What should have been a senior year punctuated with signing yearbooks, making summer plans, and burning term papers, turned into a nightmare scenario for Caitlyn Ashley.

Shortly before she was set to deliver her Guyer High School valedictorian speech, Caitlyn’s father died unexpectedly. Her heart was in shreds and her mind was in shock. This wasn’t the bright future she’d been working so hard for. This was a dark, scary night that wouldn’t end.

How could she tell her senior class to look forward to what’s ahead when all she wanted to do was hide under the covers? She didn’t want the future. She wanted the past. She wanted her dad back. Nothing else mattered.

From Bleak to Bar Exam

Caitlyn’s dad, however, did care about her future. Immensely. He knew she wanted to become a lawyer, and he wanted to make sure her dream lived on—with or without him. That’s why, in his will, he named Caitlyn’s mother executor over her affairs until she turned 25.

“That age limitation really allowed me to go off to college and live my life and pursue my career knowing my mom was taking care of everything,” she says. “My dad knew I wanted to go to law school and the 25-year age limit was definitely intentional.”

Now, Caitlyn is living her dream. She’s a lawyer. And she’s happy to be joining Leigh Hilton’s team focusing on probate law—a topic close to her heart.

“I’m looking forward to working with probate clients because I have been a probate client myself,” she says. “I think it makes me a better, more well-rounded attorney. I have each client’s needs and feelings at the forefront of my mind.”

Prior to joining Leigh’s team, Caitlyn graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law, where she worked as part of the famed Innocence Project—an organization helping to exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals. She also served as Director of Communications for State Representative Poncho Nevarez, and as an extern for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office.

 A Dog Named Pete

While she was gaining invaluable professional experience, Caitlyn didn’t have her dad by her side. But she did have his beloved Boston Terrier—Pete. She renamed the dog Petie since “he” was actually a “she.”

See, her dad also had a great sense of humor. One of the many things she loved and missed about him.

“Petie came into my life full-time at my lowest point and got me through college and law school,” she says. “Petie was a great dog, but to me she was even more—she was my continuing connection to my dad.”

Although Petie has since passed away, Caitlyn’s connection to her dad (and his soft spot for Boston Terriers) continues with Sophie, a sweet pup with tons of love and energy. “Now Sophie and I are a team of two. She’s a true joy for me.”

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