Integrity, generosity, grit and joy were the guiding themes of Dean Melanie Leslie’s welcome to Cardozo Law School’s Class of 2022 for their first day of orientation.
Dean of Admissions David Martinidez kicked off the day in the newly renovated Jacob Burns Moot Court Room, highlighting the accomplishments and diversity of the 313 students in the incoming Fall and May-entering J.D. class.
“I want you to remember that each of you, in your own way, has already achieved much success in your life,” Martinidez noted. “We are confident with a lot of hard work and dedication, you can thrive at Cardozo.”
The class of 2022’s academic credentials make it one of the strongest classes in Cardozo’s history. The incoming class has a median LSAT of 162 (which is the 85th percentile and is a one-point increase over last year) and a median GPA of 3.6 (an increase of .08 over last year).
The incoming students hail from 31 states and 17 countries, including China, South Africa and Argentina. Their educational background varies as well, from a PhD in Linguistics to a Master’s in Civil and Mechanical Engineering. Their hobbies and interests range from Taekwondo to table tennis. Martinidez asked the audience who had traveled to the most countries. The number to beat was 27. He also asked for a round of applause for the two members of the class who served in the military.
Martinidez stressed that regardless of the students’ unique paths in getting to Cardozo, they were chosen because of his confidence in their abilities to become the kind of lawyers who are leaders in the field they choose to pursue.
Dean Melanie Leslie ’91C took the podium next. As an alumna herself, she shared her experience of sitting in the same place as the incoming class. She marked the excitement of the day but reminded students of the responsibility that came with being a law student and joining the legal field.
“Today is your first step toward being lawyers,” Leslie said, “toward being people who help other people. People who lead. People to whom other people look when there’s a crisis, when they need confidence, when they need advice, when they need support. When they need representation, they’re going to look to you.”
“What kind of lawyer are you going to be?” she asked the audience. “What kind of person are you going to be? Your professional reputation starts now.”
Dean Leslie urged students to forget about the negative stereotypes they’ve heard about cut-throat competition in law school and instead take advantage of the close-knit Cardozo community.
“You may be sitting next to a person who becomes your best friend. You may be sitting next to a person that you don’t see for 20 years and then all of the sudden you run into each other at a networking event and they refer you clients,” she said.
“We are in this together. You are going to be Cardozo graduates, and this is going to be part of your network. And you gotta cheer each other on! One person’s success is everybody’s success,” she said. “You all get better when you help one another out.”
The celebration continued at the students’ luncheon, where another prominent Cardozo alumna offered her wisdom. New York State Senator Anna M. Kaplan ’90C recounted her Cardozo law school journey as an Iranian Jewish immigrant. Kaplan also graduated from Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women. She is the first Iranian-American and the first political refugee elected to the New York State Senate.
“I stand on the shoulders of a lot of women who paved the way for me to run,” Sen. Kaplan said. “As different as we think we may be, we have more similarities.”
After lunch, both JD and LL.M. students, many of whom had their orientation on August 13, headed to Chelsea Piers for Cardozo’s boat cruise down the Hudson River. For many, it was the first time seeing the sights of New York City up close as they shared in the excitement of a new beginning as they prepare to start on their legal journey with their first classes in Elements of Law.