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Published May 25, 2023
Building connections and promoting inclusivity in the law school are hallmarks of excellence for 2023-2024 Brimmer Scholar Amari Bertagnolli of Laramie.
The Brimmer Scholarship was established in 2011 to honor the career and service of Judge Clarence A. Brimmer. It continues his legacy by inspiring new generations of legal professionals throughout their University of Wyoming College of Law educations and careers.
This year’s finalists were James Bell of Cody, Heather Bradford of Sheridan, Amber Ferguson of Laramie, Nathan Wise of Fort Collins, Colo., and Bertagnolli.
During her first year at the College of Law, Bertagnolli served as the student representative for the John Burman Student Government. In that role she was the liaison with College of Law faculty and administration. She helped address student concerns and foster connections through events and programs. “I especially focused on ensuring fellow students with children had access to resources and were not isolated,” she says.
Being a mom of three kids and struggling financially added to her challenges entering law school, says Bertagnolli. “Ultimately, my husband and children have inspired me and made me a better student and aspiring lawyer. I think I performed well academically my first year out of sheer terror. I couldn’t handle the thought of disappointing them or myself.”
Bertagnolli also credits her job at Ark Regional Services. “I’ve had to work out of necessity, but it has been such a valuable experience,” she says. At Ark she assists and supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The resolve to build trusting relationships with Ark clients and advocate for their interests and wishes carries over to her work in the College of Law Defender Aid Clinic.
“A key metric of excellence in the legal field should be the way attorneys relate to clients,” she asserts. “One of the most important things I have learned in the clinic, and in law school more generally, is the importance of humanizing clients and enabling their stories to be told.”
Reflecting further on the Defender Aid Clinic, she says, “There have been some amazing triumphs, but also some devastating defeats. That’s hard to come to terms with, especially when there aren’t many options for a client you know deserves better. I suppose it’s good that I’m having to reckon with that before it blindsides me in practice.”
Bertagnolli will add an internship with Legal Aid of Wyoming this summer as she continues with the Defender Aid Clinic. She was one of two student facilitators last year at Summer Trial Institute and will return this August as a participant.
Bertagnolli was also a mentor this year’s 1L students. “My mentors supported me and helped me find my footing in law school,” she says. “They and other classmates gave emotional support and shared their wisdom. I believe that kind of collaborative environment is super important. We all do better when we take care of one another!”
Next year, Bertagnolli will serve as a teaching assistant for legal writing.
The title of Brimmer Scholar comes with the expectation that recipients commit to excellence and service. Clarence Brimmer practiced law in Rawlins before serving as Wyoming Attorney General from 1971 to 1974 and U.S. Attorney for the District of Wyoming in 1975. He was nominated in 1975 by President Gerald Ford to the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming. He took senior status in 2006 and continued serving until his death in 2014.
Bertagnolli, a native of Rock Springs, says she wants to become a public defender or pursue nonprofit advocacy. She says, “I hope to work where I’m most needed while also remaining close to family in Wyoming.”