On Sunday, 237 J.D. students and 52 LL.M. students took their seats for the Law School’s New Student Convocation. At around the same time, 240 miles away, citizens took to the streets in Washington, DC to condemn racism and hatred on the anniversary of the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA.
Addressing the incoming class, Dean Michael A. Simons made the connection. “A car slams into a group in Charlottesville,” he said. “Who can actually do something? The answer is lawyers. [They] have the opportunity to make a difference because they have the authority to invoke the law. You, as lawyers, will have that power. You can do something about it.”
St. John’s newest law students are well-equipped to make that difference as they succeed in the profession through the hard work that, Dean Simons noted, is ‘’one of the hallmarks of a St. John’s lawyer.” Along with a strong work ethic, the incoming J.D.s bring a wealth of experience and a diversity of perspective to the law school.
Ranging in age from 20 to 50 and hailing from across the country and around the world, they attended 100 different colleges and pursued 50 distinct majors and 20 advanced degrees. More than 30 of them are first-generation American. Another two dozen were born outside of the United States, and 27 percent are students of color. “You are cancer survivors and environmental activists, dancers and athletes, teachers and technologists,” Dean Simons shared with the students. “You have worked with refugees and sexual assault victims. You have started businesses and raised children.”
The students beginning the Bankruptcy, Transnational Legal Practice, and U.S. Legal Studies LL.M. programs at St. John’s Law also are an eclectic group with roots in Bangladesh, China, the Dominican Republic, France, Italy, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, and the United States. Together, in all their diversity, the incoming J.D. and LL.M. students reflect the richness that is New York City and the St. John’s Law family.
“It’s a pleasure to welcome our newest students as they bring their vast experiences and accomplishments to campus,” says Alicia Meehan, the Law School’s assistant dean for admissions and recruitment. “This is our first class ever to be majority female, which is a significant milestone reflecting larger changes in the legal profession. For the second year running, the class’s median GPA is our highest on record, and we expect that the students will continue to excel over the years, given the many resources and opportunities that St. John’s Law offers them.”
From their first day on campus, the new students benefit from the Law School’s focus on career development and experiential learning, and from its worldwide network of alumni who give back to alma mater as donors, employers, mentors, and teachers. They also have ample opportunity to animate St. John’s Vincentian mission of serving those in need. They can provide direct legal services to the poor through one of the Law School’s in-house and partner clinics, and they can participate in Pro Bono Week 2018, among many other public interest activities and initiatives.
At the close of Convocation, the students took an oath administered by Hon. Randall T. Eng '72, '16HON, a dedicated St. John’s Law alumnus whose exemplary and pioneering career in public service and private practice epitomizes hard work and selfless service. With that rite of passage, they looked forward to their two-week Introduction to Law course as Dean Simons offered this reminder: “We’re here for you, just as you will be here for each other. That’s how family works.”