Their Future’s So Bright, They Had to Wear Shades: Orientation Week 2017

August 30, 2017

Orientation Week 2017 at Georgetown Law got underway with an eclipse viewing party on the Tower Green on Monday, August 21.

Not even a much-anticipated eclipse could shadow the enthusiasm of Georgetown Law students, faculty and staff during Orientation Week 2017. And as the 80s song goes, they even wore shades.

More than 1000 new students — including 580 J.D., 567 graduate/LL.M.s and 6 S.J.D.s — showed up for the fun August 21-25, getting acquainted before the hard work of law school begins. International LL.M. students got a new perspective on the world at a solar eclipse viewing party on the Tower Green on Monday, just after a welcome by Dean Treanor, Associate Dean Rosa Brooks and other members of the faculty and staff. The deans would greet 215 U.S. LL.M. students the following day.

The LL.M.s, representing 64 nationalities and speaking 45 languages natively, come from every corner of the globe save Antarctica — most heavily China, South Korea, India, France, Colombia and Turkey, according to Director of Graduate Admissions Justin Swinsick.

“I know from meeting fellow students that I am going to have a very good time here,” said Sabrina Cellier, an attorney from Geneva who is pursuing an LL.M. in International Legal Studies and a certificate in International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution. “Everyone seems driven, willing to make the most of this learning experience and eager to connect with fellow students.”

Regarding the eclipse? “I loved the fact that there was an eclipse viewing break during Orientation and that the school went through the trouble of getting eclipse viewing glasses for everyone,” Cellier said. “That was the best time of the week.”

Helping Those in Need

Nearly 300 students completed 14 service projects with 6 local partners — getting to know their classmates while preparing food at D.C. Central Kitchen, sorting at the Capital Area Food Bank, volunteering at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, weeding at the National Arboretum and more.

“Working at the D.C. Central Kitchen turned out to be a great way to make new friends,” said Section 4 1L student Allen Gehring, who comes to Georgetown Law as a former philosophy professor. He envisions a career with a law firm, in government, policy work and also academia. “I was reminded of how important it is that I use my time at Georgetown to develop myself [so] that I can be a positive influence in the lives of other people…serving at the D.C. Central Kitchen gave me a sense of perspective that I’ll carry with me throughout my first year in law school.”

Starting the Conversation

Dean William M. Treanor and Vice Dean Jane Aiken greeted the J.D. students on Wednesday night with a reception and some welcoming words of advice in Hart Auditorium. Reflect on those who have helped you along the way, because no one is successful alone. Learn from each other. Look out for each other. And finally, live the Jesuit principle of serving others.

“Right now, more than perhaps ever before, it is important to have a law degree,” Treanor said. “We need lawyers who can help us problem solve, resolve differences, build community and develop creative solutions to difficult problems of justice.”

Treanor’s remarks resonated with 1L evening student Felix Swierski (L’21), who attended a Jesuit high school — Canisius High School — in Buffalo, New York, and worked in state government in Albany. “The energy was palpable…” Swierski said of Dean Treanor’s event on Wednesday. “It was not a lecture as much as a conversation.”

Swierski also attended Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia’s welcoming remarks on Main Campus on Friday. “President DeGioia spoke about the tremendous progress that has been made in civil rights because of people like Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston,” he said. “It solidified my belief that we can help to shape the world.”

“Why do you want to be a lawyer?”

That question was asked and answered many times on campus during Orientation Week 2017. But on Thursday, it was posed by a teenage girl in the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services juvenile detention center to 30 Georgetown Law students. Professor Kris Henning’s tour of the facility was one of many talks and tours offered by Georgetown Law faculty during Orientation Week.

Dean Treanor, who is also a historian, accompanied students to the Museum of African American History and Culture (along with Professors Sheryll Cashin, Erica Hashimoto and Brian Wolfman). Back at the Law Center, 1Ls could explore public interest lawyering with Professor Peter Edelman, domestic violence reform with Professor Deborah Epstein, criminal defense with Professor Abbe Smith and more.

On Henning’s tour, the students, both 1Ls and 3L members of Georgetown Law’s Juvenile Justice Clinic, said they came to law school to provide access to justice for youth such as these. In the conversations that followed, they discovered that many of the young residents of the facility still had dreams of their own: One wanted to be a zoologist, another wanted to be a chemist, and a third wanted to go to college at Penn State, the alma mater of 3L clinic student Joshua Branch. But to get there, they needed help.

“[It was] a good opportunity to get in the mindset of our clients and have an idea of what they are going through…,” said Branch, whose future plans may include working at a public defender’s office or doing a fellowship in civil rights, defense or children’s advocacy.

So the law students asked the residents: What makes a good lawyer? Listen, the residents responded. Ask questions. Find out the client’s story and the background that may be hidden. And fight for your client — so that he or she can go home.