Dean Sam Panarella welcomes his first class of law students from around the U.S. and the world
After his first few weeks at the helm of UMass Law, Dean Sam Panarella welcomed the Class of 2026 and launched a new era for the Commonwealth's only public law school.
The incoming class of 116 students represent 23 U.S. states and 10 nations and speak 5 native languages. The group, with an average age of 26 and undergraduate degrees from nearly 90 colleges, includes 8 active members of the military and veterans. The majority of 1Ls (51) are from Massachusetts followed by New York, Rhode Island, and Florida.
Their first year of law school began with 3 full days of orientation activities—including their first law school class, a community service event, and official welcomes from UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Mark A. Fuller, Dean Panarella, and UMass Law Alumni Association President Castell Abner, Jr.
Ret. Judge Kevan J. Cunningham, former First Justice of the Taunton District Court, administered the Lawyer’s Oath, in which the future lawyers promised to live up to the high ideals of the legal profession and uphold the highest standards of academic honesty and ethical conduct as lawyers in training and as attorneys.
"We are delighted to welcome you to UMass Law to start your legal education," said Dean of Students Julie Cahill after the students filed into a large law school classroom to begin their first day of orientation. "You will have the opportunity to meet our wonderful staff and faculty who will help you every step of the way. You will also meet some of our amazing students who are learning what it means to pursue justice."
Beginning his third year at UMass Dartmouth, Chancellor Fuller gave a brief history of UMass Law, which evolved from Southern New England School of Law and matriculated its first class in 2010 after receiving approval from the MA Board of Higher Education to offer JD degrees. In 2016, the law school gained full approval by the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar of the American Bar Association.
UMass Law now ranks first in New England and 7th in the U.S. for public service employment and 2nd in New England and in the top 10% of ABA-accredited law schools for graduates in government jobs with a 90.5% employment rate for the Class of 2022. The law school also ranks second in Massachusetts and 3rd in New England for practical training, according to preLaw magazine. UMass Law students have contributed 215,000 hours of pro bono legal services worth over $10 million to the community.
"The law school is embedded in our university fabric," Chancellor Fuller said. "UMass Law is one of the fastest-growing law schools in the United States. You have a role to play in that. You are the ambassadors for us."
Dean Panarella shares his personal journey and offers advice from his own experience
Addressing his first class as dean of UMass Law, Panarella spoke about the mission of UMass Law to Pursue Justice. "Our goal is to prepare you to engage in your communities as advocates for justice and for the rule of law. At its best, the work of an attorney increases the quantity and quality of justice in the world."
Dean Panarella recalled being in the 1L students shoes many years ago. "I remember my first day of law school like it was yesterday," he said. "I remember saying, 'How did I end up here? Do I belong?'"
He told the students about his own path—from a difficult and chaotic childhood, to a high school dropout who later earned his GED, to becoming a first-generation college student.
"I’m confident that many of you can relate to some part of this story," he told the new law students. "The important part of my story is that while I am the main character, I am not the protagonist. I am an average person who had the extraordinary good fortune of having support and mentorship from people who lifted me on my path. Those people, and there are many, are the protagonists of my story. We hope and intend to be those people for you on your path through law school and beyond. You belong here. We've got you."
Dean Panarella concluded his remarks with a request for the 1L law students. "Be kind to one another. Law school is a crucible that will test your character and your resilience every bit as much as it tests your intellect. I ask you to offer others the grace, kindness, and benefit of the doubt that you would like extended to you."
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1Ls enjoy their first day of law school as faculty and staff describe the UMass Law experience
Orientation sessions offered full-time and part-time students a full academic and student services overview with professors offering an introduction to legal reasoning, learning, and skills, along with civics, the law library, student affairs, career services, professional expectations, professional identity formation, bar preparation, and exams. The law school staff described nearly every department at the law school that students will interact with.
After taking their class photo, many of the new law students said they felt supported and ready to begin law school.
"It went great," said Adriana Carlucci of North Providence, RI. "The professors engaged with us and I saw lots of new friendly faces."
"This has been a long time in coming," said Talia DeVincenzis of Cranston, RI. "I’ve always dreamed of going to law school. I love the mission of UMass Law; it aligns well with me."
Amoan Rahman said he was "pretty ecstatic" to be in law school after graduating from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. He chose UMass Law based on the scholarship he was offered and his interest in public policy.
Susie Lara Flores of Mission, Texas, will attend UMass Law part-time and likes the flexibility of being able to attend law school and work part-time. "The professors and staff all seemed very nice and warm and very understanding of where we are coming from. It helped me to remember how badly I wanted to be a lawyer."
1Ls give back to the community
Each year, incoming law students volunteer at Sharing the Harvest Community Farm in Dartmouth and help with harvesting, weeding, and planting. Despite some dismal weather, an enthusiastic group continued the tradition this year at the nonprofit community farm that donates food to those in need along the Southcoast.