Looking Back at 2021

Year Marked by Achievements, Transitions
UVA Law School

Photo by Sanjay Suchak

December 20, 2021

The University of Virginia School of Law celebrated another year of milestones and achievements — and transition, as community members returned to a fully in-person experience. Check out some of the top stories of 2021.

The Law School retained and built upon its success.

UVA Law welcomed a first-year J.D. class with the strongest academic numbers and the most racial diversity in the school’s history.

The Law School remained No. 1 in Best Professors, Best Quality of Life and Best Classroom Experience in The Princeton Review 2022 rankings, and moved up one spot each in Best Career Prospects (No. 3), Best for Federal Clerkships (No. 4) and Toughest To Get Into (No. 5).

Members of the Class of 2021 volunteered 17,113 pro bono hours during their time in law school, breaking a UVA Law record.

The school’s graduates continued to excel at obtaining a range of sought-after employment opportunities following graduation:

  • A record 116 alumni are clerking for the 2021 term, including 20% of the Class of 2021.
  • The Law School was No. 2 in the percentage of recent alumni working at the top 10 highest-grossing law firms.
  • Nine students and alumni joined the Department of Justice as attorneys through the Attorney General’s Honors Program.

Community members were flexible in the face of the pandemic.

Members of the Class of 2021 graduated in person in UVA’s Scott Stadium alongside other UVA students. In her online address, Law School commencement speaker Justice Cleo E. Powell ’82 of the Supreme Court of Virginia told students that being uncomfortable has its upsides.

In the fall, UVA Law community members began learning and working side by side again, following a year of hybrid learning.

Alumni recounted their experiences during the pandemic and how their work life shifted to address issues raised by COVID-19 in UVA Lawyer magazine’s spring issue.

Faculty members were called to serve …

Toby Heytens ’00 became a judge on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ashley Deeks joined the Biden administration as associate counsel and deputy legal adviser to the National Security Council in the Office of the White House Counsel.

Lois Shepherd was appointed to a four-year term on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections.

Cale Jaffe ’01 was appointed to the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission.

Professor Rachel Harmon co-authored joint recommendations on federal policing reform for the Biden administration to consider.

… earned accolades …

Michael D. Gilbert, an expert on election law, democracy, and law and economics, started serving as vice dean, succeeding Professor Leslie Kendrick ’06.

John Duffy and Ruth Mason, and Michael Doran, Richard Schragger and Pierre Hugues-Verdier were elected members of the American Law Institute, bringing the number of UVA Law faculty affiliated with ALI to 31.

Ashley Deeks was named a recipient of the American Law Institute’s Early Career Scholars Medal.

Craig Konnoth is researching bioethics in movement advocacy as a 2024 Greenwall Faculty Scholar.

Joy Milligan and Bertrall Ross served as 2021 Berlin Prize Fellows.

Mila Versteeg’s co-authored book “How Constitutional Rights Matter” won the International Society of Public Law prize and the Best Book Award from the Human Rights Section of the American Political Science Association.

Papers by Michal Barzuza, Quinn Curtis and Cathy Hwang were named among the top 10 corporate and securities articles of 2020 in an annual poll.

John C. Jeffries Jr. ’73 was honored with a Founder’s Day tree planting at the Law School.

Professor Emerita Mildred Robinson received the Armstead Robinson Faculty Award, named in honor of her late husband.

Megan Stevenson was elected to the American Law and Economics Association board of directors.

Annie Kim ’99, assistant dean for public service, received a Library of Virginia Literary Award for her poetry.

… were joined by new colleagues …

Several new professors joined the faculty in the summer and fall.

Payvand Ahdout is a former Justice Department attorney who studies judicial power.

Rachel Bayefsky is a former appellate litigator and legal philosopher who studies how dignity is valued in the legal process.

Jay Butler is an expert in international law and corporate social responsibility.

Mitu Gulati is a scholar of sovereign debt and contract law.

Juliet Hatchett ’15 was named assistant professor of law and associate director of the Innocence Project Clinic.

Craig Konnoth is a health law expert focused on civil rights.

Kimberly D. Krawiec is an expert on corporate law who teaches courses on securities, corporate and derivatives law.

David S. Law has written on courts and constitutions around the world.

Joy Milligan is a scholar focusing on the intersection of law and inequality.

Kelly Orians will join the faculty in January as the director of the new Decarceration and Community Reentry Clinic.

Bertrall Ross studies why people lack power in U.S. democracy.

… launched new endeavors …

The LawTech Center, led by Danielle Citron, launched to focus on pressing issues in law and technology.

The Karsh Center for Law and Democracy, and the Virginia Bar Association launched an ambitious campaign to help society bridge its differences.

Season 3 of the UVA Law podcast “Common Law,” hosted by Dean Risa Goluboff and Professor Leslie Kendrick, explored what role the law can play in making society more equitable.

Jonathan Z. Cannon, whose academic and public service improved the field of environmental law, retired in the spring.

… and published new books.

Rachel Harmon wrote the first casebook to look at the laws that govern police conduct in the United States.

Jason Johnston wrote a new book looking at some of the assumptions upon which climate change policy is being based.

New members of the UVA Law community enhanced the law school experience.

Dawn Davison joined UVA Law as a director of public service at the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center.

Megan Durkee ’15 and Savannah Ourednik were named director of student affairs and student affairs coordinator, respectively.

Katie Delsandro ’12 joined the school as director of admissions.

Mark C. Jefferson was named the inaugural assistant dean for diversity, equity and belonging.

Kristyn Judkins ’11 joined as a director in the Office of Private Practice.

Serena Premjee took on the role of staff attorney for the Innocence Project Clinic.

Curricular opportunities for students to learn the law firsthand and serve the broader community were abundant.

The leaders of the historic probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, including former Special Counsel Robert Mueller ’73, conducted a short course for law students.

The school announced the new Project for Informed Reform, led by Professor Deirdre Enright ’92 starting in the spring. The project will expand the scope of the school’s Center for Criminal Justice and build upon lessons learned from the Innocence Project at UVA Law.

Jehanne McCullough ’21, using American Sign Language, and Nina Oat ’21 successfully argued on behalf of an Appellate Litigation Clinic client before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

With help from students and instructors in the Innocence Project at UVA Law, clients Joey Carter, Bobbie Morman Jr. and Emerson Stevens received absolute pardons.

The First Amendment Clinic sued the Department of Justice again, asking for non-prosecution agreements that haven’t been delivered under federal Freedom of Information Act requests.

The new Federal Criminal Sentence Reduction Clinic helped free clients on compassionate release.

Students in the new State and Local Government Policy Clinic helped all of their state lawmaker clients, on a bipartisan basis, see their bills through to approval this term. A new report recommending policy changes to reduce racial inequity in Virginia features significant contributions from the clinic.

Students earned successful outcomes for their young clients in the new Holistic Juvenile Defense Clinic.

The new Community Solutions Clinic aimed to help further equity in the Charlottesville community through collaborative engagement with community groups.

A historic African American schoolhouse that the Environmental Law and Community Engagement Clinic is helping to preserve was recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, improving the chances the site may be saved.

Students supported an effort to assist Afghans who helped the U.S., by working on bringing their family members to safety.

Students also served the the broader community outside of the classroom, and helped bolster financial support for classmates working in public service.

Students who advised 19 area youths on their college essays helped them all earn acceptances.

A new program at UVA Law was established to offer additional funding to students working in public service jobs over the summer.

The Law School’s grant program supporting summer public interest work gave a record $750,000 to 162 students.

Nevah Jones ’22 earned a 2022 Skadden Fellowship to help veterans with health claims.

Nooreen Reza ’21 was named this year’s recipient of the Virginia State Bar’s Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award. She was also named the 20th Powell Fellow in Legal Services.

As an Equal Justice Works Fellow, Carly Wasserman ’21 is helping schoolchildren facing court fines and fees.

Dominique Fenton ’21 received an Equal Justice Works Regional Public Interest Award, given this year to eight law students nationwide for their exemplary commitment to public interest law and pro bono work.

Salwa Ahmad ’24 and Molly Keck ’24 were this year’s recipients of the Virginia Public Service Scholarship.

Pro Bono Award recipient Kolleen Gladden ’21 tallied more than 316 hours of service by the time she graduated.

Sarah Guinee ’23 and Virginia Whorley ’22 were named inaugural Democracy Summer Fellows.

The 38th annual North Grounds Softball League Invitational raised $15,000 for charity.

Standout students made their mark at UVA Law and among their peers.

Tiffany Mickel ’22 became editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law Review. She is the first Black person to hold the position.

Christopher Benos ’22 was named a Schwarzman Scholar, and will pursue a master’s degree in global affairs at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

Sam Long ’22 and Aleja Rocha LL.M. ’22 were named 2021 Tillman Scholars.

Avery Rasmussen ’21 and Matt West ’21 and Chris Baldacci ’22 and Michael Patton ’22 won the 92nd and 93rd William Minor Lile Moot Court competitions, respectively.

Rasmussen also earned the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence by graduating with the highest GPA in the Class of 2021.

Niko Orfanedes ’22 was elected president of the Student Bar Association.

Nirajé Medley-Bacon ’22 received the Gregory H. Swanson Award for her commitment to justice, courage and perseverance.

Cat Guerrier ’21 was UVA Law’s 2021 recipient of the Clinical Legal Education Association’s Outstanding Clinical Student Award.

Third-year students Emily Hockett, Donna Faye Imadi, Trust Kupupika and Jeffrey Stiles were named this year’s Ritter Scholars.

Grace Tang ’21 received UVA Law’s Rosenbloom Award, which honors students with a strong academic record who have significantly enhanced the academic experience of their peers.

Jeffrey Horn ’23 and Camilo Garcia ’22 were recognized for having the highest GPAs in their classes after two and four semesters, respectively.

The Federalist Society at UVA Law was named winner of the James Madison Award for national student chapter of the year, the first back-to-back recipient.

Students took home third place in this year’s International and European Tax Moot Court Competition.

The school celebrated students in the Class of 2021 who made an impression.

Alumni were recognized for their talents and passed on their wisdom.

Libby Baird ’19 is clerking for Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the U.S. Supreme Court for the 2021 term. Michael Corcoran ’17 will clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas for the 2022 term.

David Goldman ’19 served as one of five Bristow Fellows in the Office of the Solicitor General at the U.S. Department of Justice. Mariette Peltier ’20 will serve as a Bristow Fellow starting this summer.

Justin Aimonetti J.D.-M.A. ’20 won first place in the 2020 Brown Award for Excellence in Legal Writing competition for his paper exploring habeas corpus.

Marissa Boynton ’09, Kyle P. Brinkman ’10, Tristan Morales ’11, Melanie Wilson Rughani ’07 and Elizabeth Tuan ’13 were among this year’s Law360 Rising Stars honorees.

Alumni and faculty analyzed the growing threats to cybersecurity in the fall 2021 issue of UVA Lawyer.

Three alumni — Elisabeth Epps ’11, Toby Heytens ’00 and April Nicole Russo ’11 — were honored for their public service work at the fifth annual Shaping Justice conference. Civil rights lawyer Terrica Redfield Ganzy ’02 delivered the keynote.

Through a symposium for UVA’s 2021 Community MLK Celebration, Elaine Jones ’70, UVA Law’s first Black alumna, delivered the keynote.

Law students should embrace their failures and setbacks, and grow from them, Grace Fu ’09 told the Class of 2024 during her orientation address.

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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