William & Mary Law School welcomed new students on August 17. The J.D. Class of 2012, 212 strong, was chosen from a pool of 4,984 applicants, an increase of 8.7 percent from last year's 4,582 applicants. The national applicant pool increased 5 percent this year. In the previous year, the pool of applicants at William & Mary increased by 7.8 percent over the prior year while the national pool decreased by 0.4 percent. Applicants hailed from all 50 states, Washington, DC, and 53 other countries. The latest class to enter the doors of the country's oldest law school represents 35 states, DC , Vietnam and Pakistan.
Click here to read a story about the welcome event, featuring remarks by Dean Davison M. Douglas, Professor Patricia Roberts, and former Virginia Supreme Court Justice John Charles Thomas. William & Mary President Taylor Reveley was on hand and led students in the taking of the Honor Code Oath.
In addition to the Class of 2012 J.D. candidates, 25 students have joined William & Mary Law School for one year of study in the American Legal System Program as LL.M. degree candidates. These students are from Azerbaijan, China, Japan, Kuwait, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan. The Law School community also welcomed three transfer students and one visiting student.
Faye Shealy, associate dean for admission, said that the increase in applications was a tribute to the Law School's strengths. "We received 5,194 applications overall for our various applicant groups (JD 1L, transfer, visiting, and LL.M.), a record number and a high degree of recognition for our Law School. Our incoming students are an impressive group of individuals and aspiring citizen lawyers, and we are truly honored that such highly qualified individuals seek a legal education at William & Mary."
The new 1Ls received undergraduate degrees from 125 different colleges and universities. The College of William & Mary and the University of Virginia are the leading undergraduate institutions represented by 16 percent of the new class. Other Virginia schools with three or more entering students are James Madison, Mary Washington and Virginia Tech universities. The leading out-of-state undergraduate alma maters are American University, Brigham Young University, Brown University, Bucknell University, Colgate University, Cornell University, George Washington University, Haverford College, University of Michigan, Pennsylvania State University and Pomona College. The entering class has a median undergraduate grade point average of 3.66 and a median LSAT of 165 (the 92nd percentile).
Douglas Haynes of Cleveland attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and graduated with a bachelor of arts double major in political science and history. Much of his time was devoted to his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, whose chapter he helped re-found at Miami, and he chaired its judicial board for three years. He also was active in student government, serving as a student senator during his first three years, president pro-tem for two years, and president his senior year.
"I'm seeking a law degree for a number of reasons," Haynes said. "The legal field is quite varied, but, although this sounds rather idealistic, I believe that it is where I can best apply my talents for my nation's and society's benefit."
Asked why he chose William & Mary, he first recalled a conversation at age six with a tour guide during a visit to Colonial Williamsburg. "I asked the tour guide how one got to live in the city and she said one of the ways was to go to William & Mary, but that I had to start studying ... to get into a College with a School of Law founded by Thomas Jefferson. Well, I showed her!"
"I was actually attracted by the Legal Skills Program," Haynes said, "the general awe and respect which my undergraduate professors had when I mentioned the name William & Mary, and the fact that the school did an excellent job of recruiting me. As a history major who loves the 17th and 19th centuries, how could I resist going to a place with a history like William & Mary?"
Nearly all disciplines are represented by the class with economics, English, finance and political science as the most popular majors. In addition, the Class of 2012 has 15 members who have earned 17 graduate degrees ranging in disciplines from accounting and history to areas as diverse as archival management and library science, and sound design. One class member has a Ph.D. in philosophy.
Michele Hopkins of Roanoke, Va., graduated from Chapman University in Orange, Calif., with a degree in legal studies with an emphasis on sociology. She was a member of Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity, and interned in the Orange County Supervisors Office. She also worked at the Chapman School of Law Admission and Career Services Office to familiarize herself with a law school environment.
Among her work experiences prior to law school, Hopkins worked at the Public Defender Service of the District of Columbia. There she assisted in interviewing clients in jails, youth centers, in the office and at homes; made court exhibits and testified in court; and requested information from entities such as hospitals, police stations, schools, courthouses, and the housing authority.
This past year, Hopkins worked at the British School of Nanjing, China, as a teaching assistant. "It was interesting," she said, "to get a better world view both of the everyday life of another culture and to view America from the outside."
Hopkins gave several reasons for choosing William & Mary for her legal studies. "When I visited William & Mary during an orientation day I realized that, if I became a part of this Law School, I would be part of a community that cared about me and my education," Hopkins said. "I could tell that the students were dedicated to their education but at the same time they were attentive to one another. "
Seventeen members of the class have been honored with membership in Phi Beta Kappa. In addition, 51 have broadened their horizons through study abroad programs.
Dominique Church received her bachelor's degree from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Penn., with a double major in psychology and English. She felt that despite her psychology internships and employment history, and the completion of an English thesis, a career in either field would not offer a long-term sense of fulfillment. With this in mind, Church took a two-year hiatus from academics and accepted a professional position in Bucknell's alumni affairs and development office.
"Taking time off to work was one of the best decisions that I have ever made," she said. "It allowed me the opportunity to give back to my alma mater, and time to develop a greater sense of responsibility and independence, both of which gave me the confidence to apply to law school. While I am unsure as to what area of law I want to specialize in, I am certain that I will find one about which I am passionate and through which I can to make the biggest contribution possible."
Church said she decided to attend William & Mary for many different reasons, including its academic reputation, emphasis on the "citizen-lawyer" ethic, the accessibility of the faculty, and its location.
"The transition to Williamsburg feels like a natural progression to me," she said. "The town has a little bit of everything, both old and new, and immediately felt like home when I visited. Combined with the congenial atmosphere of the Law School, the decision to attend William & Mary could not have been any easier. I am so excited for this next big step and am thrilled to be a member of William & Mary Law, Class of 2012!"
Forty percent of the entering class has had full-time employment experience including eight with military service. Mentoring and community service are common passions among class members: for example, seven have served as missionaries, three have served in the Peace Corps, and one in AmeriCorps.
Virginia native Benjamin Neumeyer graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor's degree in Spanish. At UVA, as program director for Community Bikes, he recruited volunteers who teamed with children and adults from the community to accept donated bikes, help repair them and then keep them in the local area for use as transportation. Neumeyer was also a member of the novice rowing team, a hospital interpreter, a tutor, and an intern for Ayuda Legal Services.
Following graduation, he worked as a paralegal for the Federal Trade Commission, and, in 2008, he served in the International Volunteer Program for Habitat for Humanity spending six months in Argentina. This past year, he was a policy intern and program assistant for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Washington, DC.
Neumeyer said he was interested in enrolling at William & Mary for a variety of reasons. "William & Mary is an in-state, public university with the best all-around education, and best option of all the law schools I looked at. It has a small, collegial community with plenty of support for those who want to serve the public interest."
Jinglan Wei is enrolled in the LL.M. Program and comes from Guangxi Province, China. She graduated from Civil, Commercial and Economic Law School at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. During her third year on campus, she joined the Labor Legislation Clinic, and became a student executor there. Her responsibilities included clinic affairs management as well as helping people with legal problems, especially in the area of employment. She gave professional advice, and represented clients during negotiations or appearances in court, if required.
After graduating from the university, Wei worked at a law firm as a legal assistant. She didn't stay long, realizing she wanted to be a lawyer specializing in international law.
"In Guangxi Province," she said, "international businesses, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and some western countries are interacting with our local economy, so I left my firm and decided to continue studying abroad."
"This might sound a little crazy," she said, "but I was attracted to William & Mary by beautiful pictures! When I was staring at William & Mary's online photos, the more I saw, the more I was attracted. Then I began to consider seriously the faculty and courses and other conditions. Of course, I made my final decision based on its academic power, but now that I am actually here, standing beside the woods next to the Law School, I still feel that this was the best choice I have ever made in my whole life."