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Orientation for the Class of 2015

AUGUST 30, 2012—The four-day orientation program for the University of Minnesota Law School Class of 2015 got under way August 28, 2012, with welcoming remarks from Assistant Dean of Students Erin Keyes (’00) and Dean David Wippman. Law Council President Alexis Reller (’13) and Director of Admissions Nick Wallace (’05) also offered their greetings.

Student demographics
This year's student body is made up of 205 J.D. candidates, 13 international exchange students from five countries, 47 LL.M. students from 18 countries, and 14 Humphrey Fellows from around the world.

The J.D. candidates come from 36 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and from 7 foreign countries, and 7% of them already have advanced degrees. Among the aspiring lawyers are actors, authors, entrepreneurs, musicians, veterans, an All-American swimmer, a national fencing champion, a screenwriter, and an Olympic weightlifter.

The LL.M. class, whose three-week orientation and introductory Program for Foreign Lawyers began August 9, is made up of 25 men and 22 women, with China (11 students) and South Korea (8 students) most frequently represented. All LL.M. students have completed a law degree in their home country and come to the Law School to expand and diversify their education and experience. Their already-diverse backgrounds include graphic design, journalism, real estate development, and sports cafe ownership. Two are judges, one is a chief judge, and one is a Fulbright scholar.

Dean's welcome
Dean Wippman undertook relieving and encouraging the 1Ls by answering their unspoken questions: What am I doing here and what does it take to succeed? "You are here because you are a gifted student and in various ways have demonstrated the potential to become an outstanding lawyer," he said. "The same qualities that brought you here, intelligence, hard work, an openness to new ways of thinking, a willingness to undergo the mysterious transformation from student to lawyer," will lead to your success.

When you feel overwhelmed and confused and "it seems like all those around you are speaking a foreign language," don't be discouraged, don't assume others are less confused, he continued. "Be careful of assumptions. Read critically. Think critically. Have confidence in yourself and your own interpretations." The answers are often not a question of right versus wrong but rather of presenting your thoughts more or less persuasively, he said. "Most of you have been going to school for around 20 years. You know how to do this," Dean Wippman reassured students. "You will learn what you need to know."

Bearmon lecture
The Lee and Barbara Bearmon Lecture on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility is presented during orientation to introduce awareness and interest in these issues at the earliest point in students' legal careers. It is sponsored by Barbara and Lee (’56) Bearmon through an endowed fund that supports examination and teaching of legal ethics and professional responsibility at the Law School. Lee Bearmon served with the Carlson Company for 40 years as senior vice president, secretary, and private counsel and was a 1996 recipient of the University's Distinguished Alumni award.

This year's Bearmon lecturer was Roshan N. Rajkumar (’00), a partner at Bowman and Brooke who focuses on defending manufacturers against product liability, warranty, and mass tort claims. He received his B.A. in political science and theology from Boston College in 1995, his M.A. in political science and international affairs from Australian National University in 1996, and his J.D. from the Law School in 2000, where he teaches Law in Practice as an adjunct professor.

Rajkumar recounted asking his mother, a teacher, how she would define ethics. "If you do something that makes me frown or shake my finger at you, you've made a bad ethical choice," she told him. That's a good guideline, Rajkumar said. Ask yourself "What would mom and dad say?" In the legal and larger community, ethics and professionalism can be signified by the respect you receive and show others, Rajkumar said. Consider the respect you're expressing for yourself, your mentors and professors, your profession, and those at the receiving end of your choices. By seeking a law degree, you've made a decision to lead, he told the 1Ls. Let the experts at the Law School teach you how to do it respectfully, ethically, and professionally.

He offered five general strategies for success during their Law School years and beyond:

  • Grades matter. They're not everything, but competition is an inescapable reality, especially in the interviewing world, so work hard. If you "give it your all" in classwork, "that's all anyone can ask. You're successful."
  • Remember that you're more than your resume. "What you bring to the table at the Law School is how you got here," so find opportunities to build on your strengths. Enhance your experience and evolve, but "don't forget who you are."
  • Become part of the Law School community. Believe in your classmates and advisors and learn from them. You can "lose yourself in gunning to be best" and miss out on the connections that are a valuable part of your education.
  • Practice humility. Remember that those coming up behind you are struggling with the same challenges you once faced. Be a team player and accept responsibility, for mistakes as well as accomplishments. Connect with clients as people who deserve your respect and sincerity.
  • Learn self-awareness. Know your weaknesses and what you do well. "You're not an army of one. Surround yourself with resources" to help you meet the challenges in the difficult areas.

Rajkumar sent students on their way to the next orientation activity with good wishes and the reminder: "You're starting a journey at one of the best law schools in the country to become some of the best attorneys in the country," and ethical decision-making and professional responsibility will accompany you at every step.

Prepared to launch
Over the course of the orientation program, incoming students learned about the Law School's many features and resources, including the Law Library, the Career Center, degree programs, student activities, and much more. Social events provided opportunities to become acquainted with faculty and staff as well as with each other. Regular classes begin September 4.


Roshan Rajkumar

Roshan Rajkumar (’00) speaking to the Class of 2015