Class of 2015 Brings Variety of Experience to Law School

August 22, 2012

A paratrooper, an Arabic linguist and a journalist — and that's the resume of just one student in the University of Virginia School of Law's Class of 2015.

The Law School's 356 first-year students, who started classes this week, bring a wealth of diverse experiences to UVA, though they share the common goal of studying law.

Members of the class, chosen from a pool of more than 6,100 applicants, earned a median undergraduate GPA of 3.87 and received a median LSAT score of 170. First-years come from 43 states, the District of Columbia and three foreign countries, and attended 150 undergraduate institutions. Forty-five percent are women and 21 percent identify themselves as minorities. Most — 66 percent — have work experience after college (an average of two years), and 7 percent of the class holds graduate degrees. (Full Class Profile)

"I have had a wonderful first year as assistant dean for admissions at Virginia Law and thoroughly enjoyed helping to select the members of our fall 2012 entering class from a large and very strong applicant pool," Senior Assistant Dean for Admissions Anne Richard told students during orientation. "The students joining us are an extremely talented and diverse group of individuals. I could not be more proud of 'my' first class. I look forward to watching the members of the Class of 2015 excel in their studies and make great contributions to our law school community and to our profession."

Prior to enrolling at Virginia Law, first-year law student John McGlothlin served as a paratrooper and Arabic linguist in the U.S. Army from 2003 until earlier this year, a military career that included deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

McGlothlin also assisted in the evacuation of Libyan rebels from Tripoli, translating for medical personnel while en route to a hospital in Boston.

"Overall, [I'll remember most] just getting to talk with the residents on the ground in each of these countries and getting an idea of how they saw things," McGlothlin said. "Sometimes it was frustrating. There'd be days in Iraq when it'd be like, 'Screw this country. They need to get their own act together. Why do we care more about their country than they do?' But then the next day you'd have Iraqis risking their lives for you, and you'd feel they were absolutely worth fighting for. It was a seesaw kind of thing."

McGlothlin joined the Army after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, leaving behind a career as a journalist in Florida. The attacks inspired him to go beyond reporting about the news, he said.

Dean Paul G. Mahoney, Senior Assistant Dean for Admissions Anne Richard, and Rebecca Vallas '09 welcomed the Class of 2015 at orientation.

"As a journalist, you can influence the news by reporting things that people need to know and then they might change their behavior. But you're a step removed. You put it out there and you hope people respond to it," he said. "That wasn't good enough for me anymore."

McGlothlin decided to pursue a law degree at UVA, he said, because the law "seems to underpin everything," he said. "It's the foundation that everything's built on."

Erika Trujillo

Unlike McGlothin, Erika Trujillo came to the Law School straight from college. Trujillo, who turned 21 two weeks ago, is among the youngest members of the incoming class.

As an undergraduate at George Washington University, Trujillo studied international affairs, with a concentration in conflict and security. She said she wants to pursue a career in intelligence, or possibly in national security law.

"One of the things I focused on [as an undergrad] was international terrorism and how there's been a change in the nature of conflicts from state-versus-state to now state-versus-non-state actors. This makes contemporary conflicts very complicated, especially when you're looking at international law and domestic laws, in the cases of cross-border conflicts or homeland security," Trujillo said. "So I realized that law school would be necessary."

While studying at George Washington, Trujillo worked part-time in the International Trade Administration's Office of Foreign Service Human Capital at the U.S. Department of Commerce. In that position, she worked on a project that involved meeting with nine foreign minister-counselors to identify best practices that could be implemented by the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

"Foreign-language training is one of our biggest challenges because it takes so long to train someone to speak Arabic, for example, but they might only be posted in an Arabic-speaking country for two years," she said. "I would talk to other foreign officials about their requirements. They might train their people for years or they might not train them at all. It was a comparison on how different foreign services are run in a variety of areas"

Trujillo wanted to study at Virginia Law partly because it is home to the Center for National Security Law and because of the Law School's varied selection of classes.

"The course list is awesome," she said. "In my second and third year, I can take classes like Antiterrorism, Law and the Role of Intelligence or Foreign Relations Law."

Another member of the incoming class, William Montague, graduated from the University of Virginia in 2007 and went on to teach high school English in rural eastern North Carolina as part of Teach for America.

"It was a pretty poor area. A lot of the industry in that area had been textile. And of course a lot of that shut down 20 or 30 years ago and the jobs moved overseas," he said. "A lot of my students, their parents worked for Wal-Mart, they worked for Burger King, if they were employed. It was a challenge, but I learned a ton from my students — a lot about what they had faced [and] and the courage they had shown despite what they'd faced."

As a teacher, Montague witnessed first-hand the effects of the justice system on disadvantaged youth.

"Several of my students had legal issues before the time they got to me," he said. "Some were on probation. While I was teaching, I had a couple students get arrested on charges of possession with intent to distribute both marijuana and crack cocaine. And were subsequently given a long-term suspension, basically an expulsion."

Jasmine Hay

Montague sat on the disciplinary panel that voted to expel one of these students.

"It was difficult seeing him sitting there, about to be tossed out of school and knowing that we did not, in our county, have an alternative high school. So for the next nine months or whatever, he was just going to be sitting at home with nothing to do," Montague said. "For a kid who already had difficulties in the classroom and difficulties with the law, this was just the worst possible outcome for him. And yet keeping him in the classroom and allowing him to continue to disrupt my class and disrupt the entire school wasn't really a viable option either."

The experience, he said, inspired him to seek a law degree from UVA to work on juvenile justice issues.

"It made me want to be able to advocate on behalf of students like him," he said.

At UVA Law, Montague said he is interested in possibly joining the Child Advocacy Clinic, which represents low-income children in Virginia who are facing problems with the education, foster care and juvenile justice systems.

"Professor [Andy] Block has followed a career path is similar that one that I'd be interested in following," he said. "And UVA has a good track record of placing students in public interest jobs. That's the sort of work that I'd be interested in doing."

Jasmine Hay, who born and raised in London and is a citizen of the U.K., U.S. and Canada, studied chemistry and materials science as an undergrad at Princeton University before joining the Class of 2015.

While at Princeton, Hay worked in a lab that conducted research on superconductivity and complex magnetism. Her thesis focused on "geometrically frustrated magnetism," which occurs when magnetic moments are unable to align in their preferred orientation.

"I was trying to synthesize new compounds that had that particular property," she said. "It's kind of rare. Its purpose was to help us understand more about how magnetism works."

In the summer of 2010, Hay interned at the biochemistry unit of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

"I did a bunch of interesting things there, but I think my favorite was that I got to be involved in a reading of a real patent application submitted by a cosmetics company," she said. "I did all the research and decided whether I could find [previous patents or references in journals to comparable creations] that counted as 'prior art.' — I was looking for anything that was similar enough to mean that [the company] couldn't patent it."

Hay said she loves to write and has long been interested in patents and intellectual property, so law school was a logical step.

"I think law and science are actually quite similar," she said. "With both disciplines, it helps if you have an analytical mind and are able to break down complex ideas into a series of facts that you can then comprehend and analyze."

This summer, Hay worked at a legal aid organization in Seattle that assists low-income tenants facing eviction.

"We went to court to defend these people," she said. "I loved being involved in that and also enjoyed reading the law and seeing how people interpret it differently. I'm excited about having more of that sort of experience."

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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