William & Mary Law School welcomed its newest students on August 17. The 201 members of the J.D. Class of 2018 were selected from a pool of 4,571 applicants, hailing from 37 states, the District of Columbia and five different countries (Canada, China, Dominican Republic, Estonia and India). The Class of 2018 has a median LSAT of 163, the 88th percentile and a median undergraduate G.P.A. of 3.69.
In addition to the first-year J.D. candidates, 28 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 Algeria, China, India, Italy, Malaysia, Pakistan, Poland and Thailand. The Law School also welcomed seven transfer students and two visiting students continuing their legal studies at William & Mary Law School.
“We enthusiastically welcome these newest members of the William & Mary community,” said Faye Shealy, associate dean for admission. “The strength of the 2015 applicant pool was outstanding and bodes well for what our new students will accomplish during their time together studying the law and preparing to serve the profession. They bring with them tremendous talent and potential and will do great things as students and future citizen lawyers. We have many reasons to believe they will continue the traditions of academic excellence with the community and professional service William & Mary treasures.”
The first-year class received undergraduate degrees from 133 different undergraduate colleges and universities, 12 in Virginia and 121 in other locations. The leading undergraduate schools are the College of William & Mary, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. There are also three or more members of the Class of 2018 from (listed in alphabetical order) Brigham Young University, Clemson University, Cornell University, the George Washington University, Old Dominion University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Wisconsin and Vanderbilt University.
Political science, history, English, international relations, psychology, economics, philosophy and government/service are the predominant majors studied by 78 percent of the 1L class. Thirty-seven members of the class graduated summa cum laude, and 17 have been honored with membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Twelve members of the class have master’s degrees, with two earning two master’s degrees each, in fields such as accounting, English, planetary science, political theory, medieval languages and cultures, public policy and strategic communications.
Seventy-four members of the Class of 2018 have taken advantage of study abroad programs. The most popular locations were Australia, England, Germany, Italy, Scotland and Spain, with the rest of the class studying abroad in 22 other countries. Three speak three languages, two speak five languages, and one speaks six languages fluently.
Avery Dobbs came to William & Mary Law School from Nashville, Tenn., and earned a bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, in political science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Following her graduation, Dobbs traveled to Vidin, Bulgaria, as a Fulbright Scholar under a one-year grant to teach English at local high schools. This experience helped shape why she wants to study law. “Many of my students are forced to leave their homes and even leave their country to find jobs after high school in order to send money home to support their families,” she said. “Too often a person’s future is determined by factors outside of his control, but I wish to dedicate myself to doing what I can to create a more equal playing field across the world… I believe law is the best protection people can have against the injustices of the world.”
While at the University of Tennessee, Dobbs was the chapter president of Amnesty International and served as a tutor for ESL students. She is excited to join William & Mary Law’s Class of 2018 “because of the school's commitment to public service.”
Like Dobbs, her 1L classmates are quite willing to share their talents with others. Many were involved as mentors and have served as coaches, Boy Scout merit badge counselors, peer advisors and mentors, big siblings, youth group leaders, teaching assistants, high school debate and mock trial coaches, camp counselors, Special Olympics volunteers and academic tutors. Several students were active with Equality Alliances, with two serving as presidents and another creating and implementing a creative writing workshop supporting LGBT youth in the community. Three members of the incoming class have founded nonprofit organizations.
Many in the J.D. class found time to get involved in extracurricular activities that demonstrated their leadership skills. Fourteen members of the class were part of student conduct boards with two as chair and chief justice. Sixteen were active in student governments, and three served as student body presidents of their undergraduate institutions. Involvement in political organizations was also important for many class members, with 10 participating in College Republicans or College Democrats. Three served as their schools’ presidents. Twenty-eight participated in mock trial, debate, or Model UN.
Chelsea Wilkins of Newport News, Va., graduated from James Madison University in May. She earned a bachelor of science, magna cum laude, with a double major in anthropology and justice studies. Wilkins was incredibly active at JMU, holding leadership positions in multiple organizations. She was involved in the Phi Alpha Delta prelaw fraternity, moot court and the judicial council. As a result, “I learned to work well with others, while being challenged academically in the Honors Program,” she stated. “Completing my honors thesis, studying abroad, going on service trips in the Dominican Republic, and representing my school in Japan for a conference on Global Peace and Citizenship, allowed me to bring new perspectives to my university community. My experiences positively shaped my ways of thinking and interacting with my peers and faculty.”
Growing up in Newport News, Wilkins had spent time in Colonial Williamsburg and even on William & Mary’s campus. “While being one of the best schools I applied to, William & Mary surpassed other schools in terms of cost of tuition and opportunities for merit-based scholarships,” she said. “This was a huge win in my book. William & Mary also holds a high level of prestige, but at the same time, there always has seemed to be an atmosphere of helpfulness among students and faculty which is unique among top schools.”
Along with Wilkins, 23 other members of the Class of 2018 were involved in pre-law organizations, with six acting as president or vice president and another three as secretary. Many volunteered on political campaigns, and 40 incoming 1Ls completed research with faculty.
Many members of the class participated in student-led newspapers, political magazines and academic journals. Four members led as editors. Forty-four have participated in Greek life. Three have served as presidents of their fraternities, five have served as presidents of their sororities, one founded a fraternity on campus, and eleven others were formal leaders in the organizations. Two 1Ls were Presidential Aides, and another led the Black Student Alliance.
One was a Teach for America Corps member, three were AmeriCorps members and five others have teaching experience. Overall, 49 percent of students in the new class have full-time work experience, some as paralegals, legal assistants and legislative aides.
Chris Anderson hails from Denver, Colo., and has been working as an engineer in various capacities since he graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering in 2006. “The majority of my experience has been in the oil and gas industry, designing cross-country pipelines and associated facilities. Early in my career, I worked with computer modeling software to analyze pipelines and determine risks for leaks or ruptures. These models helped us to accurately design new pipelines and retrofit existing pipelines to ensure their integrity and safety,” Anderson explained. “More recently, I took on a project engineer role, tracking project schedules, meeting with clients to understand their needs, and managing teams of engineers and designers to meet deadlines. I have enjoyed working as an engineering consultant but am excited to take my career in a new direction.”
He is looking forward to the career change. “I have always been interested in scientific advancement and the development of new technologies. After a few years of working in the industry, I began to realize the important role the legal system has in the cultivation of technology. Patents allow ideas to be protected and give incentives for inventors and start-ups by allowing them to be competitive in the market. At the same time, regulations must be in place to protect the people and environment in this process. I became fascinated with the legal aspect of technology. The more I read about it the more interested I became, not only as it relates to technology but the process as a whole.”
In his spare time, Anderson enjoys playing ice hockey in an adult league, hiking, running and playing guitar. However, this spare time will become more limited as he becomes a first-time dad in the next few weeks, not to mention beginning law school.
The Class of 2018, similar to Anderson, have been active in intramural and adult recreation sports, with 20 who have participated in varsity sports, and one who spent 10 years playing Major League Baseball. Others have been involved as members of a cappella groups, choirs, jazz bands, marching bands, theater productions and improv comedy groups, including the Upright Citizens Brigade. One was a choir director, and three have been music and dance instructors. Six have hosted radio shows, and one incoming student managed the student radio station. Several are active in mixed martial arts with three achieving their black belts.
Seven have served in the military, and one is attending law school under the auspices of the highly selective Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP). Another is a Bronze Star honoree.
Josh Thomas is a United States Marine who graduated from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor of arts in English and a minor in Islamic studies. During his tenure with the Marine Corps as an administration and legal officer, he explained that “my duties ranged from such legal tasks as the processing of criminal cases, evidence collection, and administrative separation, to small unit leadership. I was attached to an infantry battalion which deployed to the Middle East during the Arab Spring in 2011 and to Afghanistan in 2012. My second tour was with the Navy and Marine Corps Appellate Leave Activity where I reviewed appellate court opinions for administrative issues and discharged convicted service members.”
While at Vanderbilt, Thomas was a contributing writer to the Vanderbilt Political Review and enjoyed diversifying the political debate on campus. He was also active in the Nashville area with Navy ROTC “assisting with the homeless and building school supply kits for underfunded schools.” In transitioning to law school, Thomas enjoyed the sense of community at William & Mary Law School. “Camaraderie is important to me and so William & Mary became the obvious choice.”
Like Thomas, the incoming class has been building a record of community service, which will serve as a foundation for their careers as citizen lawyers. More than 50 percent of the class have strong experience volunteering and engaging in community service. Twenty are members of formal service organizations, and four served as president of the organization.
Three have served as missionaries for one to two years, and nine have participated in alternative break service trips. They have done everything from acting as a captain for a Relay for Life team, serving as a guardian ad litem, working with Habitat for Humanity, staffing a sexual assault hotline, working with the American Red Cross, organizing Safe Rides, coordinating volunteers for Operation Smile, to volunteering in DC Youth Court. Four students in the class are Eagle Scouts. Many are active in environmental organizations.
Additionally, the Law School’s LL.M. Program draws students from all over the world to continue their legal studies in Williamsburg. Thanyawut Dhummarungrong and Agata Przekop are two of these students.
Thanyawut Dhummarungrong joins the LL.M. class from Thailand. He attended Bangkok University for his LL.B. After receiving his Thai barrister degree, Dhummarungrong was a lecturer in the introduction to law class at Khon Kaen University for two years. He is interested in corporate law and forming business entities, intellectual property and real estate. “My objective is to grasp in-depth knowledge in the American legal system and bring it back to Thailand,” Dhummarungrong states. “Some specific business laws in Thailand need to be developed, such as franchise law. I believe that business law is very important because it could make a difference and provide confidence to international entrepreneurs to invest in Thailand. I want to study business law to help develop and update the legal knowledge in my country.”
Agata Przekop received her LL.B. from the University of Silesia Law School in Poland. She has already built an impressive professional resume with alumni internship practices at two different law firms and worked as a clerk at Regional Labor Office in Katowice where she assisted with the coordination of social security systems of the EU, EEA and Swiss Confederation. Most recently, Przekop worked in a firm focusing on insurance and workers’ compensation claims. “I gained experience in negotiating the upper limits of compensation for injuries and damages caused by a vehicle accident,” she explained. “I was also responsible for assembling facts and evidence to support claims, organizing files, documents and exhibits as well as legal research.”
Przekop chose William & Mary Law School to pursue her LL.M. because of the school’s history. “While walking through the school’s corridors, I can almost feel the spirit of eighteenth-century jurisprudence, and I am fascinated by it. The Law School itself gives me a unique opportunity to explore and learn about the history of the United States of America. I also appreciate the level of knowledge and professionalism of school faculty members.”
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.