Why this later in life law student feels ready to pursue her J.D

“I need a lot of tenacity to do something as audacious as going to law school so late in my career,” Ashley Bliss said.

Bliss, who is 42, is a member of Maine Law’s incoming class of 2026. Over the course of her professional life, Bliss pursued several different careers, gaining an unusual and multifaceted skill set. It’s these skills and her ability to thrive in different environments that afforded Bliss the confidence to pursue her J.D.

Bliss began her career with a nonprofit in her hometown of Franconia, NH after graduating from Wheaton College with degrees in English and Women’s Studies. The nonprofit focused on micro-enterprise development and rural community building as a means of poverty alleviation. It was this experience that solidified in Bliss her commitment to public service.

Portrait of Ashley Bliss
Ashley Bliss

“Ever since I was a kid, I was focused on living a life of public service,” Bliss explained. “I’m also a really curious person, which I feel is an essential component of being of service.”

For a time, nearly ten years, this curiosity led Bliss to a career as a baker and a massage therapist, before she found herself gravitating again toward public service work. In 2015 she began with Planned Parenthood in Exeter, NH, becoming manager of the clinic in 2018.

This experience of running a clinic during a time when abortion rights were becoming more restrictive, and public rhetoric against reproductive justice more inflammatory is what catalyzed Bliss’ decision to attend law school.

“It is the emergency we’re facing in terms of reproductive justice that prompted me to actually start thinking seriously about a legal career,” Bliss said. “That and the desire to lead a life of service, to build spaces that are safe for everyone, to champion individuals and communities that need resources and support, these are all the different threads of myself I pulled together to reach this culmination in my life and career.”

These are also the priorities that drew Bliss to Maine Law. She wanted to attend a school built on the principles of impact lawyering, public service, and integrity. She found all that and more woven into the fabric of Maine Law, from its Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic to its certificate programs, curriculum, student organizations, and fellowship offerings.

While Bliss has a sense for which organizations and opportunities she’d like to pursue at Maine Law, she also thinks it’s important to create room for new opportunities, a mantra she said guided her well across many professional and personal changes .

“I want to leave space for new skills to show themselves to me,” Bliss added. “Right now, working to overturn draconian abortion bans feels really appealing, but I could also see myself doing work in criminal defense, especially as healthcare for women and people of marginalized genders begins to include criminal sanctions.”

Regardless of how her interests and aptitudes evolve over three years, Bliss said she knows at Maine Law she will find support, compassion, and community.

“The lens through which I want to experience a legal education is one focused on better understanding intersecting power structures in the world. That is what Maine Law is offering me.”