By Alexa Fults, Staff Writer
Kelly Siegler, Chief of Texas Special Crimes Bureau turned televised cold case investigator, recently spoke at the Bairnwick Women’s Center. After a heartfelt and humorous introduction given by her daughter Kelsey Siegler (C’18), Siegler began her lecture on gender and criminal law with a brief explanation of how a girl from small-town Texas became a successful prosecuting and defense attorney, as well as a champion of administering “cold justice amidst the hot Texas climate.”
Siegler earned a bachelor’s degree in International Business from the University of Texas at Austin and received her law degree from the South Texas College of Law. She began her legal career working in a law firm directly after she finished law school; she did not enjoy it.
After urging those of us in her audience to “always, always, always” complete an internship before embarking on a career, Siegler explained how she accidentally stumbled upon her dream career path to changing lives through cold case justice.
During her first job at a law firm, Siegler was encouraged to apply for a position as a legal counselor to women who are pressured to drop sexual assault charges. Siegler explained that she was not exactly sure when she realized what she wanted to do with her life. However, she did discuss the influence witnessing domestic sexual violence in her own home as a child had on the trajectory of her career path. Siegler has dedicated the majority of her legal career to ensuring justice and protection for women who have experienced the horror of sexual violence. Siegler made it her mission to force the court to understand exactly what each women had to endure through the use of physical demonstrations and explicitly authentic language when referring to violence and assault.
Siegler later found herself losing an election for Texas District Attorney and noted “feeling like a loser at 45 years of age.” She reminded the audience that “failure is not a person, it’s an event,” and she encouraged listeners that sometimes, one has to lose in order to find the opportunity to win.
Her loss in the election allowed her to discover an opportunity to further pursue her legal career in the field of cold case murder investigation. Siegler noted that “luck is when preparation meets opportunity,” and encouraged those wishing to pursue a degree and career in law to remember the importance of resiliency.
She advised the audience to begin confronting weaknesses head on and to go into the world knowing it pushes people around. Siegler said that the best strategy for success she could offer was to “go show them that you can do it good and do it humbly.”
When asked if she felt it was acceptable for an undergraduate student on the path to law school to take a gap year, Siegler stated that it was absolutely permissible to take a gap year if a student felt the need to do so. In her admittedly mother-like way, Siegler recommended that students never stress too greatly about the future or worry about devising a definitive plan for graduate school or careers. She did note that there is nothing that cannot be done with a law degree if that is the path a student pursues.
Upon being asked to speak to her experiences as a woman in a male-dominated career field, Siegler began counseling the women in the audience on the importance of picking the right battles. She said to never carry a chip on your shoulders about being a woman and to never go into a career ready to fight every male who “looks at you like a little girl.”
She then reminded all of those in attendance that attitude and desire are more important than graduating summa cum laude.