2017 Law Students of the Year


They are not even lawyers yet, but that one little caveat doesn’t seem to deter those we honor as Law School Students of the Year for the 2016-17 academic year. Each of them gives back.

One helps people who have been jailed get back on their feet. She knows how hard it can be. She spent 20 months locked up for selling drugs.

Another advocates for undocumented immigrants, helping them navigate our nation’s challenging immigration policies. That’s because she was once in that very same position.

Still another works to make her impoverished Washington, D.C., neighborhood safer. She has no intention of moving to a world of sushi bars and BMW dealerships after she completes her law degree. She wants to stay and help her neighborhood flourish.

The list goes on and on. Law students doing the remarkable, the unselfish.

We asked the nation’s law schools for nominations, and then we whittled down the list. Our 25 Law Students of the Year come from all parts of the nation. Five are featured in the Spring issue of the National Jurist magazine, which will soon be available digitally. Below, you can read about an additional 20 amazing students.

The large number of outstanding candidates shows that the future of law is in good hands, regardless of the obstacles legal education faces today.

Not only are these students tackling law school, which is immensely challenging in itself, but also they are already looking to right wrongs and fight for society’s most vulnerable.

No doubt, they will make the profession proud. After all, they’ve already started.



Katie Steefel, University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Javier Garcia, The University of New Mexico School of Law

Ahmed Lavalais, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

Amanda Gomm, Lewis & Clark Law School

Tarra Simmons, Seattle University School of Law 



Lynne Nash, Texas A&M University School of Law

Frances Isbell, The University of Alabama School of Law

Laymond Wilburn, Texas Southern University - Thurgood Marshall School of Law

Rasha Abu-Zeyadeh, Texas Tech University School of Law

Maria Ivañez, South Texas College of Law Houston 



Jacob Bielenberg, Washburn University School of Law

Shantel Thompson, Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Willie Lyles III, Southern Illinois University School of Law

Oluchi Ifebi, The John Marshall Law School

Nadia Anguiano-Wehde, University of Minnesota Law School 



Luis Canales, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

Sarah Saint, Wake Forest University School of Law

Yvette Pappoe, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

Danielle Desaulniers, University of Virginia School of Law

Veda Rasheed, Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law 



Lorena Jiron, Fordham University School of Law

Cherina Clark, Suffolk University Law School

David Ourlicht, City University of New York School of Law

Katherine Fahey, Boston University School of Law

Daniel “Danny” Oquendo,  New York Law School