UMass Law continued its upward trajectory of increased enrollment and academic quality, welcoming the strongest incoming class in its institutional history. The median LSAT among entering students increased from 150 to 152, and the median undergraduate GPA increased from 3.36 to 3.47, both records. The Commonwealth’s only public law school also grew enrollment for the sixth consecutive year to 377 total students, up from 186 when it received full ABA accreditation in 2016.
“Congratulations to each of you because this made the admissions process here especially competitive,” said Dean Eric Mitnick in his welcome address. “It enabled us to craft a terrific entering class; you will see this as you meet each other.”
A highly diverse group, members of the entering class were born in 14 different countries, including Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Finland, Ghana, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, and Switzerland. They hail from nearly half of the U.S. states and 93 undergraduate colleges. Close to 40% are Massachusetts residents while nearly one-third identify as students of color, two-thirds identify as women, and eight percent are veterans. They range in age from 19-59, with 26 being the average.
UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Mark Fuller welcomed the entering class on their first day. “We believe that the law school at UMass Dartmouth is a special place,” he said. “You’re at a great law school. There are very positive things going on. We are the only law school in the UMass system, one of the fastest-growing law schools in the country, and in the top five in New England for the diversity of our student body.”
He encouraged the law students to visit the UMass Dartmouth campus to meet other graduate students, seek help when they need it, and enjoy campus activities and sporting events.
“Hang in there early,” he added. “Grad school can be hard, but like anything, you get better at it with practice. Most of all, even though it’s hard work, have fun. This is a special and memorable time in your life. Let it soak in.”
Dean Mitnick announced several achievements of UMass Law students over the past few years, including prestigious national scholarships, multiple Rappaport and Dukakis Fellowships, the 2021 Chief Justice Roderick Ireland Leadership Juvenile Advocacy Award from the MA Black Lawyers Association, more than 175,000 hours of pro bono legal services to the community, and several published articles.
“Each of you is about to embark upon the single most intellectually transformative experience in all of higher education - the first year of law school,” Dean Mitnick added as he provided some advice about starting law school.
“Of course, you will study legal rules, but your primary objective in studying law is not simply to learn particular rules and laws. Your primary objective will be learning not what the law is but how to know what the law is. As you begin to study law, you should think of yourselves as lawyers from the outset. Develop a sound reputation. Develop expertise; begin now to think in all your actions about your future career and use all of your experiences to help you reach your goals.”
Presentation on diversity and inclusion, the Lawyer’s Oath, sessions on professionalism, and a community volunteer project are all part of Orientation Week
Throughout Orientation Week, the newest law students gathered for their student photo; learned about professionalism, character and fitness, and professional identity formation; heard about the importance of diversity and inclusion in their future legal careers; and took The Lawyer’s Oath. They enjoyed a barbecue with faculty and volunteered in a community service project at Sharing the Harvest Community Farm in Dartmouth.
Assistant Attorney General April English, chief of organization development & inclusion at the office of MA Attorney General Maura Healey, spoke about her educational and career experiences. In her role, she focuses on racial justice and equity in the office and oversees the workplace compensation and culture, helps manage recruitment, professional development, mentoring, diversity, inclusion, and retention efforts.
When she asked the students how many were first-generation college students, nearly one-third raised their hands. More than half indicated that they are first-generation law students.
“You are our superpower and our hope for change, because I know you’re more welcoming and accepting to the differences we have than those of us 25 years ago,” she told the students. “Yes, we’re the same in a lot of ways, but also different in a lot of ways and that’s okay. Get out there and, as Beyonce would say, “be UNIQUE.”
Clerk of Courts Jennifer A. Sullivan, JD ’16, a Public Interest Law Fellowship recipient and Dean’s Fellow, administered the Lawyer’s Oath to the new students. She began work with the Bristol Superior Court as administrative support staff in 2007, became an assistant clerk/magistrate in 2013, and was sworn in as the first female and 8th Clerk of Courts for Bristol County in 2022.
“Welcome to the greatest profession,” she said to the incoming class. “You will have the power to change lives and change the future. You will have good days and bad days. Be kind to each other. The faculty and staff are amazing; they’re in your corner. And, there are so many opportunities to get involved here.”
Camaraderie evident early during the first days of law school
Free from the constraints of masks that were prevalent in classrooms during the first semester of last year, a spirit of camaraderie could be found throughout the law school as students mingled and chatted in the newly-renovated atrium.
During a break on the first day of Orientation, Rachel Haskins of Dallas, Texas, said she chose UMass Law for its location and potential. “The numbers are great and are comparable to the larger and more highly-ranked law schools. We’ll be there in 10 years or less.”
“Everyone has been very welcoming and very nice,” said Aidan Lyons of Manchester, MA, a graduate of UMass Amherst, who added that he chose UMass Law to remain in the UMass system.
“It’s going great; we’ve heard so many professors speak and heard so much useful information. Everyone is so kind and welcoming,” said Pat Cummings of Mattapoisett, MA. “The students are so intelligent. It’s beautiful here, there are great amenities. The faculty understand where we’re at and they deliver information in a way that provides comfort. Everyone was so friendly right from the start. I already feel a sense of community.”
Sally McDonough of Bucks County, PA, said she applied to several law schools, but UMass Law offered the best option in terms of location and financial aid. “We’re definitely getting a lot of information. I’m excited to learn about different areas of the law.”
“I feel very supported,” added Phillip Wullschleger of California. “Everyone seems vested and very friendly. The financial aid and location are great. It feels very welcoming.”
“It’s very exciting. It’s fun to be around like-minded students all working toward the same goal,” said Kelsey Delgado of Harriman, Utah, who moved to the Northeast with her husband and two young children to attend UMass Law. “I only applied to law schools on the East Coast to experience something different. We’re on an adventure.”
New faculty and facilities enhancements
UMass Law welcomed five new faculty and staff members; Assistant Professors Roni Amit and Faisal Chaudhry, Visiting Professors Michael Hasday and Lisa Owens, and Assistant Director of Bar Success Erica Sylvia ’15, JD ’17. Learn more.
Facilities enhancements completed over the summer include two new patios, which will facilitate more outdoor gatherings, meetings, and discussions, and a refreshed student café.