Richmond Law: A Story in Seven Objects

February 21, 2022
In 2022, the Law School is launching a multiyear renovation of its physical facilities, requiring faculty and staff to pack up their offices for temporary relocation. The process of sorting through the physical items that make the building a law school — textbooks, papers, gavels, and more — inevitably leads to reflection. Here, we spotlight seven modern-day artifacts that evoke the character of Richmond Law.
By Emily Cherry

Signs of community

Ask any student or alum what sets Richmond Law apart, and you’re bound to hear a common refrain: We’re a tight-knit community. From starting out at orientation as 1Ls to networking as alumni, the collegial and supportive community is a hallmark of the Richmond Law experience.

One of the more visible symbols of that community is relatively new: Students signing the class banner to celebrate the end of orientation, a tradition that began in 2015.

The signed banners (above) hang prominently in the law school atrium during the students’ time at the law school — one banner for each current class year. At commencement, a class representative carries the banner down the aisle. And the banners make an appearance again when the graduates return to campus for their reunion.

The banners are a sign of school spirit and a reminder of our connectedness. Dozens of names, mixed together, reinforce the notion that it’s not just academics and studies that go into the experience of legal education — it’s the people alongside you all the way.

Law’s human dimension

Professor Tara Casey’s office has the usual items you’d expect — diplomas, family photos, awards — but it also has one of the building’s most eye-catching and compelling displays. It’s a 3-by-5-foot bulletin board (below), home to notes, pictures — and an 8-by-10-inch oil painting of, oddly enough, a jar of peanut butter.

“I call it my gratitude board,” said Casey, law professor and director of the Carrico Center for Pro Bono and Public Service. “It’s what I use to be inspired.”

The notes come from a variety of sources: Judges who are grateful for the partnership of the Carrico Center. Pro bono attorneys who enjoyed working with Richmond Law students. Students who are thankful for support and mentorship. “Working at the Carrico Center has been absolutely invaluable as part of my law school experience,” wrote one student. “I can only hope to be like you years from now when I am taking on the role of mentor to future law students.”

The gratitude board isn’t just a feel-good reminder for Casey. It tells a story. “What these notes represent to me is the importance of human connection in legal education,” she said. Beyond that, “these are students who are out there doing good. No matter what path they’re taking, they are tremendous human beings spreading goodness in this world.”

And as for that jar of peanut butter? Whenever a student organization hosts a community food drive for a local pantry, Casey matches the total number of jars of peanut butter contributed with a one-to-one donation. That adds up to a lot of peanut butter and a whole lot of gratitude.

A reminder that students come first

An ever-present reminder on Dean Wendy Perdue’s desk signals her top professional priority. It’s a sign (above) that reads, “… and this would be good for students because ...?”

Every office, corridor, and classroom could display it, too. Richmond Law faculty prioritize individualized student attention and support. Professors in Andy Spalding’s Corruption in International Sports course might partner with him on a book chapter about the governance legacy of the Olympic games — with a research trip to South Korea or Brazil. Students can join professor Erin Collins outside of class for a reading and discussion group on the topic of decarceration. Throughout the year, faculty host small-group dinners at their own homes in partnership with the Richmond Women’s Law student organization.

Opportunities like these, pairing dedicated faculty with invested students, reflect the student-first ethos of Richmond Law — and demonstrate legal education at its best.

Intellectual engagement

The list of people who have placed their hands on this podium (above) as they spoke is a Who’s Who of the legal world: Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Antonin Scalia, and Sonia Sotomayor; author and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson; and the Hon. Edwin Cameron of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, among them. The Moot Court Room has hosted hundreds of events, from debates between energy advisors for presidential campaigns to law journal symposia, all with a common goal: to engage students and the community intellectually. That engagement takes different forms — not just guest speakers, but also course lectures, discussion sessions, and mock trials. A student might hear from a legal scholar at the podium one day and the next day step up to it themselves to hone litigation skills in a competition.

When prospective students tour the law school space, it’s the Moot Court Room that often makes the most impact, its high ceilings and dark wood walls lending a quiet sense of prestige. The podium is its focal point, helping set the tone for the building as a place where students learn both the knowledge and the skills of their future profession.

Alumni with heart and commitment

The legal career of the Hon. Frederick P. Stamp Jr., L’59, spans more than 60 years. In addition to serving as a U.S. district judge for the Northern District of West Virginia, he also served in the West Virginia House of Delegates. As Stamp told West Virginia Executive in 2018, “I have always been a strong believer in public service by lawyers in their communities because I think it makes us better lawyers and better citizens.”

Stamp’s service also extends to his alma mater: In 1990, Stamp and his wife, Joan C. Stamp, established the Stamp Courtyard (above) at Richmond Law — a quiet space for students amidst the hustle and bustle of law school life. Beyond serving as a visual reminder of Stamp’s generosity to the law school, the naming of the plaza for a federal judge is appropriate given Richmond Law’s strong tradition of alumni who serve on the bench. In fact, Richmond Law has more alumni judges in Virginia than any other law school.

“Judge Stamp represents so many of those qualities that set our alumni apart,” said Allie Carter, assistant dean for development. “The plaza — and the plaque — are a constant reminder of commitment to public service, to professional excellence, and to community. And that commitment is one that resonates with students and alumni alike.”

An enduring technological marvel

When it comes to legal research, digital innovation abounds: At the Muse Law Library, students have immediate access to hundreds of online databases. The library blog, MuseNews, keeps students posted on newly acquired e-books, resources that go beyond Westlaw and Lexis, and even tips on making DIY stress balls. Custom online study guides bring together digital research on wide-ranging topics.

But amidst the library’s modern offerings sits a seeming anachronism: the microfiche reader (below). Traditionally it was the point of access for primary source material from across the globe. While the internet has made today’s students less reliant on it, it still has its uses. In particular, students on the law journals often use the microfiche for “spading” — checking citations in draft journal articles. The process is much more efficient on microfiche.

“In libraries, very little becomes completely obsolete,” said Molly Lentz-Meyer, director of bibliographic services for the law library. “The innovative piece of doing legal research is recognizing what format is best for you — and that is not always going to be the newest, fanciest thing.”

A focus on the whole person

Carlos Ruiz, L’22, came to Richmond Law in 2019 by way of North Dakota. As a captain in the U.S. Air Force, Ruiz was stationed at Minot Air Force Base when he decided to pursue a career in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Ruiz, a native of Fredericksburg, Virginia, had Richmond at the top of his list.

Ruiz’s first visit to Richmond Law came after he was admitted to the waitlist. Among the people he met was Rosanne Ibanez, associate director of admissions. After a tour and more than a few questions, he left thinking, “I could really see myself here at this school,” he said.

When he returned to campus for a second visit, he came as an admitted 
student and brought something for Ibanez, with whom he had stayed in touch: 
a challenge coin (above).

“It’s a heritage thing,” Ruiz explained, something that military officers can share for a number of reasons — to forge a connection, to offer thanks, to deliver a congratulatory message. Each coin is unique and specific to the service member’s base or unit. Ruiz gave the coin to Ibanez as a token of his appreciation.

Law school admissions can be “a scary process,” he said, and Ibanez “made that process a little bit more bearable for me.” That personal connection “was actually what convinced me that this school was where I needed to be.”

“I was more touched than I think Carlos could have imagined,” Ibanez said. “We always tell people that admissions is a ‘holistic’ process. The coin serves as a constant reminder that Carlos and all of our students have led these rich, meaningful lives before they set foot through our doors or sit in our classrooms.”

As an active-duty military service member, Ruiz quickly found his place at Richmond Law, joining the Veterans & Military Law Association. In the military, he explains, “you have a family wherever you go.” The sentiment resonates inside the walls of Richmond Law, too.