Congratulations, Class of 2018!

Class of 2018
May 16, 2018

This month, the law school celebrates the accomplishments and achievements of our students. A few shared their favorite memories during their time at GW Law, advice for the next class, and their next career move. Read their stories below.

The law school's Diploma Ceremony will take place this Sunday, May 20. For the latest news on Commencement and the celebrations that will take place this weekend, visit this page.

Student Spotlight


Samantha Block

Samantha Block"I was born and raised in Boca Raton, Florida, and never moved houses until I went to college at the University of Florida. I never imagined that I would live in Washington, D.C., but after college, I moved to D.C. for an internship and fell in love with the city. Prior to starting law school, I was unsure of what type of law I wanted to pursue, but after several internships and researching for a professor, I became interested in white collar crime."

 

 

How would you describe or summarize your overall experience here at GW Law?

I have truly enjoyed my time at GW Law. Going to school in D.C. has provided so many opportunities that I would not have had anywhere else. Not only have I been able to intern for judges and government agencies, but I have also had practitioners as professors. (Where else can you say a Supreme Court Justice was your professor?) One of the best parts of attending GW Law is the professors. They are amazing and go out of their way to help you not only get jobs but also gain skills outside of the classroom. For example, I have worked as a research assistant for Dean Tillipman and helped her with articles that were published in the FCPA Blog.

While I cannot believe law school is over, I am so thankful for the lifelong friends I have made. I could not have survived law school without them—from preparing for job interviews to inviting me home with them for Thanksgiving. 

If you think about your first day of law school, has anything changed since then? How have you grown?

On the first day of law school I was terrified of being cold called and law school in general. I was also intimidated by my lack of knowledge of the legal industry—no one in my family is a lawyer. Now, however, I am more confident in myself and no longer afraid to reach out to other students and professors for help. I also am (finally) no longer afraid of cold calls—I realized it is a rite of passage and I am my harshest critic.

While at GW Law, I was afraid of not having every aspect of my life planned out. Law school has taught me that if I try to plan everything out, I will miss out on some great opportunities. For instance, I never thought that I would work at a law firm in D.C. after graduation nor did I even know what a clerkship was. But after talking with alumni (the best advice I ever got was to reach out to them), learning about different fields, and interning at several places, I was able to determine what areas of law interested me. 

Is there a memorable moment you can share about your time here?

GW Law has given me the opportunity to get a glimpse of what real life practice will be like. This year I decided to do the Criminal Appeals Clinic. At first, I was unsure if I should do a clinic, especially because it was my last year. I also knew clinic would take up a lot of time and most of my friends were taking a lighter schedule. It was also terrifying to know that a person was depending on me. While I had done moot court competitions, the thought of arguing in front of real judges and an experienced state attorney made me physically sick. On the day of my oral arguments, I was panicking, but my friends' support kept me going. In the end, not only did my client write a letter explaining how thankful he was for all of the hard work—reminding me of the impact I can have on someone's life—but one of the judges also complimented my efforts, which was the perfect way to end my law school career.

Where will you work once you graduate? Or what are your post-graduation plans? 

I will be working at Akin Gump in Washington, D.C., next year. In 2019, I will be clerking at the Court of Federal Claims for Judge Thomas Wheeler.


Eric Hernandez

Eric Hernandez"I am a former United States Marine. I am originally from Kissimmee, Florida. My focus at GW Law has been—and will continue to be after graduation—litigation. I love researching complex legal issues, writing arguments, and arguing cases."

 

 

 

 

How would you describe or summarize your overall experience here at GW Law?

My experience at GW Law has been great. Throughout these past three years, I had the opportunity to learn from brilliant professors and to work alongside very talented and smart students, many of whom I hope to continue to maintain contact with after graduation, and some of which I now proudly call my best friends. I also had the opportunity to develop my skills as an attorney and reaffirm my passion for practicing law. Thanks to my experiences at GW Law, I have no doubt in my mind that my interests and strengths align with those needed to be successful in practicing law, and that I will enjoy being an attorney.

If you think about your first day of law school, has anything changed since then? How have you grown?

I have definitely grown significantly since my first day of law school. I have come to appreciate what it really means to be a lawyer and the impact that our great profession has on the lives of many people. I have also become a better writer, and have developed my analytical and critical thinking skills. Furthermore, I have developed more confidence, and have overcome the fear of having to argue a case before a judge and in front of an audience.

Is there a memorable moment you can share about your time here?

My most memorable experience at GW Law has been my time with the legal clinics, in particular, my experience as a student-attorney at the Criminal Appeals and Post-Conviction Services Clinic. As part of this role, I was given the opportunity to argue a real case before a three-judge panel at the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. This was a unique experience which most law students—or junior associates—do not get to experience. Professors Anne Olesen and Wyatt Feeler did a great job at supervising us in a way that allowed us to truly embrace the concept of being lead-counsel in a case.

Where will you work once you graduate? Or what are your post-graduation plans? 

After graduation, I will be taking the Florida Bar and then joining Vinson & Elkins LLP's D.C. office as an associate in their complex commercial litigation practice group. In between the bar exam and joining V&E, however, I will be taking a well-deserved vacation and visiting 10 different countries around the world.


Gisela Camba

Gisela Camba"I have always wanted to work with people and advocate for them. I find inspiration in being able to fight for the rights of others and to serve a greater cause than myself. That led me to law school, where I have had the opportunity to serve clients directly, and to specialize in immigration and international law."

 

 

 

 

How would you describe your time here? Can you share a memorable moment or something you are proud of?

The most memorable moment for me during my time at GW Law was when I did my first individual hearing for the Immigration Clinic. The Immigration Clinic works to advocate pro bono for indigent individuals in need of legal representation. Just this past semester, the Immigration Clinic helped save the lives of about 32 individuals, including principal derivatives and future beneficiaries of family-based petitions. 

This year, I had the honor and privilege of meeting and representing M-A, one of the strongest women I've ever met, through the Immigration Clinic with the advice and counsel of my supervisors, Professor Alberto Benitez and Ms. Paulina Vera. M-A lived a difficult life in Honduras having lived through poverty and domestic abuse. 

However, the worst moment in her life was when her own child was in danger. When M-A's daughter, K-C, was just 14 years old, a gang member threatened to kidnap K-C, and told her that he would kill her mother, M-A, and her family if she refused to go with him. Fearful that her daughter would be raped and killed, M-A took K-C and fled to the United States for safety. Mother and daughter are now safe in the United States and were granted asylum by Judge Owens in the Arlington Immigration Court. Being able to represent them during trial was an immense responsibility but also the most meaningful work I've done as a GW Law student. 

For your fellow peers, what advice would you share with them that you wished you received before entering your final year of law school?

I think my best advice would be that calm and steady is really the best way to handle law school. Never be scared to try and do something. Also, know that it's very important to have people who care for you to be there to support you. 

What are your post-graduation plans?

I am currently in the commissioning process for Navy JAG after having received a professional recommendation from them. I hope to serve the country that has provided me with so many opportunities when I immigrated here. 


Raymond Vanderhyden

Raymond Vanderhyden"I am originally from Guyana. I have a healthcare background—radiology tech— and first became interested in GW Law because of its dual degree program in Healthcare Management and Law. However, after my 1L year, I realized that I was interested in other areas of law and did not want to limit myself to one practice. My focus here has been to take classes and pursue areas that enhance my writing and overall advocacy skills."

 

 

How would you describe your time here? Can you share a memorable moment or something you are proud of?

My time at GW Law has been very rewarding. I feel knowledgeable and more informed. My network is now wider than ever, and I have met and formed relationships with some of the most brilliant and influential lawyers around. This was all possible because of GW Law's massive alumni network.

I am most proud of graduating. It is a dream come true. And, receiving my diploma will be my most memorable moment here. 

For your fellow peers, what advice would you share with them that you wished you received before entering your final year of law school?

I would advise my 1L and 2L colleagues to get to know their professors and go to their office hours. To excel in law school and on the job, always work on improving your writing. 

What are your post-graduation plans?

I will be an associate attorney in the Trial practice group at Duane Morris LLP.