Job: Principal, Managing Attorney at Gerling Law Offices
Her Resume: By 2002, Gayle Gerling Pettinga began leading the firm her father, Gary Gerling, founded in 1963. Before joining the family business, she worked as a congressional intern for congressman Al Gore Jr., a summer job at public relations firm Robert Pyle & Associates (Washington, D.C.), and she has practiced law at Winston & Strawn (New York), Baker & Daniels (Indianapolis), and Eli Lilly and Company (Indianapolis). Gerling Pettinga earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., before she was recognized with magna cum laude from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where she acquired her Juris Doctor degree.
Her Family: Husband, Mark; a daughter Annie, 21, is a junior at Syracuse University studying film at the College of Visual and Performing Arts, a daughter Emma, 19, is a freshman at the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communication studying broadcast communication; three dogs and two cats.
On growing up with a prominent lawyer as a dad:
When I was little, my dad had me trained as a kindergartener to answer any questions about my future with “I’m going to Harvard and I’m going to be a lawyer.” I wasn’t even sure what that all meant but he planted that seed and encouraged me, as a woman, to further my education in college and become a professional. Having this in the back of my mind, all through college, I made sure I had the grades to make it to law school.
On her time at Smith College:
I actually went to Smith without ever having been there. I loved it because the women there were so much like I was; they were very interested in being good students. They didn’t just want to get through college, but they wanted to be doctors or get MBAs. I felt very at home there.
On her experience interning for Congressman Al Gore Jr.:
I got to work on the hill and do some lobbying, took courses at the Brookings Institution (a private nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and policy solution), and I was there when the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice. Walking through the halls, I saw Indira Gandhi (third prime minister of India) wearing white pumps and carrying a white patent leather purse, which was very interesting and something I will always remember. It was a great experience to live in Washington, D.C.
On community involvement:
One of the organizations I’m involved in, the one I’m most passionate about, is the Women’s Fund (of Vanderburgh County) because we are also supporting a lot of other nonprofits and what they stand for. I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my time spent in the organization. I’ve seen it evolve and have witnessed all the energy that goes into it; it’s very eye opening.
What do you do in your free time?
I like to fly fish. We go with Mark’s brothers and sisters every year out west. We also hike and ride horses along the way; it’s a fun time.
Advice to budding lawyers:
Be creative with how you use your law degree. I would recommend working two years after your undergrad schooling before applying to law school, especially if you want to attend one of the top schools. It’s a good idea to get a master’s degree after law school to make yourself a little more marketable.
For more information about Gerling Law, call 812-423-5251 or visit gerlinglaw.com.