Class of 2011 Stands Out After Record Application Year

September 4, 2008

Chosen from the largest applicant pool in the history of the Law School, members of the Class of 2011 boast the best median LSAT and grade-point average qualifications ever for an entering class. The 370 students who matriculated from the pool of 6,548 applicants have a median GPA of 3.80 and maintained last year's record-high median LSAT of 170.

Christopher Corts was a successful actor before joining the Class of 2011.

"In selecting you, we were mindful of the special qualities our students have had as long as I've been associated with the Law School and well before that - a capacity and willingness to view learning as a collaborative enterprise; a healthy sense of balance among work, relaxation, family and friends; an interest in the world around you and in the broader world as well; and a willingness and an inclination to invest in community," Dean Paul Mahoney told the entering class during orientation (related video). "You will find those investments amply rewarded here."

Women make up more than 44 percent of the entering class, which is the second-highest percentage the Law School has recorded, said Jason Wu Trujillo, Senior Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid. Members of the class come from 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and three foreign countries, and attended 132 undergraduate schools. They have lived or worked abroad in 44 countries and have pursued a variety of careers, from presidential speechwriter to working as an assistant to Maya Angelou. (full Class of 2011 Profile)

"Our admissions process grows more and more competitive each year," said Trujillo. "Less measurable than GPA and LSAT scores, but equally important, is the breadth and depth of the backgrounds of our entering students. In that regard, this class also stands tall."

Corts with his billboard in 2005 for "Dr. Sex," an Off-Broadway musical comedy about Dr. Kinsey of "Kinsey Report" fame.

Law student Christopher Corts may already be the most famous member of the Class of 2011. Before law school he acted and starred in plays and musicals, including in productions with Joanne Woodward, Dianne Wiest and Calista Flockhart. He also has appeared in films, television shows, soap operas and commercials.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in music and theater from Otterbein College, Corts worked for a decade as an actor in New York and Los Angeles.

"I always preferred stage because my interests were more in storytelling," Corts said. "With theater there's an immediate and a live human connection with the audience. You can be in a stinker of a play that is horribly directed, and you can still acquit yourself nicely because there are no filters between you and the audience."

Corts appeared on "The Practice" and "Beverly Hills 90210," in commercials for Toyota, Sprint and American Express, and even had a scene cut from independent film favorite "Ghost World," which co-starred Scarlett Johansson and Steve Buscemi.

"Daily Variety did call me 'hysterical' and 'winning' once, so I'll be clutching that review in my casket," he said.

But after more than a decade of working successfully in the showbiz grind, Corts was ready for a new challenge. He turned to law after rediscovering the joy of going to school while attending the Fuller Theological Seminary. His grandfather is also an attorney, so he always had the career in mind.

"My interest in studying the law is very much connected to why I went into theater and why I received a master's in theology. All three of these are getting at human nature and human behavior," Corts said. "They tell us who we aspire to be, and inform who we want to be as a culture, and what our expectations are of behavior and civility and social norms."

Corts was attracted to Virginia for its clinical and journal offerings, its curriculum and the expertise of the faculty, but also "I felt like this was the place that would provide me the most room to explore.

"I'm excited about the next three years. Everything that you hear about Virginia - the collegiality of the student body and the warmth of the staff and the professors - I've already seen to be true. And those are not simple things to be taken for granted."

Melinda Hightower

First-year law student Melinda Hightower was an associate consultant for Pricewaterhouse Coopers after graduating from Cornell in 2000. Soon, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. asked her to work in its human resources group to help handle compensation issues, among other duties. Hightower worked at WWE's home base in Connecticut for about four years.

"Not only do you have the live event part of WWE, but it's also an established business with regard to consumer products," she said. "WWE's revenue streams encompassed video games, toys, television advertising, as well as new media. It really was a pretty sophisticated enterprise."

Hightower grew up in Detroit and was noticed by teachers early in her education.

"My kindergarten teacher approached my parents about my performance and asked them to consider placing me in a higher grade," she said. She graduated from high school when she was 16.

"At UVA I'm finding that I'm not the youngest. In fact, I'm a few years older than some of the students here," she said. "So it's an interesting twist."

After leaving WWE she worked for investment research company Morningstar in Chicago, where she also earned her M.B.A. part-time from the University of Chicago. Hightower said she feels more focused and able to excel in Law School because of her prior work experience.

"You get the best of both worlds - idealism and practicality - when you attend law school after working for a while," she said.

She was attracted to the Law School for its Program in Law & Business and the flexible curriculum, but also because of the friendliness of the staff and students.

"One of the things that stood out for me at UVA was that every person I talked to really had a positive experience," she said. "Not only does it have a great business law program, should I decide to pursue that, but it's also strong in a lot of different areas should my interests change."

Members of the Black Law Students Association also reassured her about being a nontraditional applicant.

"The University has a tangible commitment to diversity, and that was incredibly important to me," she said.

Andrea and Brinton Lucas

It's hard enough to choose a law school when you're single, but married classmates Andrea and Brinton Lucas wanted to go to the same law school. The University of Pennsylvania college sweethearts were interested in studying law from an early age.

"We met through mutual friends, but our interests coincide very well," Andrea said. "And since we'd had classes together we knew that we could study together without killing each other."

After college, Brinton worked for a year as a paralegal in a Philadelphia law firm's litigation department. During that time, Andrea finished her senior year at Penn while working as an intern on public policy issues for Big Brothers, Big Sisters. The pair was married this summer outside of Cleveland.

"We applied to a bunch of law schools," Brinton said. "In the end it worked out that we got into four schools together, and it was really nice that we had those options."

"We chose Virginia because it was the one we liked the best," Andrea added.

The couple was attracted to Charlottesville for its appeal to married life, but they also were drawn by the students' engagement with the law and with each other.

"Virginia seems to foster a community that actually promotes people having different ideas. Not everyone comes from the exact same perspective," Andrea said.

"It's been really nice. I enjoy the ability to drive around, to have lots of greenery, to hear bull frogs out the window at night instead of beeping horns," Brinton said. Plus, Andrea added, "Charlottesville seems to have a lot of the benefits of a big city combined with some of the small-city appeal.

"There seems to be recognition that you are a whole person at Virginia, and the law is one part of that," Andrea said.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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