William & Mary Law School welcomed its newest class of students on Monday, August 14. The 187 members of the J.D. Class of 2020 were selected from more than 4,000 applicants, hailing from 33 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, China and France. Additionally, three students hold dual citizenship with the U.S. and Albania, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The Class of 2020 has a median LSAT of 163, the 87th percentile, and a median undergraduate GPA of 3.75.
According to Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas, a 1L class of 187 students "is consistent with a goal of having an overall J.D. enrollment of approximately 600 students. As we begin our school year, our J.D. student body comprises 601 students."
In addition to first-year J.D. candidates, 16 students have joined the Law School for two or three semesters of study in the American Legal System Program as LL.M. degree candidates. They come from Bulgaria, China, Italy and Saudi Arabia. Another is a U.S. permanent resident from Afghanistan.
"Year after year I am impressed with the size and strength of our applicant pool, and attribute interest in seeking legal education at William & Mary to the Law School’s outstanding faculty, relevant programs and overall reputation," said Faye Shealy, Associate Dean for Admission. "These new students continue the tradition of accomplished individuals and aspiring citizen lawyers seeking the William & Mary degree as their gateway to the legal profession. Their foundation for citizenship and leadership as citizen lawyers means taking the law, skills and values learned at William & Mary and using them to make a difference in the lives of others."
Eleven percent of this year’s class earned their undergraduate degrees from William & Mary or the University of Virginia. Political science, history, psychology, English, economics and finance are predominate majors. Many other schools and majors are represented, including accounting, biochemistry, chemical engineering, classics, journalism, mathematics and philosophy. Ten members of the class have graduate degrees, including an M.S. in biochemistry from Johns Hopkins and a Ph.D. in pharmacy from the University of the Sciences of Philadelphia. Forty members of the new class graduated summa cum laude and 22 have been honored with membership in Phi Beta Kappa.
More than half have full-time work experience, some as paralegals, legal assistants and legislative aides. The list of employers includes Blackstone Group, Capital One Financial Corporation, Children’s Literacy Initiative, Ernst & Young, Federal Trade Commission, Georgia Justice Project, FTI Consulting, Iowa Democratic Party, KPMG, NASDAQ, Organizing for America, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Shearman & Sterling, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, WilmerHale, and the Winston Group.
A Willingness to Serve
Five have served in the military and three are attending under the auspices of the highly selective Army Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP) or Navy Law Education Program (LEP).
Kelsey Reichardt graduated with honors from the United States Naval Academy in 2011 with a B.S. in political science and a minor in Russian. Her work experience includes an internship with the Defense Intelligence Agency and service as a division officer on board Naval ships where she served in a leadership capacity and honed her ability to lead and manage a group of diverse, talented sailors. She earned the Tactical Action Officer qualification, which gave her the authority to maneuver and “fight the ship” in combat or war-time scenarios and maneuver the ship when necessary for self-defense.
Reichardt states that she always wanted to attend law school and become a lawyer. “I was a member of my school’s debate team and I gained an appreciation for advocacy and learned numerous critical thinking and reading skills,” she says.
Reichardt is pursuing her dream through the Navy’s Law Education Program, which allows her to re-designate from a Surface Warfare Officer onboard ships to attending law school and becoming a Navy JAG. Asked why she chose William & Mary Law School, she responded, “for its excellent reputation and legal course of instruction. I like the wide range of programs and clinics the School offers and I’m excited to learn from the highly ranked professors and legal professionals who teach and interact with students. Although I have employment with the Navy upon graduation, I was also impressed by the type and quality of jobs William & Mary graduates earn, and the high bar pass rate.”
To Reichardt, a citizen lawyer “pursues justice and the right course of action, and demonstrates values of integrity, solid moral character and compassion for others. I believe citizen lawyers recognize that they are global citizens and part of a wider community and thus honestly and compassionately work to serve others in their role as lawyers.”
Global interests are present among resumes of many members of the class. Forty have participated in study abroad programs. More than 60 speak other languages.
Vanessa Bateau, from CUNY Brooklyn, New York, studied abroad in France and China as part of her undergraduate work at Brooklyn College ’10. She speaks four languages.
Bateau’s first position was as a documentary filmmaker at Reel Works HBO Young Filmmaker’s Lab. “Thanks to that position in high school, I was able to learn to explore a career path in media and to document injustices,” she says. Bateau has worked for 12 years in a media company, most recently as Operations & Media Manager for Spike TV.
“While my natural instinct is to lean towards intellectual property, I am open to learning all types of law and the adventure it holds,” she says.
Seventy percent of the Class of 2020 held internships, and most all held leadership positions.
For Rebecca Jaeger, “the key value of my internship experience at the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office was seeing the law in action and witnessing different aspects of the criminal justice system.”
Jaeger observed many facets of the system from the investigation to the Sheriff’s Office to the courtroom and learned the importance of all parts working together. She was impressed with the sincerity of the people who work hard to make the system function fairly to ensure justice, and wants to use her legal education to work for fairness in the criminal justice system.
At the University of Delaware, Jaeger ’16 served as the student body president. She is one of three members of the class to be selected by peers to hold that leadership position. She was also a resident assistant, peer mentor and orientation leader. Jaeger spent her Fulbright year in Madrid, Spain, as an English Teaching Assistant at IE University. Beyond her teaching, “I also added to my community in Spain by volunteering for the Competitive College Club, a program that mentors Spanish high school students and assists them in applying for American universities.”
Energy to Burn
Many members of the class are athletes and have participated in a variety of NCAA, club and intramural programs.
“Playing baseball and being a team captain has taught me the importance of dedication, humility and empathy, which are each valuable and transferrable skills from athletics to the professional world,” said Mike Tentilucci, a Haverford College ’15 graduate who earned a B.S. in chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry. “To me,” he says, “being a citizen lawyer means conducting myself in a socially and ethically responsible manner in the legal sphere, and being a trustworthy, respectful and available figure in the community sphere.”
Tentilucci says he chose William & Mary “because of the professors’ outstanding reputation, the sense of community responsibility and the school’s recognition on a national scale.” His experience as a paralegal at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in Philadelphia will be an asset in law school, while his four-year starter position on the Haverford baseball team will be of special interest to the Law School team, and his membership in the all-male a cappella group, the Haverford College ‘Ford S-Chords, will make him a star recruit for Law Cappella.
Enhanced Legal Study
Additionally, the Law School’s LL.M. Program draws students from all over the world to continue their legal studies in Williamsburg. Among them are Jin Gu and Mohammed Alansari.
Jin Gu joins the LL.M. class from Beijing, China. She received an LL.B. from China University of Political Science and Law, School of Criminal Justice. Gu is passionate about environmental law and had the pleasure of participating in the United Nations Climate Change Conference, as an NGO observer to witness the signing of the Paris Agreement. She has been heavily involved in public affairs and hopes to serve in NGOs or institutions as a public interest lawyer in the future. She selected William & Mary Law School because “I have a strong interest in the legal system of coastline conservation and wish to explore law-related ocean and coastal zone conservation during my time here.”
Mohammed Alansari received his Bachelor of law degree with honors from King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia. Since his youth, he dreamed of becoming a lawyer to help the underserved. He is a faculty member in the Department of Law at the College of Business at the University of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Following completion of his LL.M. degree, he will obtain his Ph.D. in international public law to pursue teaching and open a private legal practice. He chose William & Mary Law School to “acquire a deeper understanding of American law, theories, practices and principles, to research and analyze today’s legal issues and offer effective legal solutions.”
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.