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Friday, August 22, 2014

Welcoming the Class of 2017

Incoming class hails from 100 different undergraduate schools, 23 different states, and nearly two dozen countries; most diverse in UC Hastings’ history.
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Full album of orientation photos available on the UC Hastings Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/uchastings.

This year’s crop of 1Ls is the most diverse class in UC Hastings’ history. As Assistant Dean for Admissions Greg Canada reported in his welcome address, students have come from over 100 different undergraduate schools, 23 different states, and nearly two dozen countries. 56% are women, and over half are non-white.

It may also be the most professionalized, and certainly the most social media savvy class to date. Just search for the hashtag #UCHBINGO, which students used during Thursday’s scavenger hunt/ campus tour to connect on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Filing into the Louis B. Mayer auditorium on the first day, wearing freshly pressed suits and clutching school-emblazoned padfolios, the entering class heard new spins on traditional law school pep talks. Students were told about how hard they were expected to work, and how many sacrifices a law education entails. Yet there were many moments of levity, and heart-to-heart connection. Associate Academic Dean Heather Field told students to keep an open mind about areas of law, describing her unexpected excitement during her first tax law class. Provost & Academic Dean Elizabeth L. Hillman urged students to be compassionate with their friends and family members: “They will suffer a bit, watching you go through this,” she said. “But keep in mind the Buddhist premise that it’s tough to tell at first what is good and what is bad.”

Invoking a similarly reverent attitude, Chancellor & Dean Frank H. Wu urged students to throw out their televisions in order to focus their attention. He’s said this like a mantra to previous incoming classes, but this year he acknowledged that most students don’t even have T.V.s. “So get rid of your Netflix subscription or your Hulu Plus,” he directed, with a laugh.

Students enjoyed a week with a more pleasant rhythm than what’s likely in store over the next few grueling months. The days were packed with info sessions on everything from health services and financial aid to legal reasoning. Thursday’s scavenger hunt gathered students in groups to follow clues around campus, which turned into a fun, energizing bonding experience. But there were also generous breaks for “To Do Time.”

“The breadcrumbs were smartly laid. They gave us enough time to participate in the activities, and then get ready for the next day,” said 1L Joel Brand, who was prepared to respond quickly (and correctly) when Professor Dodson called on him during a sample class.

Incoming LLM Zeynep Hiziroglu said she was impressed with how accessible the professors were during the week. “Coming from Turkey, where students feel stressed about talking to a professor, I was amazed that here we are encouraged to talk to them, and they are not trying to avoid students,” she said.

This year’s orientation included more programming in academic readiness than previous years. “We tried to do more than ever before to help students be prepared to succeed in law school,” said Associate Academic Dean Heather Field.

There was also increased emphasis on professionalism. On Wednesday, students were offered the opportunity to have a professional head-shot taken for use on social media profiles. In small groups later that day, students discussed common law school and workplace dilemmas, like how to manage nearly elapsed deadlines or handle multiple job offers. They also attended a workshop intended to help them avoid unauthorized practice of law. California Supreme Court Justice Carol Corrigan ’75 headlined the afternoon session and administered a professionalism pledge to the incoming class in which students vowed to “live up to the high ideals of the legal profession” and “commit to public service and seeking equal justice for all.”

At almost every event, speakers urged 1Ls to seize opportunities and start building their professional networks. Several alumni told students to take clinics and externships in order to gain real world experience. Clinical Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Experiential Learning Nancy Stuart encouraged everyone to pledge to commit 45 hours to pro bono work during their law school years.

But the advice that got the biggest response from a crowd of students at the final event on Friday came from Jason Hepps ’04, who works for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and told the crowd via video that he had met his wife at UC Hastings and is now expecting a second child.

“So take it from me. If you work hard enough, and study hard enough, you will find love at UC Hastings!” he shouted, to a round of wild applause.

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