William & Mary Law School welcomed new students on Aug. 17. The Class of 2014, 217 strong, was chosen from a pool of 5,939 applicants. These first-year law students represent 35 states and the District of Columbia, as well as China and South Korea. The class's median undergraduate G.P.A of 3.73 is the highest in the Law School's history; the class's median LSAT of 165 (92nd percentile) has been equaled by only three prior entering classes.
In addition to the Class of 2014 J.D. candidates, 28 students have enrolled for one year of study in the American Legal System Program as LL.M. degree candidates. These new students are from China, Ethiopia, France, India, Malaysia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. Seven students arrived for the fall semester as exchange students from Austria, Bolivia, Canada, and China. Eleven transfer students and one visiting student also are furthering their legal studies at William & Mary.
"These students' outstanding academic, service, and professional backgrounds are a tribute to the many strengths of William & Mary Law School," said Faye Shealy, Associate Dean for Admission. "Our new students are an impressive group of aspiring citizen lawyers, and we are truly honored that such highly qualified individuals seek a legal education at William & Mary. They each have a resounding welcome to the Law School family and to the world of the law."
The new 1Ls received undergraduate degrees from 136 different colleges and universities, 13 in Virginia, and 123 colleges and universities in 38 other states, DC, and two countries. The College of William & Mary and the University of Virginia are the leading undergraduate institutions represented by 15 percent of new JD students. The leading out-of-state schools with four or more entering students are Brigham Young University and Cornell. Others have earned degrees from a variety of colleges and universities including Brown, Chicago, Duke, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Michigan, Middlebury, NYU, Penn, Princeton, Stanford, Yale and the U.S. Air Force, Military and Naval academies.
Allison Handler, of Solon, Ohio, is a graduate of Oberlin College where she earned a degree in politics with a focus on American government. At Oberlin, she was a John Frederick Oberlin Scholar from 2007 to 2010, the highest honor given to a student by the college. In summer 2009, Handler served as a public service and law intern for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. In summer 2010, she was a Goldman Legislative Fellow for the National Legislative Affairs' American Jewish Committee in Washington, DC, where she contributed to two amici curiae briefs that were submitted to the Supreme Court. This past summer, she was a litigation case assistant in the mass tort group of Tucker, Ellis & West in Cleveland, Ohio.
One of the factors that swayed her decision to enroll in William & Mary's J.D. program was the fact that she will serve as an Election Law Fellow."As a long-time politics enthusiast and government optimist I see this fellowship as a very productive way to spend my time in law school," Handler said. "The school's proximity to DC is another plus. In the end, as I compared William & Mary to other schools, I became convinced that William & Mary has all the many channels I was looking for, as well as a faculty insightful enough to help me navigate them."
The predominant majors studied by members of the first-year class were political science, history, English and philosophy. Other majors included biology, business management, communications, computer science, economics, foreign languages, government, humanities, psychology and sociology.
In addition, the Class of 2014 has 17 members who have earned master's degrees in biology, business administration, criminal justice, education, electronics/information engineering, English, music, philosophy, political science, religious studies, and social sciences. One class member also earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science.
Of the class, 33 members graduated summa cum laude, 55 graduated magna cum laude, and 24 graduated cum laude. Eighteen 1Ls have been honored with membership in Phi Beta Kappa.
Nandor Kiss of Los Angeles, Calif., graduated from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and a Bachelor of Science in business administration. He holds an undergraduate certificate from Pepperdine University School of Law's Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution. Kiss was a member of the Alpha Chi Honor Society, Golden Key Honor Society and Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society.
During summer 2010, he worked in the law offices of Bradley W. Brunon, a firm that served as one of the defense counsels in People of California v. Kapoor, Eroshevich and Stern. The case concerned the prescription and administration of medications to Anna Nicole Smith. Kiss is the founder and president of NFRK3 Digital Media, a technology company whose clients have included a California Senate campaign, an entertainment sports agency, and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.
"I grew up and attended college around L.A.," Kiss said. "I became interested in William & Mary because of its unique historical background, but it was a call from Professor Fred Lederer inviting me to become a fellow with the Center for Legal and Court Technology that helped me decide that Williamsburg would be my new home."
Many 1Ls worked before enrolling in law school: 39 percent of the new class has had full-time employment experience. This includes five members who have served in the military: two lieutenants from the U.S. Navy, a lieutenant and a captain from the U.S. Army, and a corporal from the U.S. Marine Corps. Two of these service members are attending under the auspices of the highly selective Funded Legal Education Program.
Alexander Snyder-Mackler of Wilmington, Del., received a Bachelor of Arts cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a major in philosophy, politics, and economics. The summer after he graduated he completed a Democratic training program with Campaign Corps, which covered all aspects of running successful political campaigns. From July 2005 until November 2010, Snyder-Mackler was involved with several campaigns and served as communications and research director for the Delaware Democratic Party, press secretary for Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., deputy campaign manager for Biden for Senate, Delaware manager of the Obama/Biden Transition Project, deputy chief of staff for Sen. Ted Kaufman, and as campaign manager for Beau Biden for Attorney General of Delaware.
"One of my reasons for choosing William & Mary is that it is not too close to Washington, and not too far away, either," Snyder-Mackler said. "The school's history and focus on public service is very attractive to me. One of my favorite lines is, 'life is what happens while you are planning for it', and while I have some ideas about my career, I am entering law school with an open mind as to my future but it is likely that it will have some connection to my pre-law school career: politics and public service."
Members of the class of 2014 were active in student life. Fifteen members served on judicial boards, standard boards or honor councils. Three served in roles such as a supreme court justice, as a co-chair or as an associate chief justice. Four have served as presidents of their fraternities; two were vice presidents of fraternity boards. Three have served as presidents of their sororities and two as vice presidents. Two were presidents of PanHellenic associations.
One student's interest in his local community led to his election to the Williamburg, Va., City Council.
Campus organizational leadership is in evidence with two presidents and one vice president of honor societies, two presidents of pre-law associations and others with service to numerous organizations and student advisory boards. The class includes two editors of their college newspapers, nine editorial board members of journals, and one contributor to a pre-law review journal. College admission offices have had class members working in freshman orientation positions, specifically 12 college ambassadors and 10 tour guides.
Mock trial was another important activity for class members and eight participated, with one serving as president and others serving as team captains. The 1L class also includes five members of debate teams, and two of moot court teams. Class members were also involved in Model United Nations and Model NATO organizations.
Stephanie Appiah of Mechanicsville, Va., holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and political science from Swarthmore College. During college, she was an undergraduate research assistant for the Center for Social and Policy Studies at Swarthmore and was a thesis-writing mentor in the college's Writing Center. In winter 2009, Appiah served as an intern for the Division of Energy Market Oversight in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC, and, that summer, she was an undergraduate fellow in the Division of Child Support Enforcement in Virginia's Department of Social Services in Richmond. In 2010 and early 2011, Appiah was a Spanish teacher for grades 9-12 in the Teach for America Summer Institute, and a substitute teacher for grades 7-12 in Teach for America charter schools, all in Philadelphia.
Since March, Appiah has been the media relations director for SoapBox Soaps, LLC, a start-up company with the mission of donating a bar of soap to needy children all over the world for every bar of soap sold. She has been doing outreach by developing content for the company's Web site, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook pages. Through this work, she has made a connection with representatives from UNICEF, Peepoople (a Swedish company dedicated to safe sanitation), and the International Justice Mission, among others. In addition, this spring Appiah was a legal document researcher for LeClair Ryan in Richmond.
"I chose William & Mary," Appiah said, "because I love ... the strong legacy of public service left by Thomas Jefferson, and the happy, welcoming nature of students all over campus. I have spent the past five years in Philadelphia, and moving to Williamsburg has been a comfortable transition. It feels like I am coming home."
David Johnson of Brighton, Mich., graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Bachelor of Arts in international studies with honors. He received the EDGE Internship Grant from the Johns Hopkins Second Decade Society in summer 2005 where he worked for the Council for Emerging National Security Affairs in New York, a national security think tank. In summer 2006, Johnson was a research assistant for the Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS) at Johns Hopkins where he analyzed data from schools nationwide for CSOS initiatives in support of analyses of No Child Left Behind. Following graduation, he was a paralegal for Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP, a global immigration law firm in Washington, DC.
"Because William & Mary offers a unique hands-on approach to the study of law, and numerous professional opportunities and connections," Johnson said, "I am confident that I will be well-prepared for any career I may choose. The diverse expertise of the faculty and wide variety of courses will allow me to explore numerous subjects. These opportunities, combined with the Legal Skills Program and McGlothlin Courtroom, will be the difference between becoming a good lawyer and becoming a great lawyer."
Among the LL.M. students studying at the Law School are Yetnayet Demissie from Ethiopia, currently of Arlington, Va., and Wei Lu of Shanghai, China.
Demissie holds a Bachelor of Laws with honors and a graduate degree in corporate law from University Lyon II Law School, a graduate degree with honors from University Lyon II School of Political Science, and Master 2 with honors in International Business Law from the University of Montpellier I Law School. Since September 2008, she has worked as a legal advisor at MB & Associes SERARL in Paris in several different capacities: as junior associate for corporate law, as a junior associate in the firm's international arbitration department, and as a junior advisor for their contracts group. She is fluent in English, French and Amharic.
"I chose William & Mary Law School for several reasons," Demissie said. "It is the oldest law school in the United States, and I hold my law degree in France from the oldest and first law school, the Faculte de Droit of Montpellier. I am happy to keep up that tradition. Most importantly, I chose the Law School because of its reputation in the DC area, and the small size of the student body. This convinced me that students at William & Mary get more attention from their professors, compared to larger institutions."
"After I earn my LL.M. degree, I plan to sit for the Virginia Bar exam," Demissie explained, "and then practice corporate law. After a few years of experience in the corporate world, I would like to work at the Ethiopian Law School, teaching business law courses."
Wei Lu recently graduated from East China University of Political Science and Law (ECUPL) with a degree in economic law and concurrently from Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade where she concentrated her studies on international economics and trade. She spent three of the last four years studying under an Integrated Scholarship of ECUPL, one year as a Merit Student at ECUPL, and the academic year 2009-2010 studying with a National Scholarship. In summer 2009, Wei participated in a practice in Jiangyin City, Jiangsu Province, and then interned in Court No. 2 of the Yanjiang Industrial Development District in Nanjing. During summer 2010 she held a graduate internship in the Social-undertakings Office of Yanjiang Industrial Development District in Nanjing.
"I believe that nothing can be accomplished without norms or standards," Wei said. "Law is the rule of the whole society, and the only way to gain justice. My career plan is to be a judge back in China, and studying the law in the United States will help me greatly, since I can learn both the laws and the legal system."