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School of Law Honors Graduates at 2017 Commencement Ceremony

The Washington and Lee University School of Law celebrated its 162nd commencement on Saturday, May 6, awarding 99 juris doctor degrees.

The deluge on Thursday that caused the Maury River to overflow its banks was gone, but showers lingered Saturday morning to pester the beginning of the ceremony, which began with an official welcome and remarks from President Will Dudley. He enouraged the graduating law students to savor their final moments on campus.

“Take Washington and Lee with you into the world and you and the world will be better for it,”  said Dudley.

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Prof. Brant Hellwig, Dean of the Law School, followed President Dudley to the podium. He congratulated the students on their achievement and also thanked them for their many contributions to the life of the school, both inside and outside the classroom. He also encourged them to hold their heads high.

“Have high expectations of yourself. In the level of expertise you bring to the table. In the manner in which you interact with your client, whom you have the privilege to serve. In the manner in which you communicate with opposing counsel, who at times will undoubtedly test your limits.”

“Endeavor to provide expert advocacy and counsel to your client. But don’t stop there. Treat others whom you encounter in the course of your work with decency and respect,” said Hellwig. “Doing so will not only help you establish and burnish your reputation, it will dramatically increase your own level of satisfaction with your work.

The graduates were then awarded their degrees.

After the degrees were presented, William Hill ’74, ’77L, an alumnus of Washington and Lee and a partner with the law firm Polsinelli in Atlanta, delivered this year’s commencement address. In his remarks, Hill told the graduates that there only four major decisions in life, the first being the education they chose.

“The trajectory of your lives changed about 20 minutes ago. You have been entrusted with the ability to accomplish feats that the average citizen cannot,” said Hill. “When you step off this lawn, you will step off as W&L lawyers, well-trained to intelligently and thoughtfully exercise power and, without flinching, shoulder the accompanying responsibility.”

Hill graduated from the College in 1974 and the Law School in 1977, going on to lead a distinguised legal career that included stints in Georgia as deputy attorney general, as a judge and in private practice. He spoke to the graduates with clarity and authority about what their law degree from W&L will mean in the years ahead.

“Washington and Lee is now part of your DNA, and that will make you different from all other lawyers you enounter…. Clients will want you working on their matters. Judges will trust you. Opponents will respect you and will even refer business to you. All will know that your word is your bond.”

Finally, Hill offered the graduates several pieces of advice on legal practice, much of it inspired from guidance handed down to him by his father.

“Things are never as simple as they seem and there are always moving parts that you cannot see,” said Hill. “The practice of law is chess on three boards at the same time. It is not checkers.”

Following Hill’s remarks, third-year class officers Carl Krausnick and Ray Escobar presented him with his very own walking stick, traditionally given to students at the awards ceremony preceding graduation. The walking stick, or cane, originated in the 1920’s as a way to distinguish third-year law students on campus. At that time, only two years of law school were required, and the walking stick served as a way to reward and honor those students who stayed for a third year.

Graduation festivities began Friday afternoon in Evans Hall with the annual awards ceremony and presentation of walking sticks. The John W. Davis Prize for Law, awarded to the graduate with the highest cumulative grade point average, was awarded to Alexandra Klein.

Three students graduated summa cum laude, 11 graduated magna cum laude, and 18 graduated cum laude. Ten students were named to Order of the Coif, an honorary scholastic society that encourages excellence in legal education. A list of honors and awards appears below.

The Student Bar Association Teacher of the Year and Staff Member of the Year award were also presented at the awards ceremony. Prof. Al Carr ’71L was named Teacher of the Year, and Cliff Jarrett ’91L, head of the Career Stategy office, won the staff award.

Special honors at Friday’s awards ceremony went to the following students:

Alexandra Klein was awarded the John W. Davis Prize for Law, given to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average.

Stacey LaRiviere was awarded the Academic Progress Award for the most satisfactory scholastic progress in the final year.

Anne Anderson and James Simon shared in the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association Award for effective trial advocacy.

Tyler Cragg won the Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr. Commercial Law Award for excellence in commercial law.

Jess Winn won the Calhoun Bond University Service Award for significant contributions to the University community.

Andrea Marshall won the Frederic L. Kirgis, Jr., International Law Award for excellence in international law.

Lizzy Williams won the National Association of Women Lawyers Award given to an outstanding woman law student.

Jenna Lorence won the Charles V. Laughlin Award for outstanding contributions to the moot court program.

Rossana Baeza won the Randall P. Bezanson Award for outstanding contributions to diversity in the life of the Law School community.

Ray Hingson and Leanna Minix shared in the Virginia Bar Family Law Section Award for excellence in the area of family law.

Lucas Barta and Arthur Vorbrodt shared in the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal for excellence in the study of bankruptcy law.

Alexandra Klein won the Barry Sullivan Constitutional Law Award for excellence in constitutional law.

Zachary Imboden won the James W. H. Stewart Tax Law Award for excellence in tax law.

Ray Hingson won the Thomas Carl Damewood Evidence Award for excellence in the area of evidence.

Maressa Cuenca won the A. H. McLeod-Ross Malone Advocacy Award for distinction in oral advocacy.

Olivia Broderick won the Student Bar Association President Award for services as the President of the Student Bar Association.

Kimberly Neel won the Clinical Legal Education Association Award for excellence in clinical work.

Summa Cum Laude

Max Carter Gottlieb
Alexandra Lian Klein
Ann Cox Tripp

Magna Cum Laude

Anne M. Anderson
Lucas Michael Fleissner Barta
Ray Edwin Hingson II
Andrea Ilana Marshall
Daniel Jacob Martin
Leanna Catherine Minix
Dean McNair Nichols Jr.
Kevin Philip Rickert
James E. Simon
Elizabeth Randle Williams
Jessica Ann Winn

Cum Laude

Ross E. Blau
Jacob B. Bolinger
Brett Anthony Castellat
Caley A. DeGroote
Kiersty M. DeGroote
Chi Harvey Ewusi
Catherine Clelia Freeman
Valerie Elizabeth Fulton
Charli J. Gibbs-Tabler
Deborah F. Howe
Hengyi Jiang
Jenna Marie Lorence
Abigya Mulugeta
Ashley C. Slisz
Peter Martin Szeremeta
Jeffrey M. Valentine
Arthur Ross Vorbrodt
Clinton Todd Williams

Order of the Coif

Anne M. Anderson
Lucas Michael Fleissner Barta
Max Carter Gottlieb
Ray Edwin Hingson II
Alexandra Lian Klein
Kevin Philip Rickert
James E. Simon
Ann Cox Tripp
Elizabeth Randle Williams
Jessica Ann Winn