Georgia State University College of Law welcomes 256 new students—one of the largest incoming classes in recent years– and the most women in the college’s history. During last week’s orientation, which had online and in-person elements, students had the opportunity to meet professors, explore co-curricular activities and more.
“This year’s incoming class– which consists of first-year, transfer and LL.M. students— is one of the most diverse that we have had in recent years and impressive in many ways,” said Monique McCarthy, director of law admissions. “Our team worked incredibly hard to make people’s dreams of becoming an attorney come true.”
To prepare to welcome students, College of Law faculty and staff spent hundreds of hours reimagining online instruction as well as how to accommodate social distancing within the building. Classrooms and other rooms have been re-arranged, signs about traffic flow have been added to the halls and stairways and additional hand sanitizing stations were installed in preparation for the start of school.
Alongside responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College of Law is also preparing students to have challenging classroom conversations about the role of the law in extending equity to all people. At orientation, students broke out into small groups to discuss “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. The book, which was adapted into a movie in 2019, follows the cases that helped shape Stevenson as a young attorney. One involved Walter McMillian, an innocent Black man who Stevenson helped to get released from prison after he was falsely accused of murder.
As a result of working on these cases, Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to ensure that individuals from underserved communities have fair representation. Today, in addition to providing legal services, EJI houses a museum and National Memorial for Peace & Justice to remember those who lost their lives to lynching.
“Our incoming students have been reading “Just Mercy” for the last few years, and we felt this reading resonated deeply this year,” said Alexis Martinez, associate dean of students. “We want to have students thinking about professional responsibility and professional identity development early as well as to get comfortable discussing how people from various backgrounds experience the justice system.”
In addition to the book discussions, students met their assigned librarians and they heard from the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism, who guided them through problem-solving activities on ethics, plagiarism and conduct. As they prepare for a school year like no other, interim dean Leslie Wolf wants students to keep in mind that the College of Law trains lawyers for these times.
“Creating a safe and nurturing learning environment is always our top priority, and we are excited to welcome our tenacious students back this year,” said Wolf. “This year may look different than previous years, but our faculty and students already are demonstrating that, with a little creativity, we can offer the full Georgia State Law experience.”
The J.D. and LL.M. classes come to Georgia State Law from around the world. Members of the incoming class come from 13 states within the U.S. and 28 countries.
26 Average age
73 Undergraduate institutions represented
64 Majors represented
56 percent female
44 percent male
87 percent Georgia residents
13 percent non-residents
38 Average age
20 Bar Preparation Track
1 U.S. Lawyer