When Michael Berch and George Schatzki sat down more than three years ago to select the Class of 2008, their goal was to admit students who possessed either experiential or intellectual diversity, or both.
Class size did not matter.
What Berch, then acting admissions director, and Schatzki, the longtime admissions committee chairman at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, came up with was a class comprising talented go-getters on their third or fourth careers, as well as bright, young students with undergraduate degrees on which the ink was barely dry.
Along with the engineers and the scientists, there was an actor, a hospice nurse, a contractor, a press secretary, an HR manager, a college basketball director, an economic analyst and an inventor. The students admitted by Berch and Schatzki had bachelor's degrees of every kind, plus graduate degrees in education, business administration, immunology, social work, aeronautical science, musical arts and public administration. Three were Ph.D.s, too.
In the process, Berch and Schatzki assembled the largest entering class in the 41-year history of the College of Law at Arizona State University. The 212 graduating members of the Class of 2008 will be honored at 1 p.m. on Friday, May 9, in Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium, where Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor of the Arizona Supreme Court, a 1974 College alumna, will give the Convocation Address.
It's only appropriate that Berch, who also admitted the somewhat smaller Class of 2007, will assist with the hooding of the candidates for Juris Doctor degrees. Three candidates for the Master of Legal Studies and one candidate for the LL.M. in Biotechnology and Genomics also will be hooded at the convocation.
"We weren't mainstream in everything we did," recalled Berch of the admissions process. "We said to them, `You will make a difference here. Who's interested?'"
"I really wanted to see if, with that large a class, we could keep the same standards (as a small class), and from what people tell me, it has been done. We did not suffer at all."
The Class of 2008 has the reputation of a favorite uncle: big, friendly, generous. Despite their numbers and diverse backgrounds and experiences, or perhaps because of it, the students have jelled. They've supported each other through the angst of the first year of law school, the work load of the second year and the relief of the third.
Berch asked the Class of 2008 gift committee members to consider doing more than soliciting money from their classmates and cutting a check to the college. He recruited student Brent Roam, who was chosen by his classmates to speak on their behalf at the convocation, and Roam proposed that a Student Plaza be built outside the Ross-Blakley Law Library. Roam envisioned a tiled area where students, alumni and others could, for a price, have their names engraved for all time. The other gift committee members embraced the idea, and classmate Denny Barney donated the materials and labor through his construction company.
In a matter of months, the Student Plaza went from idea to drawing board to reality. It showed Berch that he and Schatzki were right.
"You can take a lot of people and have a wonderful class and not at all compromise any of the values that the faculty has," he said.
Here are snapshots of five graduates who've made this big class wonderful and interesting.
David Klinger seems to have been genetically destined to come to law school. His dad Jeff and his brother Josh are lawyers, and his sister Mary Dennis is a librarian at a law firm.
Klinger's interest in law began in St. Louis, Mo., where he was on the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution team at his high school. The program, which promotes civic competence and responsibility among elementary and secondary students, provided a stimulating balance to his other interest, science.
"With science, everything is `Here's the equation, memorize it, plug in the variables, and there you go,' " said Klinger, 24, who has a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga., where he worked as a volunteer firefighter. "Law is so much more challenging. There's never a right answer, and you can always make whatever you are saying better."
Klinger visited law schools in Chicago (DePaul University College of Law) and in Tempe before making his decision, initially based largely on good weather and a relaxed atmosphere.
"DePaul was located in a high rise, and it was stuffy and dressy," he said. "I visited over spring break, and it was snowing, and then I came here, and I wore a T-shirt and I was sweating. I met with Michael Berch, who had on a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops and Oakleys, and was sitting at his desk with his feet up. It was impressive.
"After law school, I knew I was going to have to dress up and be more professional, and I thought, for the three years I'm going to be in law school, I may as well learn and work in as relaxed an environment as I can."
As a 1L, Klinger said he spent more time studying in the library than anyone he knew. It paid off: he was designated a scholar in the Center for the Study of Law, Science, & Technology, as well as a Michael and Rebecca Berch Scholar, was chosen to work on a nanotechnology grant with Gary Marchant, the Center's executive director, and Professors Doug Sylvester and Ken Abbott. Klinger also was the Book Review Editor for Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science, and Technology, externed for U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence O. Anderson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona and was a summer associate at Bryan Cave.
On May 9, Klinger will graduate magna cum laude and Order of the Coif, will receive a certificate in Law, Science, & Technology and be recognized for Highest Pro Bono Distinction. But the real plum is his selection as the first recipient of The Strouse Prize, an award given to the graduate whose academic strengths, contributions to the Center and personal qualities most closely mirror those of Professor Daniel Strouse. Strouse died of cancer in August 2007.
Strouse was a former director of the Center, which Klinger said has broadened his knowledge via an impressive list of intellectual property courses, experiences and speakers. As a result, Klinger will have a good head start in his new job at the intellectual property firm of Christie, Parker & Hale.
He said he will miss law school and his class, which he described as friendly and tight-knit.
"We have a lot of fun together," Klinger said. "There are a lot of fun people from different backgrounds, science guys hanging out with people who have English degrees, people of different ages becoming friends. It's been a great experience."
A SUDDEN DECISION
It had been nearly four decades since Linda Broadley was talked out of enrolling in law school by a dean in Florida who suggested she wouldn't be able to handle it because she was the single parent of a young daughter.
Broadley is not the kind of person to make the same mistake twice.
"I had an epiphany, really, while watching a television program about (former U.S. Attorney General) Ramsey Clark and (civil rights attorney) Lynne Stewart, who was convicted of conspiring to aid terrorists and lying to the government, and I thought, if someone like John Ashcroft can knock out someone of the caliber of Lynne Stewart, I need to get involved."
So, Broadley, then 58, contacted Michael Berch to see if she was too late to sign up, and Berch said she wasn't.
"It was the most thrilling thing, like a dream come true, and everything about the move fell neatly into place," she said.
Among her classmates, Broadley is at the high end of life experiences. She has an associate's degree in nursing, a bachelor's in psychology, almost 100 graduate hours in counseling and a master's in curriculum and instruction. She has worked with criminals, troubled teenagers and young children whose parents are drug addicts and put herself through law school as a hospice nurse, while supporting her 26-year-old son, John, who has Down Syndrome.
They moved to Arizona in 1996 when Broadley took a job as a school nurse at a Native American school in Chinle, on the Navajo Reservation.
Broadley remembered her first year of law school as "hideously humiliating."
"I thought of myself as a relatively intelligent woman, and I came to law school and got a rude awakening grade-wise. I was surrounded by these brilliant people," she laughed. "I don't know if I was nearly that brilliant at their age."
But she has wisely sampled her way through a "wonderful smorgasbord" of classes, thoroughly and equally enjoying Professor Jonathan Rose's History of the English Common Law course, Professor Joe Feller's Property and Natural Resources courses, Professor Linda Demaine's Tort class and seminar on Cults and Alternative Religions, Professor Ann Stanton's inspiring Elder Law class, and Marchant's Environmental Law, Science and Technology and Genetics and the Law courses. Classmates recognize her as someone who often has her hand up with a question or comment.
Through it all, Professor Michael Berch, Tammy Vavra and K Royal have provided support and encouragement. "One of the things I will always treasure is the wisdom and experience of the faculty here," she said. "I have never encountered so many amazing people under one roof, and that includes classmates as well."
Broadley, who is a published poet and author of short stories, placed second in a Tang Writing Competition, has participated in the trial practice class and the Arizona Justice Project, and got to as many lectures as her schedule would allow.
"My only regret is that I missed out on a lot of non-class-related activities simply because I had to work," Broadley said.
When she first came to law school, Broadley thought she would enjoy practicing criminal law; now, she is leaning toward elder law or health law, if she practices, but thinks she might be better suited to teaching.
"I so much love being in this academic environment, and now I don't want to leave," she said. "I grew up in the `60s and worried about the widening income gap between the rich and the poor, prejudice and discrimination. Being in law school has helped clarify how I might make a difference in a classroom and through my writing."
MID-AIR COURSE CORRECTION
From the time he was a boy, Terence Whatley loved airplanes. He was a fan of Air Force pilot Chuck Yeager and Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, a fighter ace during World War II, and wanted to grow up to be a pilot. Whatley turned that desire into two degrees, a bachelor's in Airway Science from Florida Memorial College, and a master's in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Whatley, who managed airport operations at an airport in Fort Worth, Texas, when the World Trade Center and the U.S. Pentagon were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, wanted to return to Phoenix to be near his parents, Frances and Andrew. Despite having a straight-A average in both his bachelor's and master's program, Whatley was unable to find a good job at Sky Harbor International Airport, and decided to come to law school, intent on building his resume, but staying in aviation.
"I didn't want to be a lawyer anyway," said Whatley, 30. "I thought I'd get my J.D. and go back to the airport business."
He jokes that no one in his class knew less about the law and opportunities for legal experience than he did. As a 1L, he planted himself at a table in the library and buckled down, and it all paid off when his first-semester grades arrived. That summer, he worked at Snell & Wilmer L.L.P. in Phoenix, and that's when something clicked.
"It was a different kind of challenge than what I found in law school," said Whatley, 30. "I liked working on something that had real-world impact."
During his second year, he worked on the Arizona State Law Journal. This year, he was named Outstanding Note and Comment Editor. Whatley also served as the student representative on the Dean's Search Committee, a role he took seriously to the point of setting up a blog to gather the opinions of his fellow law students.
Whatley, who worked at both Snell & Wilmer and Fennemore Craig, has accepted an associate's position at Snell & Wilmer.
"What I enjoyed the most about law school were the days that were very difficult, when you just felt overwhelmed. You knew that one day, you would look back and say, `Wow, look what I accomplished,'" said Whatley, who will graduate magna cum laude and Order of the Coif. "It was the hope of that future accomplishment."
Law school was both an intellectual and a social experience for Whatley, who claims to have been a "hermit" at his other alma maters. Here, he found it easy to make friends.
"From where I sit this is going to be a class for the books," Whatley said. "There was friendly competition, but I never had a situation where someone wouldn't help me, and I think that's fairly unique. It's going to be difficult to get a class like this again."
As the oldest of four children in a close-knit family, Chelsea Durkin embraced the role of trailblazer and left big shoes to fill. She graduated from Cactus Shadows High in Scottsdale with 60 college credits, sped through the University of Arizona in 2-1/2 years with dual degrees (Spanish and economics) and studied for a year in Spain.
It was there that this self-described "Type A, driven, straight-laced" young woman discovered her other side, the one more prone to lounging, socializing and smelling the roses.
"I thought I had to choose which side of my personality I was going to indulge in," said Durkin, 23. "But I learned over the last couple of years that I don't have to choose, necessarily, that I can have a balance of both."
This bit of wisdom was imparted by Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor of the Arizona Supreme Court who spoke at a Dean's Session during Durkin's first year of law school.
"She said you have to redefine your notion of balance," Durkin said. "`Not everyone today is going to do 50 percent work and 50 percent of what they love. You might have weeks or months of work before you get the time to do what you want. Or you might choose public service in order to have more time for your family.'"
It's one of the many memories Durkin will cherish as she graduates summa cum laude and Order of the Coif, receives the ASU Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Award and is awarded Pro Bono Distinction at the convocation.
How many memories?
While at law school, she was Senior Articles Editor for the Arizona State Law Journal, performed externships at the U.S. Attorney's Office, for Judge Michael Daly Hawkins of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and for U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell.
Durkin also was a research assistant for Professors Gary Lowenthal and Paul Bender. She was on the Class of 2008 Gift Committee and was chosen to attend seminars given by Antony Duff, a renowned scholar in the philosophy of criminal law.
Durkin will clerk for Judge William C. Canby Jr. of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals next year and has lined up an associate's position at Choate Hall & Stewart LLP in Boston after that.
More than anything, law school helped her to see both sides of an issue or dispute.
"It made me a better person in society, not from a career standpoint, but from learning about the interaction of people, and how we've gotten to this point through the evolution of our constitutional laws, criminal laws and property laws," she said. "Law school also helps you rationalize better."
Durkin and her classmates were not yet finished with their first year of law school when it was announced that the College of Law was being renamed for retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. That distinction, as well as O'Connor's periodic appearances at the school, has bonded the Class of 2008, Durkin said.
"We will be scattered to different parts of the country and to different parts of law, but it will be great to have that sort of institutional friendship with people throughout our careers," Durkin said.
She said she won't ever forget a surprise retirement party held for Lowenthal during his last class in 2007, when he was showered with funky gifts and balloons, as several of the College's most distinguished professors stood by smiling.
"That made me realize how much law school is about the people you meet and the interactions you force yourself to make," she said. "Going into a professor's office, you may be intimidated or scared, but you have to take your own initiative, because those meaningful events aren't just going to happen by simply enrolling in law school."
A VOICE FOR CHANGE
M. Sebastian Zavala comes from a family of fighters and survivors. Zavala was living in San Francisco, working on a master's degree in Ethnic Studies, when he decided to come to law school.
"I wanted a place where immigration law and Indian law were strong programs," said Zavala, who is a member of the Quechua-Peruvian Tribe from Peru. "Naturally, ASU was the place to be."
The 26-year-old made the most of his time while at the College of Law. He worked as a student and supervisor in the Immigration Law and Policy Clinic and in the Indian Legal Clinic and as a research assistant for the Indian Legal Program.
He was among five Native American students who researched the Federal Acknowledgment Process, whereby tribes are recognized by the U.S. government and wrote recommendations for improvement. On April 24, the students accompanied Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, director of the Indian Legal Clinic, to Washington, D.C., where she testified about the process before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
Zavala also finished in the top eight at the University of California, Davis, Asylum Law Moot Court, and in the top 16 in the ASU-Native American Law Student Association (NALSA) Indian Law Moot Court, and he ran the NALSA pro bono program for two years.
Following graduation, where he will receive his certificate in Indian law and an award for Highest Pro Bono Distinction, Zavala plans to work for the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in San Francisco.
Zavala will be remembered for his good humor and generosity (the ILP staff and students were kept in a constant supply of pastries, thanks to him).
"I love my classmates, my teachers and the admin staff, and I hope they feel the same way about me," he said. "I leave behind smelly, beat up shoes that I doubt anyone wants to fill."