William & Mary Law School welcomed our newest class of students on Monday, August 20. The 195 members of the J.D. Class of 2021 join us from 39 states, the District of Columbia and five countries from around the world, including Canada, China, Jamaica, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Additionally, three students hold dual citizenship with the U.S. and Ecuador, Italy and Nigeria.
In addition to our entering J.D. students, 28 students have chosen William & Mary to continue their legal education through our LL.M. program. These students join us from China, England, Nigeria, Korea and Saudi Arabia, and one is a permanent resident from Bulgaria.
Faye Shealy, Associate Dean for Admissions, said the incoming students are an accomplished group of aspiring lawyers. “I am impressed with their achievements and their commitments. They have an important vision for the future, and I am eager to see all that this class will accomplish at William & Mary and thereafter.”
Political science, history, English, international relations, psychology, economics and philosophy are among the predominate majors. Several other disciplines are represented, including accounting, biochemistry, biology, classics, German, journalism, mechanical engineering and music. Thirteen members of the class have graduate degrees, including an M.A. in educational leadership & policy studies from the University of Virginia, an M.A. in conflict security and development from King’s College of London, and an MSc in international criminology from Vrijie Universiteit Amsterdam. Fifteen students join us with the honor of Phi Beta Kappa from their undergraduate institutions; 45 have graduated summa cum laude.
More than half of the class has full time work experience within the field of law and elsewhere; many students have served as paralegals, legal assistants and legislative aides. Employers include Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance; the National Security Archive; the New York Bar Association; Pixar Animation Studios; the Pennsylvania Democratic Party; and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Hands-On Global Experiences
Forty-three members of the class have either participated in study abroad programs or have received one or more degrees from international institutions; more than 60 speak 21 unique languages. These global pursuits have led both to employment and internship opportunities abroad.
“After working in the field of international democracy support, I wanted to return to the U.S. to work on similar issues at the state level,” said Melanie Allen, a 2004 Smith College graduate who earned a B.A. in government. After the absence of a superior within the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Allen stepped in to manage the Kathmandu office “during a critical period in its programming and the constitutional reform process there.” Her newfound experience allowed her to lead the office toward success in maintaining goals, and she “gained valuable insight into how democracy assistance providers work with national counterparts in complex political environments.”
Allen chose William & Mary “because the values of the school, embodied in the notion of the citizen lawyer, align with my own. I wanted to attend a school that places emphasis on public service and the role of the lawyer as an agent of change.” Her experiences working toward gender-inclusive constitutional design at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance and as an independent consultant will certainly be an asset to the Law School, as will her global experiences studying and working in Switzerland, Malaysia, Sweden, Nepal and the Netherlands.
It is evident that our students have a passion for serving their communities through their involvement in the military and service organizations such as AmeriCorps and City Year.
For Virginia native Antony Clemons, William & Mary rose above other options based on the value of the education itself. “Its commitment to academic quality, unique learning experiences, and profound historic traditions made it a top choice,” Clemons said. Having graduated in 2011 from Old Dominion University with a major in history and social studies education, and again in 2018 from the University of Virginia with a Masters in Educational Leadership, it is safe to say that education and access for students are important to Clemons.
He served as an AmeriCorps Vista tutor and mentor, and performed historical preservation research during a NASA Langley internship. Clemons described those opportunities as having “changed my perspective and purpose in life. As a result of each experience, I became better aware of my sense of purpose and desire to help individuals overcome adversity.” He has spent the last seven years applying that philosophy to his classroom as a history teacher in Northern Virginia, as well as on the field as a football coach.
Most, if not all, students have participated in extracurricular activities such as athletics (club and varsity levels), musical experiences, research, and student media. Our well-rounded students have had compositions commissioned and performed, appeared on media outlets in advocacy of reform, and served as student representatives to their university’s board of trustees.
Alexander Reinert is a 2018 graduate of the University of Tulsa. His passions in music and martial arts taught him the importance of setting goals for success, but also staying grounded in that pursuit. “It’s easy to get caught up in the demands of everyday life at the expense of creativity, but it’s amazing how much stress disappears when I sit down to play the piano at the end of a long day.” His musical ability is only one of many talents; he also holds a 3rd degree black belt in Taekwondo and has served his student residential community as the national communications coordinator for the TU Residence Hall Association.
“I can’t imagine a better place to study the law than at the nation’s oldest law school,” said Reinert. “I felt a real sense of community from the law students I met at Admitted Students weekend last spring, which wasn’t the feeling that I experienced at some other law schools I visited. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to be studying at W&M Law, and that’s exactly the environment I was looking for in law school.” Reinert’s varied experiences and talents will certainly add to the continued growth of the law school community, both in the classroom and beyond.
Enhanced Legal Study
In addition to the J.D. program, William & Mary Law School’s LL.M. program draws international students from around the world who wish to continue their legal education. Among this years’ class is Dr. Hee Jung Kim.
Dr. Kim earned her undergraduate degree in law from Kyung Hee University, South Korea, in 2007, followed by a Masters of Law in 2009. She continued to pursue the field of law, earning her Doctorate of Juridical Studies at Kyung Hee Law School in 2014. She currently serves on the Institutional Review Board Law Committee for Kyung Hee University Hospital in Seoul, South Korea. Science and law converged when she became interested in the intersection of biomedical sciences and human rights. To this end, her decision to study at William & Mary Law School stems from the desire to develop laws related to the field of human rights and restorative justice in South Korea. Additionally, Dr. Kim hopes to publish written works on juvenile and human rights, and continue her consulting work on the “necessity and operation of human rights centers in universities, national institutions and business” across South Korea upon completion of her degree.
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.