Law School Welcomes New Students

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    Welcome  The Law School welcomed new students to the Marshall-Wythe community in August.  Colonial Photography
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William & Mary One of Only 11 of the Nation's 200 Law Schools to Report an Increase in J.D. Applications This Year

William & Mary Law School recently welcomed new students to the Marshall-Wythe community. The 226 students who comprise the J.D. Class of 2016 were chosen from 5,857 applicants. This talented group had a median LSAT of 164, the 90th percentile, a median undergraduate G.P.A. of 3.73, and represent 40 states, the District of Columbia, and two countries (China and Japan). According to the Law School Admission Council, William & Mary was one of only 11 of the nation's 200 law schools this year to report an increase in J.D. applications. Nationwide, one in 10 law school applicants applied to William & Mary this year.

In addition to this class, 55 students enrolled for one year of study in the American Legal System Program as LL.M. degree candidates. These students are citizens of China, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States. The Law School also welcomed four transfer students, two visiting students, and two exchange students from Spain.

"Our new students possess outstanding academic, service, and professional backgrounds," said Associate Dean for Admission Faye F. Shealy. "William & Mary strives to educate not only good lawyers, but also good citizens and effective leaders. We are very excited at the prospects of what these students will accomplish during their time with us and for the vital contributions they will make as citizen lawyers in our complex world."

The first-year class received undergraduate degrees from 149 different colleges and universities, 13 in Virginia and 136 in other locations. The College of William & Mary, Virginia Tech, and the University of Virginia were the leading undergraduate institutions, followed by Florida State, the University of Maryland at College Park, Boston University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Florida. Additional schools represented by at least three entering students are Brigham Young University, Cornell University, Elon University, New York University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Washington and Lee University.

Bridget Claycomb of Seattle, Wash., is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Washington, where she majored in law, societies, and justice, with double minors in human rights and in disability studies.  She spent time studying abroad at the Institute of European Studies in Brussels. By her senior year, she realized she wanted to help change the way disability was viewed and treated in America.  She conducted an independent study and a final project analyzing disability policy issues during her final year of college, and also interned with Schroeter Goldmark & Bender in Seattle, and the Developmental Disabilities Council in Olympia, Wash. Her academic success earned her induction into Phi Beta Kappa, and recognition as the varsity rower and crew member with the highest G.P.A.

Following graduation, Claycomb earned a teaching certificate in special education from the University of Missouri at St. Louis, and taught in the Kansas City, Mo. public schools with Teach for America.

Although she enjoyed teaching, she decided that a law degree would provide tools she needed to address injustices that affected her students' education. Using Wrightslaw website, she researched law schools that offered programs or clinics in special education law. "I chose William & Mary because of the Special Education Advocacy PELE Clinic. The director, Professor Patricia Roberts, told me about families the clinic helps, the responsibilities entrusted to law students, and the coursework opportunities. I was beyond excited."

"The help I received from her and the admissions office really set William & Mary above the rest of the schools I applied to," Claycomb said. "I hope to work with Professor Roberts and the clinic after my first year. I turned down offers from other schools because I believe that William & Mary can make me the very best special education advocate attorney that I can be."

Political science, English, history, philosophy, economics, psychology, and international relations are the predominant majors in the 1L class. Fifty-eight members graduated summa cum laude. Twenty-four are Phi Beta Kappa graduates, and 16 hold master's degrees in fields such as accounting, biblical studies, business administration, comparative literature, international affairs, and public health.

Ross Natividad, from Waco, Texas, earned a bachelor of arts degree, magna cum laude, in international studies and Spanish, and a master's degree in Spanish, at Baylor University. During his undergraduate studies, he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and spent a semester abroad in Spain.  He spent a post-graduate year in West Timor, Indonesia, as an English teaching assistant in the Fulbright Program. In addition to being fluent in Spanish, he is proficient in Bahasa Indonesia (the national language of Indonesia) and Filipino.

"As a college student, I developed a passion for studying and speaking languages, but, as a teacher, I learned that my passion created meaningful change and opportunity for others," he said. "My time in Indonesia provided me a perspective on how people from other countries value our language and American society. Learning English, for many students, represented personal, social, and economic empowerment; helping them improve their English proficiency was giving them a tool in their pursuit of a better life."

Natividad interned at Hunt & Tuegel in Waco in 2009. He hopes to use his multilingual abilities in immigration and public interest law so he can provide legal services to immigrants seeking to pursue their dreams.

"While I have been at my best empowering others through language, I look to deepen my efforts through the law," he said. "I was drawn to William & Mary's dedication to cultivate 'citizen lawyers' who seek to better their respective communities and advocate for the marginalized."

Seventy-one members of Natividad's class have taken advantage of study abroad programs. The most popular locations were Belgium, England, France, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, and Spain.

Many in the J.D. class found time for a variety of extracurricular activities in which they demonstrated their leadership skills. Three were members of student conduct boards, and 10 were active in student government. Many worked on student-led newspapers, political magazines, and academic journals. Eight served as editors, one as editor-in-chief. Thirty eight participated in varsity sports with five serving as team captains.

Twenty-four class members participated in mock trial, debate, or Model U.N. Two founded the organizations in their undergraduate institutions, and seven were captains. Forty-six in the class were active in Greek life. Three were presidents of their fraternities, one was a sorority president, one served as a PanHellenic president, and 12 others held leadership positions.

Justin Cabell Pierce of Midlothian, Va., graduated with Distinction from the University of Virginia, majoring in history and African-American & African studies. At U.Va., he was president of both Phi Sigma Kappa and the campus Habitat for Humanity chapter, and was an elected member of the Honor Committee. Pierce also organized and participated in service trips to Kpando, Ghana, that benefited a children's home for youth affected by HIV and AIDS. He gained perspectives on the practice of law through internships in Richmond at Ballato Law Firm and at Caudle & Caudle.

An Eagle Scout, Pierce has been involved with the Boy Scouts of America since elementary school, and has served on the volunteer staff of a leadership training camp for the past six years, where he helped train more than 400 young leaders in the Heart of Virginia Council.

He relishes the idea of adding legal studies to the other important pursuits in his life: the Boy Scouts, Habitat for Humanity, and his love of cooking for friends. "I think each of these interests fits into the picture--problem solving and untangling difficult ideas; hands-on involvement to make a difference in someone's life while learning and growing myself; gathering with friends and the reciprocal sharing--are wholly compatible with my choice of studying law."

"William & Mary stood out to me as a strong choice for several reasons," he said. "I appreciate the school's recognition as one of the top law schools in the region, its proximity to markets with diverse career opportunities, and its historical significance as the first law school in America where many of our nation's early leaders were educated. I hope to benefit from its strong tradition, and be a part of its continued success. While I'm not sure of the direction of my career, I know that I will have the opportunity to think critically, and apply my skills to help other people solve problems."

India Richardson of Boydton, Va., graduated from the University of Richmond with a bachelor's degree in political science and a double minor in law and the liberal arts, and Latin American and Iberian studies. She studied abroad during college in Cordoba, Argentina. Richardson was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and several other honor societies, and also received two University of Richmond scholarships. She interned in the office of state Senator Janet D. Howell of Virginia and in the Commonwealth's Attorney Office of Mecklenburg County.

"I first knew that I wanted to study law as a member of my middle school debate team," Richardson said. "Although reserved, I found enjoyment in speaking before a group of strangers, attempting to convince them of my position. My experience as a member of the University of Richmond's Student Conduct Council provided me with an opportunity to hear student appeals, and make informed decisions on whether or not students were responsible for violations of university policy. Serving on the Council showed me important elements of the judicial system--an unbiased position, assessment of facts, and a fair decision. An internship with the Commonwealth's Attorney solidified my decision to pursue a legal career. Watching lawyers work, and assisting with research, provided me with insight that spurred my interest."

"I decided to attend William & Mary because of its commitment to creating citizen lawyers," she said. "William & Mary not only focuses on preparing students for the legal field, but also encourages them to be leaders in their own communities, which I found to be a unique aspect of the Law School."

More than half of this class of future citizen lawyers has considerable experience as volunteers, lending their time and talents to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society, and Relay for Life. They devoted hours to making a difference for the better through endeavors such as LGBT advocacy, staffing crisis hotlines, volunteering with prisoner assistance programs, and participating in alternative break service trips.

Members of the class connected their love of fitness with community service by founding a military charity race, coaching Girls on the Run, and volunteering with a homeless running program. Nine are Eagle Scouts, and one class member achieved the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Forty-three percent of the new class has prior full-time work experience, some as paralegals, legal assistants, and legislative aides. Class members' work was varied and included roles such as news reporter, editor, teacher, sorority national consultant, nurse, and financial planner. Eleven served in the military, and six are attending law school under the auspices of the Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP).

Additionally, the Law School's LL.M. Program draws students from all over the world who are eager to continue their legal studies in Williamsburg.

Carlos Dedios, from Huixquilucan, Estado de Mexico, received his legal degree from the Universidad Anahuac Norte, and his undergraduate degree from Instituto Cumbres Vistahermosa. During college he was a member of the debate and public speaking teams. He spent a semester studying finance, international law, and environmental policy at the American Business School in Paris.

He gained professional experience working in Mexico City as a legal assistant for civil and mercantile cases at Martinez, Algaba, et al., and working in the corporate law department at Goodyear Servicios Comerciales. He most recently practiced environmental law in the Mexico City office of Herrera Ordoñez Abogados.

"William & Mary Law School stands out for its tradition and history," he said. "I wanted to pursue a master of laws to further my knowledge and experience within the legal system in the United States. I will return to my home country to continue to grow and develop as a lawyer and help my fellow Mexicans."

Donghui ("Doris") Zhuang, from Shenzhen, China, received her law degree from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies where she was honored with the Third Prize Scholarship for Student Excellence and also was recognized for excelling in cultural activities and sports.

Zhuang said that she agreed with the sentiments of Bertrand Russell, who wrote that "three passions ... have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind."

"I believe these inspirations deserve lifelong devotion," she said. "What motivates me is to be an excellent legal aid worker, helping vulnerable Chinese people with my knowledge. I want to bring my understanding of methodology of the law to a higher professional standard in William & Mary's dynamic intellectual community."             

Zhuang traces her interest in law to an experience during high school when she lived in a rural area and saw the huge gap between rich and poor in her country.  Later, while pursuing her legal degree, she was a member of a student group that traveled to a village in Guangdong province. In pairs, students visited villagers' homes, offering free legal services. One man asked for help understanding a labor contract. On her advice, he declined to sign the contract and avoided taking a job that offered neither pay nor benefits.

"William & Mary, with its strong commitment to educating citizen lawyers and its emphasis on practical lawyering, will help me achieve my goals to serve the public when I return to China," said Zhuang.