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2016 School of Law Orientation Highlights

Friday, September 16, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jessica Johnson
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This fall, we welcomed 88 new social justice warriors to our growing UDC-DCSL family!  Our new law students join us from diverse, hard-working and impressive backgrounds.  Some have already committed their lives to public service, helping others and promoting justice. We are confident that time at UDC-DCSL will further these values and provide them with an additional set of tools to enable them to become even more effective change-agents in the District of Columbia, the nation and the world.

To further imbue these students with social justice values, we kicked off the academic year with an eight-day Orientation filled with classes, panels, and events to introduce the students to who we are, what we do and what they can expect from their first year as change-makers.

The students got their first look at our community of thought leaders by attending a lecture on “Power, Education and Wealth in the District of Columbia” led by the President and Founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, Barbara Arnwine.  They also enjoyed a discussion of the Future of American Justice and lessons learned from the Ferguson Report by the Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Jonathan M. Smith, ’84.

In addition to these thought-provoking panels, students learned practical skills for law school success.  Debra Cohen, Professor of Law and Director of Academic Success, led a three-part lecture series on Law School Success. 

Throughout Orientation, students worked to complete their first academic course, Law and Justice, taught by Dr. Edgar S. Cahn, distinguished Emeritus Professor of Law and Co-Founder of our predecessor school, the Antioch School of Law.  Professor Cahn introduced students to the legal issues affecting vulnerable members of our community and discussed significant forms of injustice that they have experienced.  Students were also matched with faculty advisors who are experienced lawyers in the specific legal pathway chosen by each student and who will guide students through their educational experience and community service.

Students also learned the importance of “character and fitness” and the need to maintain professionalism at all times.  Gene Shipp, Bar Counsel at the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, Saul Singer, Senior Legal Ethics Attorney at the DC Bar, and Alan Kent, Counsel for the DC Committee on Admissions, provided two hours of sage advice and examples for the students. 

This year, we incorporated more opportunities to foster community awareness. Students visited DC’s historic Ward 8, where they toured the Frederick Douglass House. Next, they visited the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, which features both Antioch School of Law and UDC’s roles in the transformation of the District in an inspiring exhibit titled: “Twelve Years That Shook & Shaped Washington.”  Thereafter, the students stopped at the Barry Farms housing complex, where Professor Norrinda Brown Hayat, Director of our Housing and Consumer Law Clinic, led a discussion about the assigned summer reading book $2 a Day and explained several housing and food-related issues faced by low-income District residents.

From there, the students continued to the UDC East Capitol Urban Farm, a three acre plot of land in a dense housing environment where UDC undergrads educate local residents about how to plant, grow and sell their own produce and fish, and where neighbors can shop for locally-grown foods at affordable weekly markets.  This farm was created to assist in providing healthy food for the 71,000 residents of Ward 7.

In addition to school-focused activities, there was time for fun: These included a trolley tour of the DC area monuments, embassies, museums, and presidential homes led by Sooner Steve of Old Town Trolley Tours, and a Student Bar Association picnic for all incoming students and their families.  
Orientation ended on a high note with a jam-packed day. First, we hosted a Judicial Panel featuring US District Court Judge Amit Mehta, DC Court of Appeals Judge Phyllis Thompson, and DC Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher. The judges described their own paths to the judiciary and provided tips on how to secure internships and judicial clerkships.

To give students a head start on securing their community service placements, the last day of Orientation included our annual Community Service Fair, where more than 20 government and public interest employers were on hand to recruit UDC Law students.  Employers included The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, the Neighborhood Legal Services Program, and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia.  After spending just over a week in Orientation learning the ins and outs of law school and the value of professionalism, our new students were prepared to shine:  they arrived early, dressed to impress, and were eager to engage with key members of the legal public service community from across the District of Columbia. 

At the conclusion of the day and of the 2016 Orientation, we held our annual Dean’s Reception, this year at Arent Fox, LLP.  School of Law Foundation board member, Arent Fox partner and co-chair of the firm’s Pro Bono committee, Jon S. Bouker welcomed the students with inspiring words explaining how to weave public interest and social justice into their lives, no matter where they might decide to work.  Dean Shelley Broderick followed this message by encouraging our new students to enjoy the journey with our social justice family.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Orientation!  We cannot wait to see the contributions this class of social justice warriors makes to the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law and the greater Washington community!

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