William & Mary Law School welcomed its newest students for the 2014-15 academic year. The 217 members of the J.D. Class of 2017 were selected from a pool of 4,418 applicants. Hailing from 38 states, the District of Columbia, and three different countries (Australia, Canada, and China), the Class of 2017 has a median LSAT of 163, the 88th percentile, and a median undergraduate G.P.A of 3.79, the highest of an entering class in the Law School's history.
In addition to the first-year J.D. candidates, 36 students have joined William & Mary Law School for one year of study in the American Legal System Program as LL.M. degree candidates. These new members of the Law School community are citizens of Belarus, China, India, Korea, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the United Kingdom. The Law School also welcomed five transfer students and six visiting students (including four exchange students from China, France, New Zealand, and Poland for the fall semester only) who are continuing their legal studies at William & Mary Law School.
"We are delighted to welcome the Class of 2017 and new transfer, visiting, and LL.M. students," said Associate Dean Faye Shealy. "Our new students are an incredibly talented and engaging group. We are confident they will continue the tradition of outstanding students at the Law School. They possess strong academic credentials along with impressive backgrounds of leadership and service. We have high expectations for their continued record of accomplishments and futures as William & Mary citizen lawyers."
The first-year class received undergraduate degrees from 149 different undergraduate colleges and universities (the most diverse undergraduate representation in Law School history), 15 in Virginia and 134 in other locations. There are four or more members of the Class of 2017 from (listed in alphabetical order) North Carolina State University-Raleigh, Pennsylvania State University-University Park, University of Florida, University of Maryland-College Park, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and University of Virginia. Additional schools represented by at least three entering students are American University, Boston College, College of William & Mary, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Franklin & Marshall College, Georgetown University, Hampton University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Political science, English, history, economics, psychology, philosophy, and international studies are the predominant majors studied by sixty percent of the 1L class. Sixty members of the class graduated summa cum laude, and 21 have been honored with membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Seventeen members of the class have master's degrees in field such as architecture/environmental design, biology, community development, conflict and development, international affairs, literature, and sports management.
Jennifer Morris of Franklin Furnace, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree, summa cum laude, in art history from Duke University where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Morris also earned a master of arts degree from Princeton University in art and archeology, and her dissertation for her Ph.D. has been approved by her committee (the degree will be conferred in November). During her educational career, she received many commendations, awards, and scholarships. For the past two years, Morris has served as a Samuel Kress Fellow at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich. Morris has lectured and given papers all over the world and has been published on six separate occasions.
"I've lived abroad, have traveled in over 40 countries, and have completed a dissertation on science and art in sixteenth-century Germany. The dissertation is related, in fact, to my decision to study law," she said. "My fellowship, which is, incidentally, located in the city's former Nazi administration building, brought me into contact with many researchers who were working on WWII-related provenance and art theft issues. This exposure to some of the hottest legal issues surrounding art, both past and present, has inspired me to put my language skills and former life as an art historian to use as an expert in art law."
Seventy-six members of Morris's class have taken advantage of study abroad programs. The most popular locations were the Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Scotland, and Spain.
Many in the J.D. class found time to get involved in extracurricular activities that demonstrated their leadership skills. Eleven members of the class were part of student conduct boards with two as chair and chief justice. Twelve were active in student governments, and two served as student body presidents of their undergraduate institutions. Involvement in political organizations was also important for many class members, with 12 in College Republicans or College Democrats. One served as the state chairman of the political organization, and six served as their schools' presidents. Twenty-one participated in mock trial, debate, or Model UN.
Twenty-five members of the Class of 2017 were involved in pre-law organizations, with seven acting as president or vice president and another three as secretary. Many volunteered on political campaigns, with one student serving on the Presidential Commission on Elections on an advisory group for voters with disabilities.
Many members of the class participated in student-led newspapers, political magazines, and academic journals. Six members served as editors, and two led as editor-in-chief. Forty-nine have participated in Greek life. Three have served as presidents of their fraternities, three have served as presidents of their sororities, one has served as Panhellenic president, and 21 others were formal leaders in the organizations. One member of the Class of 2017 was the student representative on her undergraduate institution's Board of Trustees, and another was the president of the Black Student Union.
The Class of 2017 is quite willing to share their talents with others. Many were involved as mentors and have served as coaches, Girl Scout troop leaders, big siblings, sexual assault advocates, and writing tutors and counselors. One member founded an America Reads chapter on her campus.
T.J. Keefe came to William & Mary Law School from New Orleans. A graduate of Pennsylvania State University majoring in finance, Keefe moved to rural Mississippi upon graduation to teach second grade with Teach for America. After completing that commitment, he moved to New Orleans to teach at a KIPP charter school.
"As a teacher these past four years, I hope that my greatest contribution has been my students' academic and emotional growth," Keefe says. "While most of my effort has been diverted into the classroom, I have been able to launch a few other projects off the ground. In Mississippi, I was able to found and construct a community garden for over 600 elementary school students. In New Orleans, I co-founded an afterschool mentorship/flag-football league for at-risk youth."
Additionally, Keefe interned at the Louisiana Center for Children's Rights (a non-profit public defense law office) and worked on a project that studied juvenile-to-adult court transfers. He chose William & Mary, he says, because "simply put - community. After my first visit to campus, I left with the sense that something very special existed in Williamsburg. It wasn't just camaraderie among students, or faculty who were truly invested in their pupils, but a genuine sense of togetherness throughout the College. As cheesy as that may sound, I chose William & Mary because it seemed like the type of community that I would be grateful to be a part of."
Along with Keefe, four additional members of the Class of 2017 were Teach for America Corps members, and four others have teaching experience. Overall, fifty-one percent of students in the new class have full-time work experience, some as paralegals, legal assistants, and legislative aides.
Seven have served in the military, and three are attending law school under the auspices of the highly selective Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP).
Paul Ertel is a United States Navy veteran who graduated from Rice University with a bachelor of arts in history and began a graduate program at the Naval War College. Ertel served in the Navy for seven years and was deployed to Iraq, to the Persian Gulf, and to the Horn of Africa. "It was as deeply rewarding as it was challenging, and I gained a wide range of valuable skills," states Ertel. "They include the technical knowledge necessary as a part of a seagoing service, the leadership experience from directing dozens of sailors, and the ability to understand how to coordinate within large organizations to produce plans for the executive level. I feel lucky to have been a part of history in the planning for the withdrawal from Iraq and as a crew member on a ship executing counter-piracy operations."
Ertel resides in Norfolk, Va., and has been an active community member in Hampton Roads. "I feel I have been able to add to the community through my local church organizations in Hampton Roads. My faith is a central part of who I am, so I am very active, and occasionally lead, in my local young adult church community. We do everything from service to educational lectures to social gatherings. I'm a big believer in using your gifts to better your community. I believe law is a profession that best fits my skills and strengths, and I think it offers the chance to do tremendous good."
Like Ertel, the incoming class has been building a record of community service, which will serve as a foundation for their careers as citizen lawyers. Over sixty percent of the class has strong experience volunteering and engaging in community service. Fifteen are members of formal service organizations, and one served as president of the organization.
Three have served as missionaries for one to two years, and seven have participated in alternative break service trips. They have done everything from working with Habitat for Humanity, staffing women's and homeless shelters, serving as a volunteer firefighter, coaching Girls on the Run, to engaging in the community with the Junior League. Six students in the class are Eagle Scouts, and one class member achieved her Gold Award.
Samara Corbin of Manassas, Va., is a graduate of the University of Virginia, with distinction, where she double majored in English and foreign affairs. Corbin states, "I had always been intrigued by foreign countries and cultures, especially in terms of how those cultures come into contact with the United States. This interaction, in my viewpoint, is epitomized by immigration. In my undergraduate studies, I focused on Latin America and was particularly interested in Latin American immigrant labor in the United States. At first, I thought I wanted to go to graduate school for Latin American studies; however, I realized that I wanted to work with immigrants by either representing or counseling them in legal matters. Thus, I decided law school (with a focus on immigration law) would be the better option for me because I would have the training and legal authority to directly impact the immigrant communities in the States."
While at the University of Virginia, Corbin was active with the University Singers and Salsa Club in addition to volunteering with the immigrant community in Charlottesville, as an ESL tutor in the local school system. She also spent a summer in the Dominican Republic where she acted as a translator for factory workers while studying the Dominican labor system.
"I chose William & Mary for two reasons: its excellent academics and how welcomed I felt," Corbin says. "I wanted to attend a high-caliber law school with variety in programs offered, and William & Mary Law is top-notch with many different specialized programs and clinics for me to choose from. Out of all the schools I applied to, William & Mary reached out to me the most and made me feel very welcomed and wanted. Naturally, I also wanted to attend a school that really wanted me to be there."
Like Corbin, the Class of 2017 has been active as members of a cappella groups, choirs, jazz bands, marching bands, theater productions, and improv comedy groups. Eight are dancers, and their expertise includes ballroom and Irish dancing. Twenty-eight have participated in varsity sports, and even more have participated in club and intramural sports.
Additionally, the Law School's LL.M. Program draws students from all over the world to continue their legal studies in Williamsburg. Rafael Contreras and Pei-Tzu "Ival" Lin are two of these students.
Rafael Contreras joins the LL.M. class from Venezuela. He received his law degree from the Universidad Monteavila in Caracas. He worked for two law firms where he was able to focus on administrative, constitutional, and labor law.
Contreas has an interest in constitutional law and spent over 180 hours giving lectures on political formation. He became interested in law through literature. "I read a book from the Spanish author Eduardo García de Enterría titled La Lengua de los Derechos (The Language of Rights). In it, the author described from a historic perspective how mankind evolved from one man's arbitrary governments to the well-known 'government by law and not by men.' It was not just a technical substitution; it was a new philosophical and political construction. I also read the biography of John Adams, specifically his work writing the Declaration of Independence with Jefferson, Sherman, Livingston, and Franklin. I fell in love with such a perfect, and almost poetic, piece of work, which stated the principles and ideals of every government: the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Ival Lin received an LL.B. at the National University of Kaohsiung in Taiwan. During her time in school, she was the course assistant for three classes, all related to ethics, and worked at an English school, teaching middle-schoolers English grammar. "This was a very inspiring experience because I honed my English skills while doing this job," says Lin. "I also got to know a little British and American culture, which was totally an extra bonus that I had not expected." Lin also spent a summer interning with the Taiwan Kaohsiung District Court.
Lin chose William & Mary Law School to pursue her LL.M. for a slower pace of life. "Before I came here, when I thought about law school in America, it was people who walk in a fast pace down the street, law firms stand in great numbers, and law school students who are busy making themselves meet the requirements of their professors or the expectations from the society. I chose William & Mary to remind me of the reason why I study law - - it is not to meet any expectation from anyone, but for the curiosity and craving for the thinking and philosophy behind law."
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.