him do.”
Rollo admits to considering other law schools, but in the end, family ties and a competitive scholarship offer drew her to Law School Hill.
“I get sentimental knowing that I’m walking the same halls, sitting in the same classrooms, and learning from some of the same professors as my grandfather did,” said Rollo. “He passed away when my dad was young, so I never had the opportunity to meet him, but walking down the hallway and seeing pictures of the great men who have shaped me is an amazing feeling. I love this law school, and it’s even better to be able to share this experience with my family.”
One WVU Law professor, Vince Cardi, has now taught all three generations of Rollos—including most Francesca for Contracts in her 1L year.
Above: Professor Vince Cardi and Francesca.
“Francesca is the fourth Rollo I have had the pleasure to teach. She is an excellent student,” Cardi said. “I had her grandfather, Edmund, in class in the mid-1970s. He was very smart and active in class despite working and having three young boys at home. He was also an excellent basketball player on a tough law school intramural team.”
Among the faculty, professors Jessica Haught and Valarie Blake have had the most impact on her law school career, according to Rollo, by helping her develop interests and flourish in leadership roles.
“I admire Professor Blake and Professor Haught not only because they are experts in their field, but also because they are strong, powerful women. In an industry often dominated by male attorneys, I feel so lucky to have female mentors to remind me and all of the women here at the law school that we can and will make it in this arena—and we will thrive,” Rollo said.
During her time on Law School Hill, Rollo has served as vice president and president of the Student Bar Association, a class senator, and an associate editor for Volume 121 and a senior editor for Volume 122 of the West Virginia Law Review . She is also active in the Women’s Leadership Council and Christian Legal Society, and a member of the Child and Family Advocacy Law Clinic.
Haught, currently serving as associate dean for administration, is involved in the Women’s Leadership Council and taught Rollo’s Legal Analysis, Research and Writing class.
According to Rollo, Haught is not only an effective and helpful teacher, but she is also invested in her students’ success outside of the classroom.
“I know I can count on Professor Haught if I ever need to talk through a problem, and it’s apparent that she truly wants everyone to succeed in all aspects of their lives,” Rollo said. “She is a great representation of WVU Law faculty as a whole, in that they genuinely care about the students as individual people.”
As Rollo progressed in law school, she developed an interest in healthcare law. Blake, a national healthcare law expert, hired Rollo to be a research assistant for her upcoming textbook on civil rights in healthcare. Blake then helped Rollo seek out opportunities that would give her more experience in the healthcare arena.
With Blake’s guidance and a semester of healthcare research experience under her belt, Rollo landed an externship in fall 2018 in the in-house litigation department at WVU Health System, which includes 10 hospitals.
“Professor Blake has been an incredible mentor because of her specialty in healthcare law and her dedication to helping me achieve my own success,” said Rollo.
Before that, during the summer after her 2L year, Rollo worked as a clerk for Bowles Rice, LLP, in Charleston, West Virginia.
During the summer after her first year of law school, Rollo was a law clerk for the Honorable Irene M. Keeley, JD '80 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
Long term, Rollo wants to prosecute drug crimes as a United States Attorney.
Rollo is from Morgantown, West Virginia. She earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2016 from WVU.