Law Students

Top Law Students of the Year
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Summary: The four top students in the National Jurist’s list based on geographical region are highlighted in the article.

There are law students across the nation highly involved in their schools and communities, working to make a difference. The National Jurist recognizes this and puts together a list of the top 20 law students of each year based on their contributions to their law schools and communities. Here are the four top students per region.


Case Western Reserve University School of Law – Alison Epperson

Epperson started out her first year of law school with bigger challenges than many people handle. Her longtime boyfriend committed suicide due to suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He sustained multiple concussions while playing high school football. Such a traumatic experience could have derailed a new law student’s education but Epperson used it as motivation to work harder. She founded CTE Hope, a small organization that works to promote education and protocols for high school sports programs as well as how to treat those suffering from CTE before they result in suicide. She is still the organization’s chief communications officer.

During law school, Epperson has kept her grades near the top of her class. She also served as executive notes editor of the International Law Journal. She is co-president of the National Security and Law Society and volunteers to help tutor first-year students. She is currently externing with the Office of the Legal Adviser of the U.S. Department of State. Epperson has already been offered and accepted a job with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in New York as an associate. She plans to focus on international law.

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University of Hawaii at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law – Mahesh Cleveland

Cleveland is a native Hawaiian so indigenous rights have been his priority. He has worked hard on environmental law and sustainable resource management matters, twice being a member of the nominating committee for the State Commission on Water Resource Management. He is also a volunteer court reporter for Hawaii’s Environmental Court, according to the school’s press release.

Before law school, Cleveland was a reggae musician and carpenter but realized his future job prospects were low and that law would give him a way of helping those unable to help themselves. He reasoned, “How can I speak for people that basically don’t have a voice, or don’t have a strong voice?” His solution was to go back to school and become an attorney.

Cleveland is older than most law students but that has not stopped him from succeeding. Associate Dean Ronette Kawakami said he is “quite a leader at the law school, people want to follow him.” After graduation, Cleveland will be a judicial clerk for Hawaii First Circuit Court Judge Todd Eddins.

Georgia State University College of Law – Andrew “Andy” Navratil

Navratil is a leader at the school in and out of the classroom. He helped create two programs – a pro bono program and an alternative spring break program. Before starting law school, Navratil worked with Teach For America where he moved up to director of teaching and learning. He was also an academic dean at a K-12 charter school.

He is now an executive board member of the Georgia State Law Review, senator for the Student Bar Association, a board member of the Public Interest Law Students Association and a member of the Student Trial Lawyers Association.

Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson Law – Erin Varley

Varley wanted to be a doctor when she grew up because she wanted to help others. However, a closer examination of the minimal time doctors spend interacting with their patients led her to search for something else. Varley, a former college athlete, soon realized that a law degree was the right route for her. She explained, “For me, it’s a combination of helping people recover from something that may have happened to them already and help them to move on and improve their quality of life, and it may also be more policy driven and preventative in nature.”

She is especially interested in addressing gender-based violence and human rights violations. She has worked with the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. She is currently working on legislation against female genital mutilation for Pennsylvania and internationally.

Do you think there are students making a difference at their schools and in their communities that were overlooked? Share someone you would nominate with us in the comments below.

To learn more about female genital mutilation, read these articles:




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