Haley Miller named National Jurist Law Student of the Year

May 6, 2024 · By Nicole Jennings
Haley Miller receives the Student Activism Award
Haley Miller, right, receives the 2024 Student Activism Award from Student Bar Association President Erin Speed, left. Nicole Jennings

Seattle University School of Law student Haley Miller ’24 knows what it is like to work, study, and live with multiple invisible disabilities. Prior to law school, she faced discrimination in her professional life while working in the technology industry.

Always one to advocate for justice, Miller channeled those difficult experiences into action that she hopes will create a better future for those coming after her. She enrolled in Seattle U Law so she can one day work as an advocate for others with disabilities.

Now, as she prepares to graduate, Miller is being recognized for her advocacy work by one of the country’s premier legal education media outlets. The National Jurist named Miller a Law Student of the Year, one of just 10 students chosen from law schools around the United States. This was the second year in a row that a Seattle U Law student has received the honor.

“I was really excited to hear that I got this award because up until this point in my career, I felt like I was shouting into the abyss, I didn’t really feel like the work was acknowledged or validated,” Miller said.

Along with fellow law student Katelyn Kelel ‘24, Miller co-founded the Disability Justice Collective (DJC), the law school’s first disability-focused student organization, and has served as president since its inception.

The group has established itself as the official Seattle University affiliate of the National Disabled Law Students Association (NDLSA), successfully advocated for the addition of a staff member dedicated solely to coordinating disability services within the law school, and led a panel composed of students with disabilities that has become a regular feature of Seattle U Law’s new student orientation.

Miller, who this year received the Seattle U Law Student Bar Association’s Activism Award, has helped at least 20 students with disabilities file petitions of hardship when they are at risk of losing their scholarships. Miller has also raised awareness about why these measures are needed.

“There is a myth that accommodations are giving people extra benefits. I don’t think people realize that yes, law school is hard, but for some people, it’s extra hard,” Miller said. “Life is more complicated to navigate when you have that layer, being part of a marginalized community.”

Miller’s advocacy at the law school has also included adding disability and accommodations language in official communications concerning class ranking and GPA, as well as making sure that students are aware that accommodations exist for exams.

“We have brought important things to the forefront, normalizing the language around disabilities,” Miller said.

The National Jurist article is not the first time that Miller’s disability advocacy work has reached a national platform. Since September of 2023, she has served as co-president of the NDLSA, working with law schools and law students around the country to remove barriers and make legal studies more accessible for people with disabilities. She has led a large group of students from law schools across the U.S. in creating a support guide for law students with disabilities that NDLSA plans to self-publish. Miller’s extensive volunteer work with the NDLSA has helped her amass more than 500 hours of pro bono work during her law school career.

“While many of our law students are known for their unflinching activism, what stands out about Haley is the maturity and professionalism she brings to her advocacy,” said Kristin DiBiase, associate dean for Student Life, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “Here at Seattle U Law, we are committed to preparing our students for a lifetime of law in the service of social justice. Haley has already demonstrated that passion even before leaving our midst. She has truly made our environment better for people with disabilities.”

After graduation, Miller plans to practice employment law on behalf of workers with disabilities, helping people like herself who suffer from discrimination in the work force. Miller was retaliated against, including with a demotion, after asking for disability accommodations at a previous tech job. She noted that while her disabilities may not be outwardly visible, that does not make them less impactful.

“I have experienced harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, all because of my disability. I want to advocate on behalf of people who find themselves in similar situations,” Miller said. “It is my dream career to work with people like me who are going through a tough time — I can’t imagine a better job.”

Read the latest issue of The National Jurist here. The Law Students of the Year feature begins on page 16.

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