The school year officially began as NYU Law kicked off Orientation on August 22 with a Welcome BBQ, hosted by the Office of Student Affairs in the Vanderbilt Hall courtyard.

As students began to familiarize themselves with Vanderbilt Hall, they also got introductory lawyering sessions that covered reading and briefing cases, how to prepare for oral arguments, and how to conduct case analysis. “It’s been a shift from my [past studies]—it’s working on my oral communications skills,” says Marigny Nevitt ’21, who just completed a master’s degree in philosophy from Florida State University.

As always, the new class come from a variety of backgrounds, with previous experience as a doula, a finance analyst, an amateur beekeeper, a press assistant for Michelle Obama, a chemist, and a Jeopardy! Teen Tournament contestant, among other things. Noelia Gravotta ’21 has worked as a policy researcher. “I’m interested in the intersection between poverty, race, and environmental issues in the Middle East,” says Gravotta. “After about four years of doing this policy research, and working with different actors in their respective fields, I realized that the legal questions were the ones that most interested me and had the most power to change things.”

JD Orientation included a conversation on August 27  between Professor of Clinical Law Anthony Thompson, director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law, and Dean Trevor Morrison that was moderated by Vincent Southerland, executive director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law. During their conversation, Morrison and Thompson emphasized the importance of staying open to classmates’ differing opinions. Morrison noted that most students come to law school from an “echo chamber” of similar opinions that rarely challenge preconceptions.

“Our responsibility as lawyers and as leaders is to get together people of different perspectives and to understand each side of the debate,“ said Thompson. “That understanding is essential to the learning you will do here.” Thompson said that in potentially charged conversations regarding race and inequality, it is important to try to assume the best in people’s intent. It is up to lawyers, as some of the nation’s future leaders, to learn how to listen to each other and pursue justice for those who are voiceless due to systemic marginalization, he said.

“I think the emphasis on diversity and inclusion and race inequality [during Orientation] made me think ‘Oh, I definitely chose the right place to come,’” says Emma Carlin ’21.

The final event of JD Orientation was a moot court, argued by Jessica Lonergan ’08 and Nathan Freed Wessler ’10. Wessler successfully argued the 2018 Carpenter v. United States case, which protects the privacy of cellphone location records under the Fourth Amendment. The moot case was presided by two federal judges--who also happen to be NYU Law alumni: Dennis Jacobs ’73 of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Raymond J. Lohier ’91 of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Students were encouraged to discuss the case with their classmates at one of the many coffee shops and restaurants in their new home in Washington Square.

LLM Orientation featured an inaugural lecture on August 29 on US constitutional law by Norman Dorsen Professor of Civil Liberties Burt Neuborne. He explored the prevailing schools of thought in constitutional interpretation and urged students to consider which interpretation style is being utilized as they begin to study cases and court decisions. More important, however, was to focus on forming friendships with new classmates, Neuborne said. “Those bonds go beyond anything school could teach you,” he said.

“I like how much [the administration] has emphasized the importance of getting to know each other and getting friendly with our professors and not creating barriers,” says Gravotta. “I feel like they’ve made sure that as many students as possible, no matter what their positioning is, can feel included.”

Posted September 4, 2018