Meet the Graduates

Meet the Graduates

Members of the Class of 2017 talk about their experiences at Virginia Law

Austin Clarke

Austin Clarke '17

Hometown: Rockville, Maryland

Who I was then: I graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in political science. Before law school, I worked as a field organizer in Colorado for President Obama’s re-election campaign, and at a media company in Washington, D.C., that does political advertising.

Amazing law school class: My coursework was my favorite part of my time at UVA, so it’s hard to pick just one class. I loved Civil Procedure with Professor Toby Heytens: he’s a very engaging lecturer and he made otherwise dry rules come alive by showing how they not only drive litigation, but also correlate with the substantive fairness of the proceedings. I also loved Civil Rights Litigation with Professor John Jeffries, Criminal Procedure Survey with Professor Rachel Harmon, Constitutional Law II - Religious Liberty with Professor Micah Schwartzman, and Speech and Press with Professor Leslie Kendrick. Learning the material in those constitutional law–heavy courses meant grappling with the structure, reach and enforcement of some of the most basic rights we have. Plus, it was cool to see things that we’d talked about in class show up in political debates or in newspaper articles I read.

Outside class (extracurricular activities): I was the education chair of the Black Law Students Association, director of outreach and events coordinator for the American Constitution Society and an editor on the Virginia Journal of International Law. I was also a member of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.

Favorite outing/activity to unwind: I liked heading to the Downtown Mall to watch movies and have dinner with friends.

Noteworthy summer job: I worked as a summer associate at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City (1L and 2L summers) and at Covington & Burling in D.C. (2L summer).

What's next: I’m taking the New York bar exam, and then I’m going to work as a litigation associate at Debevoise.

Who I am now: Before law school, I knew that I cared a lot about civil rights and advocacy. Law school has reinforced those interests, especially as they relate to racial justice and LGBT rights. Law school has given me a better understanding of how rights are defined and a sense of how to use the law to make arguments that support your position and persuade others that it’s correct. Eventually, I’d like to do civil rights–related work, and my courses have helped me begin to see how that work can be done effectively.

What you should know about Virginia Law: The Law School is a community of people — students, professors and administrators — who care about learning but try not to take themselves too seriously. There’s a real emphasis on sincerely delving into the nitty-gritty of being a law student, but also on making sure that you have a fulfilling life outside of school. It has an ethos that values treating others with kindness and respect. As a result, even though law school can be stressful and frustrating sometimes, it's less overwhelming than it otherwise might be because we're in it together. The Law School is a great place to spend three years. 

Hannah Dunham

Hannah Dunham '17

Hometown: Glendale, California

Who I was then: I graduated from Claremont McKenna College in 2014 with a degree in computational neuroscience.

Amazing law school class: My favorite classes here were all property-based and taught by Alex Johnson. I was lucky enough to have him as my small-section professor my 1L spring, and I clicked with his teaching style immediately. I also took Modern Real Estate and Trust and Estates with Professor Johnson, and loved every minute of it. I wish I had had the chance to take more classes with him.

Outside class (extracurricular activities): I served as the president of the Virginia Employment Labor Law Association my 2L year, as well as the director of ally engagement of Lambda Law. I also served as the production editor for the Virginia Tax Review, and was on the board of the North Grounds Softball League. I was the head writer for the Libel Show my 3L year, a culmination of my three years of participation. I was also a Law Ambassador and a Peer Advisor my 2L and 3L years.

Favorite outing/activity to unwind: Crossfit Charlottesville. I love working out, and this gym gives me both an intense workout and a chance to meet non-law students in the Charlottesville community. 

Noteworthy summer job: I had the opportunity to work at O'Melveny & Myers my 2L summer while the presidential election was in full force. Our firm has partners who are key players on both sides of the aisle. Hearing their opinions on how the election would shape the country was invaluable, and I can't wait to return and start shaping the country myself.

What's next: I will be working for O'Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C. I hope to focus on litigation, specifically labor and employment, in my practice.

Who I am now: I went through a lot of challenging personal issues during law school, and it taught me a lot about perspective. We, as law students, are hyper-focused on our grades and our careers, but there is so much more to life. I've learned to make time for my family and friends — I even went home during finals this spring to meet my newborn niece. I think this perspective will serve me well throughout my career.

What you should know about Virginia Law: UVA Law isn't just an amazing law school — although, of course, it is — it's also an incredible community. The friends I've made here have helped me through some of the hardest times in my life, and I know they will be the people I turn to in the future, both career-wise and personal-wise. I am truly grateful for both my legal education and the community I'm walking away with.

Ollie Engebretson

Ollie Engebretson '17

Hometown: Peapack, New Jersey

Who I was then: I graduated in 2014 from the University of Virginia, where I majored in economics and foreign affairs.

Amazing law school class: I've taken tons of great courses, but what really makes them memorable are the professors. One that immediately comes to mind is Professor Michael Doran. I was lucky enough to have him for Property my 1L spring, and he accomplished the rare task of making what can be an archaic and tedious subject instead interesting and entertaining. He cares deeply about his students and is committed to making sure they are successful both in and outside of the classroom. Professor A. E. Dick Howard is another. I had the chance to do research for him and take his seminar, Constitutionalism: History and Jurisprudence. Professor Howard is also deeply invested in his students, and he has the most fascinating stories from his long career — from advising nations across the world on constitutional design to helping draft the state constitution right here in Virginia — and I would encourage anyone who has the chance to take a class with him.

Outside of class: I served on the Virginia Law Review for two years, first as an Editorial Board member and then as the managing editor. I was also a Peer Advisor for the awesome section I during my 3L year.

Favorite outing/activity to unwind: Charlottesville has a great restaurant scene, and it’s always changing. There are neighborhoods like Belmont and Starr Hill/West Main that are developing really great food scenes. I also tried to spend as much time on the Lawn as possible. I think it’s one of the most beautiful settings in the world, and we’re lucky enough to have it right here at our school. I even had the chance to live on the Range my 2L year, part of the Academical Village where graduate students are allowed to live, which was an incredibly unique experience. Nothing like making a fire in your bedroom at night and then waking up to Rotunda in the morning.

Noteworthy summer job: During the summer between my 2L and 3L year I worked at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York. I was lucky enough to see a leveraged finance transaction from start to finish over the course of the summer; I was able to get pretty involved in the project, and I got to work directly with the client and lender’s counsel throughout the deal all the way up to closing. These transactions often last for several months, if not longer, so I felt pretty lucky to be able to see all stages of a deal while I was there.

What’s next: I plan to spend most of the summer in Charlottesville, studying for the bar, and then I’ll make my way up to Baltimore, where I will be clerking for Judge Paul V. Niemeyer of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. After clerking, I’ll head back up to New York.

Who I am now: A significantly more confident and self-assured person than when I started here three years ago. Law school has had all of the impact I expected on the way I think and problem-solve, but it’s also had the unexpected effect of making me a happier, more self-aware and all-around more enthusiastic individual. That’s not what they tell you when you say you want to go to law school.

What you should know about Virginia Law: This is an incredibly special place, and I am fully confident that there is no better place to be a law student. The faculty are supportive, the students are passionate and the whole community is constantly pushing you to be the best person that you can be. Folks come here to develop as people, not just students, and that’s unique for a law school. This is a place to make lifelong friends and have an absolute blast enjoying this town, all while getting an incredible legal education from some of the best professors imaginable. I’m going to miss it.  

Madison Marcus

Madison Marcus '17

Hometown: Augusta, Georgia

Who I was then: I graduated from Cornell University in 2014 with a major in psychology. I spent much of my time as an undergraduate doing research on the neurobiology of learning and memory, with a focus on the medial prefrontal cortex. When I started applying to law school, Virginia Law was at the top of my list for its reputation for an incredible student experience on top of its academic reputation.

Amazing law school class: There are too many amazing classes to choose just one. I was lucky enough to have Dean Risa Goluboff for Constitutional Law my 1L year. She manages to keep every student engaged with her teaching, humor and brilliance, yet is incredibly humble about her accomplishments. As someone pursuing a career in health law, I also found several short courses interesting and practical. For example, the general counsel of UPMC, Tom McGough, and Professor Mimi Riley taught a course called Health Care Marketplace: Competition, Regulation and Reform. Another favorite of mine was Special Topics in Health Law, co-taught by Richard Crawford and Thomas Massaro. I also enjoyed participating in a Seminar in Ethical Values with Professor Anne Coughlin. I could go on…

Outside class (extracurricular activities): I am a member of the Health Law Association and am on the editorial board of the Journal of Law & Politics. Outside academics, I have been involved with the Peer Advisor program and the Virginia Law Ambassadors program both my 2L and 3L years. As a 2L I was one of two law school representatives on the University Judiciary Committee, serving as a judge for trials of alleged violations of the University Code of Conduct. Finally, as a 3L I was a fellow in the Tri-Sector Leadership Fellows program.

Favorite outing/activity to unwind Charlottesville has so many great things to do. I love going out to eat at local restaurants. On a nice day, I also like to spend an afternoon at one of the wineries in the area. In the summer and fall, I enjoy the Carter Mountain Thursday Evening Sunset Series.

Noteworthy summer job: I split my 1L summer job between the Albemarle County Attorney’s Office (in Charlottesville) and at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The two positions gave me significant exposure to local, state and federal regulatory issues that helped solidify my interest in health law. I split my 2L summer at Alston & Bird between their Atlanta and Washington, D.C., offices in the health care practice group.

Who I am now: I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to have attended Virginia Law. My education here has been incredible and I have learned from not only faculty but also students and staff. I can now think critically about issues and engage in friendly discussions with people with whom I may not agree. It is certainly bittersweet to have come to an end of this journey. However, I am excited to embark on my career as a UVA trained lawyer.

What's next: This fall I will be returning to the health care group at Alston & Bird in Atlanta.

What you should know about Virginia Law: I was thrilled to realize that UVA Law lives up to its reputation as a place where people matter most. Virginia Law has a tight-knit community with so many ways to get involved. I am constantly impressed by the accomplishments of my peers and am honored when they are supportive of mine. It has been a pleasure to go to law school here.

Gannam Rifkah

Gannam Rifkah '17

Hometown: Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania

Who I was then: I graduated from Duquesne University in 2014 with a degree in political science and history. I came straight through from undergrad. After 21 years as a student, I am ready to be a real person.

Amazing law school class: Tough question. I can’t choose between two, so I am just going to mention both. The subject matter covered in Criminal Investigations with Professor Barbara Armacost was particularly interesting. I also appreciated her efforts to adjust class to integrate current events into the material. Native American Law, taught by Professor Michael Doran, is probably one of the most unique courses offered at UVA Law. It also helped that Professor Doran is one of the most engaging and open professors at the school. I thoroughly enjoyed these classes.

Outside class (extracurricular activities): Probably the most rewarding experience was working with Cordel Faulk, Grace Cleveland and Chris Colby in Admissions as a head ambassador. I helped coordinate lunches for visiting admits, taking out a good number myself. I was also involved with Lambda Law and the Tri-Sector Leadership Program, and I was a managing editor for the Virginia Journal International Law.

Favorite outing/activity to unwind: I really like to brunch on Sundays; it really helps me refresh and start my week off right. There is a pretty large selection of brunch spots in Charlottesville. Marie Bette Café is my favorite. It’s a bakery/café owned by a same-sex couple and named after their daughter.

Noteworthy summer job: I had the opportunity to be at a law firm both my 1L and 2L summer. I spent my 1L summer with Blank Rome in D.C. As a 2L, I was with Clifford Chance also in our nation’s capital. As part of Clifford’s summer program, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in their Hong Kong office. This experience was definitely the highlight of my summer; Hong Kong is truly a one-of-a-kind city.

What's next: I will be starting at Clifford Chance in D.C. this fall. My focus will be on white collar and sanctions work.

Who I am now: Coming into law school I could maybe name one law firm and did not even know what a clerkship was. I am leaving UVA Law as a soon-to-be attorney confident in my ability to approach a problem from various perspectives, engage in reasoned discussions and assert my position. I will forever be grateful for the education I received here. I am also a first-time cat owner.

What you should know about Virginia Law: UVA Law is a collegial place where softball reigns supreme— these are things everyone knows. In a different vein, I think every student should make an effort to be heard at UVA. I will always be surprised at the receptiveness of the faculty and administration at this school. They are not only willing to listen, but are willing to follow through and take action. Never hesitate to talk to a professor or administrator outside of class. These are some of the most rewarding relationships you can make at the school.

Adam Stempel

Adam Stempel '17

Hometown: I grew up in New Haven, Connecticut and Palo Alto, California

Who I was then: I graduated from Yale in 2011, and then worked for three years in Washington, D.C., as a federal consultant for Deloitte. I liked consulting, but my favorite elements of it were more like law (or what I thought at the time was like law), so I decided to go to law school. 

Amazing law school class: There are plenty, but I have to call out Professor Rachel Harmon's Criminal Procedure Survey. I never thought I could learn so much law, but Professor Harmon (whom I maintain is the coolest woman in Virginia) made it happen. In my 3L year I did the Prosecution Clinic and actually got to use what I learned. 

Outside class (extracurricular activities): I'm a firm believer in taking the approach of finding things you're interested in and doing all of them, so I was pretty busy. I served as an articles editor of the Virginia Law Review, as president of the Virginia Law Democrats, vice president of UVA's chapter of the American Constitution Society, a member of the Extramural Moot Court and Mock Trial teams, a Virginia Law Ambassador, a writer for and actor in the Libel Show, a finalist in the Lile Moot Court tournament, and — perhaps my greatest accomplishment — the president of the Virginia Law Wine Society.

Favorite outing/activity to unwind: Because I pick activities I like, I was generally busy with at least one of my activities. But when I have a spare afternoon, I like to hop between Charlottesville's many wine shops and check out tastings. 

Noteworthy summer job: I had a fantastic time after my 1L year at the Federal Tort Claims Act Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. I learned a lot about litigation and met some terrific people, including my supervisor, Gail Johnson, who is officiating my wedding this summer to Danielle Desaulniers '17. 

What's next: I'll be clerking in Baltimore on the District of Maryland for the next year, after which I'll return to Covington & Burling in D.C. 

Who I am now: I hope I'll be a good lawyer, but mostly I'm thrilled with what I've learned about the world and myself. Not only has UVA been the best law school experience I could have hoped for, but I can't think of anything else I would rather have been doing for the past three years.

What you should know about Virginia Law: When I talk to prospective law students or current law students thinking about taking one job or another, I always suggest that they don't go anywhere where they're told that they can't be a person for some period of time. What I mean by that is that it's (almost) never worth going somewhere where you don't have the opportunity to do things that engage and satisfy you. One of my favorite things about Virginia is that the culture here encourages students to explore and improve themselves as people, not just as legal analysts. You see this in all the people associated with the law school — faculty, students, staff and alumni — and their relationships with each other. 

Amber Strickland

Amber Strickland '17

Hometown:  Centreville, Virginia

Who I was then:  I went to a small university in Ohio, where I majored in communications. After college, I spent a year in India working with a human rights organization that focused on combating labor trafficking. I went to law school planning to be a prosecutor with a focus on civil rights and protecting vulnerable populations.

Amazing law school class: The Prosecution Clinic was by far the best class I took in law school.  It quite literally changed my life.  Before and during law school, I had wanted to be a federal prosecutor.  But after about a month at my clinic placement in a state office, I realized that I really wanted to be a state prosecutor.  I would have never pursued the career that I did without the clinic, and I most likely wouldn't have gotten the job without the tangible skills I gained in the clinic.  Some of my other favorite classes were Trial Advocacy with Professor Alexia Morrison and Law of the Police with Professor Rachel Harmon.

Outside class (extracurricular activities): I was a fellow in the Law and Public Service Program, and during my 3L year, I was one of the program's student co-presidents. I was a member of our Black Law Student Association and a member of the editorial board of the Virginia Journal of International Law.  I also participated on our National Trial Advocacy team

Favorite outing/activity to unwind:  I love eating and Charlottesville has a great restaurant scene.  The Downtown Mall is a great place to unwind and people watch.  

Noteworthy summer job:  I spent my 1L summer at the DOJ in their Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section.  It combined my interests in prosecution with civil rights issues and human trafficking. I couldn't have imagined a more perfect 1L summer job for me.

What's next:  I'll be an assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney's Office.

Who I am now: I don't think law school made me a different person, but it did continue to broaden my perspectives. I used to be the type of person who saw solutions to problems as more definite and fixed, but in the last three years I've seen the need for creative solutions to problems. It's strengthened a lot of the convictions I already had and has made me more committed to doing justice.

What you should know about Virginia Law:  They aren't kidding when they say this is a collegial school! The people I've met here have become some of my strongest friends. We've seen each other through a lot, and they've made me a better person and a better attorney.