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Law School Welcomes a Strong and Diverse 1L Class

Friday, August 26, 2016

When St. John’s Law first opened its doors in 1925, the local press noted its first class came from “all walks of life,” representing “every nationality, creed, cult, age and section” of the city.

As the Law School has grown and thrived over 90 years—moving from humble quarters in downtown Brooklyn to an expansive campus in Queens—it has stayed true to its founding mission of providing opportunity to smart, hardworking, and ambitious young men and women, regardless of their background, race, religion, or socio-economic status.  

“In all of your diversity, you represent the richness that is New York City and that is the St. John’s Law family,” Dean Michael A. Simons noted in his welcome remarks to the incoming Class of 2016. The 234 (200 full-time and 34 part-time) new 1Ls range in age from 20 to 57 and represent 101 different colleges and universities.

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While many have come straight from college, many others have arrived with notable experience. The class includes a world champion Irish dancer; a morning drive radio host; a black belt karate champ; a professional body builder; a microfinance entrepreneur; and a person who has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated—twice.

The newest first-year students hail from across the country and around the world: They’re from Arizona and Albania; Indiana and India; the District of Columbia and Colombia, South America; Jamaica, Queens and the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica; Southern Long Island and South Korea. They bring a global perspective that enhances learning and life at the Law School.

All are well qualified to continue a proud St. John’s Law tradition of achieving academic and professional success. For the third year in a row, St. John’s Law has improved the academic credentials of the incoming class, which is one of the strongest in the Law School’s history. Since their first day on campus, they’ve benefitted from the Law School’s sharp focus on career development and experiential learning, and from its strong network of dedicated alumni who give back to alma mater as donors, employers, mentors, and teachers.

“We’re pleased to welcome this outstanding new class, said Robert M. Harrison, associate dean for admissions and student financial services. “It’s already clear that they’re eager to make their mark in the legal profession and business world, and to make valuable contributions to their communities.”

During their two-week orientation program in August, the 1Ls took the Introduction to Law class, attended orientation sessions, and participated in a range of activities, including small-group Faculty Friday excursions led by several faculty members to sites of interest around New York City. “The orientation program provides an introduction to the Law School and gives the new students an opportunity to learn about each other as classmates, friends, and future colleagues,” said Assistant Dean for Students Kimathi Gordon-Somers. “The 1Ls also get to know our faculty members through the orientation program and activities, making them part of the larger St. John’s Law family from the start.”

Honoring St. John’s Vincentian mission and the lawyer’s obligation to serve the public good, during orientation, members of the incoming class joined administrators and faculty for the Law School’s annual Day of Service. Service projects included rehabilitating affordable single-family homes with Habitat for Humanity; distributing food to local families in need through the First Presbyterian Church; tending to a campus community garden that supplies St. John’s Bread & Life with nourishing food for hungry New Yorkers; and training to help individuals without legal representation advocate for themselves in family court.

“Our orientation program service day offers the first of many opportunities our students have to forge what we hope will be a career-long commitment to service and social justice,” Dean Gordon-Somers said. “It’s wonderful to see the students bond with classmates over the shared experience of giving back.”

As they started their formal legal education, the incoming class members marked the milestone at a special New Student Convocation ceremony. There, they took an oath administered by Hon. Deborah A. Kaplan '85, a New York State Supreme Court justice who, Dean Simons observed, epitomizes hard work and selfless service on the bench, in the wider legal community, and back home at St. John’s.

The Law School’s orientation program continues during the academic year with programs to guide and support students in their academic pursuits, in their co-curricular activities, and in their career development. “We’re here for you,” Dean Simons told the orientation participants, “just as you will be here for each other. That’s how family works.”