The Paul M. Hebert Law Center has been bustling with students, faculty, and staff since the start of the fall semester, for which LSU Law saw its overall enrollment increase and the arrival of its largest class of first-year students in a decade.
While students, faculty, and staff continue to follow the health and safety precautions laid out in the LSU COVID-19 Roadmap, the vast majority of classes and many events are once again being held in person at LSU Law this semester. Third-year law student and Student Bar Association President Alex Domingue said the academic and social experience at the Law Center is much improved compared to the spring semester and last fall, when most classes were held remotely or in a hybrid fashion and in-person events were extremely limited.
“Yes, we did have some classes in person last spring, but that was it. We came to class and went home, there was no community within the Law Center. This year, with the return of social events and fully in-person classes, I personally have seen a major uptick in the community at the Law Center,” Domingue said. “The first benefit is networking opportunities. When we were remote or hybrid, we didn’t really meet either the faculty or our colleagues. The second benefit, specifically to having the staff and faculty on campus, is the benefit of utilizing their skills and experience.”
Third-year law student Reagan Moody agreed, adding she has particularly missed the personal support of her classmates during the pandemic.
“It has been such a joy to return to a full campus. PMH is thriving once again with the chatter of eager 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls who are excited to see their classmates. The energy in the Law Center is positive everyone is happy to be here,” said Moody, who serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Energy Law and Resources. “In law school, I have relied heavily upon the encouragement of my peers and due to the pandemic those interactions have been limited. I am so glad that we are able to all be together again to uplift one another. Similarly, I have missed the chats and ability to meet with my professors. They were readily available to us virtually, but it is so nice to immediately be able to address some questions I may have either during or right after class.”
Professor Clare Ryan, who participated in orientation for first-year students prior to the start of the semester and is teaching International Human Rights Law and Western Legal Traditions and Systems this fall, said it’s refreshing to see the Law Center buzzing with activity once again.
“It has been a delight to greet students in the hallway whom I had previously only met on Zoom. And the incoming class brings a new energy to the building, what is much needed after a year of teaching remotely,” Ryan said. “Overall, I have been impressed by the students’ collective commitment to following safety protocols and their active engagement in the classroom.”
Overall enrollment rose to 633 students this fall, up from 598 students last fall. The Class of 2024 includes 233 students, 74% of which are Louisiana residents and the remainder of which have come to LSU Law from 22 states. Females make up 52% of the new class of students, while males comprise 48%, and 19% of the students identify as ethnic minorities. The last time LSU Law had a larger class of first-year students was in 2011. Enrollment figures will be made official following 14 class days.
Both the median LSAT score and GPA of the new class of students increased this year to 156 and 3.55, respectively. Additionally, 27 first-year students are enrolled in the LSU Law/LSU 3+3 Program — up from 11 first-year students who were in the program last year. There are 15 LLM students from seven countries at LSU Law this semester, including Natallia Bulko of Minsk, Belarus, a recipient of a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. Nine of the LLM students began their studies at LSU Law in the fall semester, while six have been studying at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center since the spring semester. Professor Olivier Moréteau, Assistant Dean for International Programs, said LLM Program enrollment has remained strong despite the pandemic and an increasingly competitive market for several reasons, including the program’s affordability, academic quality, and robustness.
Prior to the start of classes on Monday, Aug. 16, more than 80 third-year students participated in the Trial Advocacy Program on Aug. 9-11, led by 50 LSU Law alumni and distinguished legal professionals from around the country. Orientation followed on Aug. 12-13 for first-year students. The Office of Career Services also hosted its Early Interview Week on Aug. 9-13, during which second-year law students had more than 300 interviews with major firms from across the state and country.
While the new academic year is off to an energetic start, the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Ida continues to be a challenge for many who were impacted by the storm, which devastated south Louisiana and led to the closure of the LSU campus and Law Center for a full week between Aug. 30 and Sept. 3. Students, faculty, and staff returned to the Law Center following the Labor Day holiday.
“Regarding Hurricane Ida, the biggest challenge is the losses that many of our colleagues, professors, and staff took as a result. Many of my colleagues have expressed the disasters in their hometowns and how hard it is to focus on school when dealing with situations like that,” said Domingue. “However, it is important to note that the community here at PMH is resilient and together we are getting through it all.”
Although the recovery from Hurricane Ida will take some time and uncertainty remains due to the pandemic, Domingue said he is excited about his final year at LSU Law and is optimistic that he and his fellow classmates will get to enjoy many events at the Law Center that were forced to cancel last year.
“The past two years have been hectic to say the least, and both the classes of 2020 and 2021 missed out on many of the opportunities offered at PMH,” he said. “As optimistic as I am in regard to the trajectory of COVID, I am also aware that things can change in an instant. That’s why I and most of my colleagues are taking advantage of every opportunity that comes our way this year as soon as we can.”