Meet the Graduates - Class of 2009

Students Stephen Anthony '09 Eric K. Gerard '09 Dana Weekes '09 Alejandro Cruz '09 Rebecca Vallas '09 Mark Hiller '09 Genevieve Essig '09

Meet the Graduates
Class of 2009 graduates talk about their experiences at Virginia Law.

Stephen Anthony '09Stephen Anthony '09

Hometown: Norfolk, Va.

Who I was then: For as long as I can remember I wanted to become a lawyer. Nevertheless, in high school I was a football player, an offensive and defensive lineman, for Maury High School in Norfolk, Va. I went on to Wake Forest University, where I studied political science and sociology. It was at Wake Forest that I decided that I would return to Virginia to practice law and thus wanted to attend what I considered to be the best law school in the Commonwealth. So, when Virginia accepted me into the school, there was no hesitation on my part to attend.

Amazing law school class: Great classes are made by great professors. Therefore, I would have to say that Contracts I and II with Jody Kraus and Civil Rights Litigation with John Jeffries were two outstanding classes with two dynamic, engaging professors.

Noteworthy summer job: For two summers I worked with great people and in a great environment at Williams Mullen. It is a Richmond-based firm, and I had the privilege of working mainly in the Norfolk office. I look forward to working with them after graduation.

Resume lowdown: I am blessed with the opportunity to clerk in the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk, with the Honorable Rebecca Beach Smith and a classmate, Christie Ives. After a year of clerking, I will work in the litigation section of Williams Mullen.

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Outside class:
I have been a member of the Virginia Innocence Project, the Black Law Students Association (2007 treasurer), William Minor Lile Moot Court Board (chancellor 2008-09), National Trial Advocacy Team, and the University of Virginia Honor Committee (2006-07 honor counsel). Also, I had the privilege of participating in the Prosecution Clinic and was placed in the Assistant U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Honors: Regional Champion and National Champion of the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition (TMMMTC) for the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) (2009), Regional Best Advocate for the TMMTC Mid-Atlantic Black Law Students Association (2009), National Best Advocate for the TMMTC NBLSA (2008)

Who I am now: In a word: blessed. I can honestly say that in terms of people, professors, challenges, memories and successes, my time at the University of Virginia has been the most rewarding in my life. It is from those experiences that I think I have grown to be a more confident person, a more critical thinker, and a person that is more passionate about what I specifically want to do with my career. Because UVA Law has afforded me that opportunity to grow, I am eternally thankful. My plan is to leave this University and absorb every bit of knowledge I can, whether that is from the judge whom I will clerk for or the lawyers that I will interact with on a daily basis through that clerkship. From there, I plan on honing my skills as an advocate and trial lawyer, which I have attempted to sharpen through my academic and extracurricular experiences here at the law school.

What you should know about UVA Law: UVA Law is a place of challenges and rewards. You will be challenged by a competitive, incredibly smart student body and a passionate and able faculty. However, you will be rewarded by the fact that a degree from UVA Law proves your intelligence and capabilities to any employer, judge or peer throughout your career. But, most importantly, you will be rewarded by the people you will come to know and love because it seems that this law school welcomes an inordinate amount of good-hearted human beings that will be friends to you for the duration.

Eric K. Gerard '09Eric K. Gerard '09

Hometown: Boston, Mass.

Who I was then: B.A. in politics, Washington and Lee University. Between college and law school, I spent a year studying Turkish and regional politics in Istanbul on a federal scholarship program, worked two years at an international consulting firm in Washington, D.C., and earned a master’s in U.S. foreign policy and international economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, also in Washington.

Amazing law school class: Con law with Risa Goluboff — an unforgettable experience.

Outside class: Running, politics, good books, and good company. Member of the Law School's extramural National Trial Advocacy Team (2L and 3L years), executive board member of the Center for the Study of Race and Law (2L year), and volunteer at the International Rescue Committee (1L year).

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Noteworthy summer job:
Working with barristers for the Crown Prosecution Service in London before my 1L year — it's what turned me on to prosecution. I applied to law school having little idea what I wanted to do afterwards but arrived at law school on the first day of classes utterly certain of my direction.

Resume lowdown
: I worked at a private firm in Boston after my 1L year. I spent the following summer at the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, where I was in court every day and handled dozens of felony preliminary hearings and misdemeanor trials.

Who I am now: Headed to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office in New York City after the bar exam.

What you should know about Virginia Law: Because of the strength of its faculty and the depth of its curriculum in so many areas, Virginia Law affords each student the chance to discover and cultivate her or his own substantive passions. Whether you aspire to a career as a prosecutor or public defender, a legal aid attorney, a human rights advocate, an environmental crusader, a corporate lawyer or one of countless alternatives, you will find like souls here, and you will be supported in that mission. To those who come unsure of what they'd like to do, my advice is to arrive with an open mind, experiment, and embrace the extraordinary opportunity that this education provides. You truly can go anywhere from here.

Dana Weekes '09Dana Weekes '09

Hometown: Columbia, Md.

Amazing law school class: Issues in Poverty Law
Outside class: Black Law Students Association, election protection coordinator, class gift co-chair, Dillard Fellow [tutor in legal writing]

Noteworthy summer job: Legal intern for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Although it was only a two-week assignment, this experience was noteworthy because I was able to engage in the behind-the-scenes operations for the historic convention from a legal perspective. Also, I was there the night President Obama accepted the nomination. Priceless.

Resume lowdown: Patton Boggs (Washington, D.C.)

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Who was I then:
Professionally conflicted. I spent three years away from academia to determine how to merge my love for grassroots advocacy, public policy and the law. My hiatus between Wellesley College and UVA Law consisted of public policy and grassroots work at the Center for Community Change (Washington, D.C.) and National Coalition for Black Civic Participation. I reveled in politics as a field organizer for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards Campaign in Ohio and explored the firm culture at Covington & Burling as a staff member. Finally, I worked at Sandler, Reiff, and Young PC (Washington, D.C.) as a legal assistant in the area of election law and campaign finance.

 Who I am now: Professionally inspired. I still have a love affair with grassroots, public policy and the law. Coordinator of a nationwide election protection effort in over 75 law schools and central Virginia; Political junkie and fundraiser; hoping to make Capitol Hill my courtroom (a.k.a. aspiring lobbyist); committed to pro-bono work. I am also a painter — amateur painter.

What you should know about Virginia Law: You can either learn the law or you can engage in the world of law. Virginia Law allows you to navigate through the latter. If you dedicate a sufficient amount of time to think about your professional goals (not limited to the legal profession) and the skill sets necessary to achieve them, Virginia Law provides you with an overwhelming amount of resources (and networking opportunities) to a develop strong, professional foundation upon graduating. Take advantage of it. Seriously.

Alejandro Cruz '09Alejandro Cruz '09

Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.

Who I was then: Went to high school at the Bronx High School of Science. Worked during high school for New York City as a lifeguard at public beaches. Attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. and graduated in 2004 cum laude with a major in psychology and minor in history. Spend two years as an analyst at an environmental consulting firm here in Charlottesville before coming to law school.

Outside class: Editorial Board of the Virginia Law Review, research assistant for a professor, teacher in the Street Law program (2L year), pro bono work for the Just Children program at the Legal Aid Justice Center (1L year), published an autobiographical essay on adolescent identity, climber, hiker.

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Noteworthy summer job:
Intern at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia (2007), summer associate at Cravath, Swaine, and Moore in New York (2008).

Resume lowdown: Starting work as an associate at Cravath in New York in November, 2009.

What you should know about Virginia Law:
Virginia is a place where anyone can find a niche. The school aims to, and I think succeeds in, developing lawyers who are fluent in the nuts and bolts of the law, but can just as fluently think about high-level issues and problems in law and society. UVA Law is a community where honesty and kindness are valued almost above all else and where one can work hard to learn new ways of thinking through difficult problems while never sacrificing whatever it is that makes you the person you are. I am on the verge of graduating and the only think I can think to say about the last three years is that, if given the chance, I would do it all over again.

Rebecca Vallas '09Rebecca Vallas '09

Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.

Who I was then: Studied classical voice; involved in activism to raise awareness about violence against women. Started "Take Back the Night" at Emory University. Majored in psychology and wanted to be either a counselor/therapist for young women victimized by sexual assault or a social worker... instead, ended up coming to law school.

Amazing law school class: Issues in Poverty Law, and the Family Resource Clinic with Dan Nagin

Outside class: Love good fiction, foreign travel, foreign language study, and gourmet cooking; admitted news and political junkie; will always be a sucker for “Law and Order.” 

Noteworthy summer job: Intern at Housing Unit of Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston, Mass. — helped low-income women with children escaping domestic violence to gain short-term emergency shelter and then longer-term subsidized housing.

Intern at the Elderly Law Project of Community Legal Services, Philadelphia — helped low-income elderly clients with legal problems relating to their Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and long-term care.

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Resume lowdown:
 PILA president and fundraising director, co-chair of SBA Academic Concerns Committee, volunteer for CAIR Immigrant Jail Outreach Program, volunteer for International Rescue Committee, and member of Virginia Law Women, Virginia Law Democrats, Faculty Curriculum Committee, Dean Search Committee, and the Academic Review Committee.

Honors: Skadden Fellowship, Ritter Scholar, Claire Corcoran Award, Patton Boggs Public Policy Fellow, ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty Fellow.

Who I am now: Aspiring legal aid lawyer. Engaged to an incredibly dedicated, brilliant aspiring prosecutor. Preparing to begin Skadden Fellowship at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, to help low-income elderly/disabled clients receive Supplemental Security Income. (So, not too far off from social work, but with a law degree.)

What you should know about Virginia Law: It's truly a special place. The incredibly collegial and warm environment enables you to develop close relationships — not just with your peers, but with faculty, staff, clinical instructors and the like. At UVA Law, it's not about "getting through" law school, but enjoying your time in law school. 

Mark Hiller '09Mark Hiller '09

Hometown: Manhasset, N.Y.

Education: A.B. in government, Harvard University

Amazing law school class: Supreme Court Litigation Clinic

Outside class: Jogging through Old Garth Rd., hiking, movies, Zazus [restaurant], Downtown Mall

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Noteworthy summer job:
Intern for Judge Richard M. Berman, Southern District of New York

Resume lowdown: Law clerk to Judge Robert D. Sack, Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Outside class: Virginia Law Review, Action for a Better Living Environment (ABLE), tutor

Who I was then: Mark Hiller

Who I am now: Mark Hiller, J.D. (and Esq. if I pass and am admitted to the bar)

What you should know about Virginia Law: Time flies

Genevieve Essig '09Genevieve Essig '09

Hometown: Tampa, Fla.

Who I was then: B.A. in psychology, Yale University. My summers and the year post-graduation were spent interning at various environmental nonprofits: National Marine Fisheries Service, Environmental Law Institute, Institute for Policy Studies, and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. Most of my extracurricular time was spent performing opera and theater, including the role of the Queen of the Night in Mozart's “The Magic Flute.” I also spent significant time developing campus education programs for the university's Department of Recycling.

Amazing law school class: Environmental Law with Jon Cannon

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Outside class:
Volunteering with the Charlottesville SPCA

Resume lowdown: 1L summer spent at Gray, Plant, Mooty in Minneapolis; 2L summer spent at Jenner & Block in Chicago. I will be returning to Jenner & Block in the fall to work for their environmental law group.

What you should know about Virginia Law:
The people here — administration, professors and students — really make the difference. The students are self-driven, which makes them great collaborators and friends, rather than ruthless rivals. Everyone understands and embraces the "work hard, play hard" ethic. The professors truly enjoy teaching, and the administration sincerely wants to make the school an outstanding place for students to grow into legal professionals, in every sense of the word.