Class of 2010 Hits Columbia Law School Campus for Orientation

Class of 2010 Hits Columbia Law School Campus for Orientation
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James O’Neill
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August 17, 2007 – The members of the Class of 2010 converged on the Columbia Law School campus this week for a two-day orientation, and then jumped right into their foundation curriculum, starting with Columbia’s distinctive Legal Methods course.
The Class of 2010 was culled from among 7,292 applicants. Among those who enrolled, 48 percent are women, 33 percent are minorities and 7 percent are international students, said E. Nkonye Iwerebon '93, Columbia Law School d '93, Columbia Law School dean of admissions.
Iwerebon said preliminary figures show that 29 percent of students come from the Mid-Atlantic states, 13 percent from the South, 12 percent from New England, 12 percent from the Midwest and 23 percent from the West.
Students represent 40 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and more than a dozen countries around the world, including Nepal, Belarus and Ghana.
One percent of students are aged 20 or younger. The bulk of the class – 73 percent – is aged 21 to 24. Students aged 25 to 28 make up 22 percent of the class, and those 29 or older make up 4 percent. Iwerebon said 34 percent of the Class of 2010 comes straight from college, while 15 percent of students have already earned other graduate or professional degrees. Among those is a student with a medical degree, and another who already holds a bachelor’s, master of arts, master of philosophy and a doctorate in art history.
In her welcome address to the class during orientation on the Law School campus in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights this week, Iwerebon said the group includes engineers, Peace Corps volunteers, journalists, entertainers, public servants, teachers, religious leaders, scientists, novelists and bankers.
There are cancer survivors, spelling bee champions and ballroom dancers; someone who has sold out rock concerts; someone who sailed around the Caribbean for two years; and someone who hiked most of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Pennsylvania in two months.
``You are all pretty cool and in excellent company,’’ she told the class.
Dean of Students Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin advised the new class to ``remember what you’re passionate about and meld that with what you learn here. Your passion can find expression in the law.’’
Kent McKeever, director of the Arthur W. Diamond Law Library, urged the first-year students, called 1Ls, to take full advantage of the staggering array of library resources available to them for free. ``You are surrounded potentially by an information paradise,’’ McKeever said. ``You should wallow in the information services we provide.’’
The Class of 2010 absorbed a flurry of advice and ideas about how to survive their first year as law students from several panels, including one made up of Columbia Law School faculty and another made up of returning 3L students.
The professors conjured up memories of their own days as first-year law students, providing some sense of relief for the new students.
``I remember spending the first semester of law school in a complete state of bewilderment,’’ said John Fabian Witt, professor of law and history, to appreciative laughter.
Witt said that some students enter law school thinking they just need to memorize all the rules and they’ll be fine. ``But you don’t need law school to learn the rules,’’ he said. ``Figure out what the principles are that underlie the rules. You’re developing the equipment to answer cases that aren’t easily handled by the rules. Think about why the rules exist.’’
Carol Liebman, clinical professor of law and acting dean of students, said she felt confident enough in a first semester class to raise her hand to answer her professor’s question about a case. Then the professor asked her another question, changing the facts of the case. Then he asked another. ``Soon I was blubbering and felt I sounded like a fool,’’ Liebman said, describing her introduction to the Socratic method. ``I didn’t volunteer to speak again the entire semester.’’
Her point: ``Don’t let fear of being wrong silence you. Don’t assume the professor is asking a question to get one single right answer. The questions are not meant to trip you up.’’
Liebman offered another bit of advice – she took a clinic her second year in law school, which reminded her of the practical applications of the law and the reason she enrolled in the first place. ``Columbia has a wealth of clinics,’’ she said. ``A clinic can be the place where you discover you’ve made the right choice to attend law school.’’
Susan Sturm, the George M. Jaffin Professor of Law and Social Responsibility, told the students, ``You’re learning a way of thinking, of figuring out the right questions to ask.’’ Instead of just jumping in and hanging on for the ride, she suggested that students periodically analyze what they’re experiencing. ``Ask yourself, `Why is the professor asking that question? What’s the thinking behind it? How is it different from the question I would have asked?’’’ she said.
Sturm said students might want to keep a journal to document the changes in their thinking over time. And she said the best way to learn is often by creating a ``learning community’’ with fellow students.
She advised that students not get so wrapped up in their new law school experience that they discard other parts of their lives that are important. By way of example she noted that to relieve stress, she continued to play the piano through her law school years – and continues to this day.
Ariela Dubler, vice dean and professor of law, said she took a class in torts her first semester, and was totally baffled. She still wonders why she never looked the term up in a dictionary – or just asked. ``People tell you that you’ll learn how to think like a lawyer,’’ Dubler said. ``But don’t forget you already know how to think.’’
Mary Kate Johnson, of Morristown, N.J., who earned her undergraduate degree from Columbia University, was among the members of the new class who attended the faculty welcome panel session. ``It was an interesting opportunity to get to know the professors at a more personal level,’’ she said.
``They provided some emotional support and personal guidance for navigating this new terrain,’’ said Johnson, who is interested in public interest law, particularly dealing with women’s issues.
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