Law Students of the Year

What makes a law student amazing? 

Is it a commitment to justice? Does he or she lead by example? Does a lengthy and focused resume count? Yes, yes and yes.

Still, it’s a tough question. There are many right answers, but what it comes down to is that great law students leave their marks on their law schools and the surrounding communities before going off and doing great things in the real world.

We sought an answer to yet another question: Who are some amazing law students right now, and what makes them different?

We asked more than 200 of the nation’s law schools for stories of their most devoted students with unparalleled attitudes. We asked for leaders. We asked for character.

The National Jurist received more than 100 examples of just that.

Some of the standout students pictured themselves in the courtroom from an early age. Many discovered their penchant for the law when nothing else felt right. No matter how they got there, they all came to law school for the same reason: to help others navigate the complex world. 

For Robert “Joe” Pilgrim, a third-year at Washburn University School of Law and a Navy veteran, it was his outstanding understanding of veterans’ needs that led faculty members to describe him as “one in a million.”

“One thing that continues to push me when I feel tired, frustrated, or I wonder if I’m really making a difference is this: I’m glad the veteran I’m providing legal services to did not give up when he or she may have felt the same way while defending our country,” Pilgrim said. “Some veterans need legal assistance and cannot afford it, which for many creates a sense of responsibility for giving back.”

Pilgrim is one of five inspiring law students from across the nation featured in the Spring issue of the National Jurist magazine, which is available in digitally here. Read about 20 additional amazing students honored online here:


Emily Bock, 3L

Temple University Beasley School of Law


Kaylee R. Gum, 3L

Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William & Mary


Jaime S. McGuire, 3L

Liberty University School of Law


Angelique Ryan, 3L

Elon University School of Law



Elizabeth Devolder, 3L

Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School


Rajin S. Olson, 3L

University of Minnesota Law School


Christopher Schmidt, 3L

University of Nebraska College of Law


Mark Timmerman, 2L

Saint Louis University School of Law



Cherie Ching, 3L

Suffolk University Law School


Emily C. Kaas, 3L

Quinnipiac University School of Law


Kevin Murphy, 3L

Albany Law School


Carlos Valenzuela, 3L

New York Law School



Eric Michael Garza, 3L

St. Mary's University School of Law


Olivia Hoff, 3L

The University of Mississippi School of Law


Stephanie Ibarra, 3L

Texas Tech University School of Law


Stacey Michel, 3L

Tulane University Law School



Luke Diamond, 3L

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law


Nubia Peña, 3L

University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law


Katherine 'Kaki' Vessels, 3L

University of Hawai’i at Manoa - William S. Richardson School of Law


Miguel Willis, 2L

Seattle University School of Law