On August 10th, under the warm falling light of the evening sun, Santa Clara Law staff, faculty, and students gathered to greet the incoming Class of 2026 and celebrate the start of the academic year.
Nicole Maxwell, Dean of Students, welcomed the students, prefacing the evening with the land acknowledgment and a special thanks to the Santa Clara Law administrative team. Dean Michael Kaufman then took the lectern, introducing himself to the students and offering his wisdom.
“My dear incoming students,” Dean Michael Kaufman began in his encouraging remarks to Santa Clara Law’s new 1L students. “Please allow me to add my heartfelt welcome and congratulations to each and every one of you. Congratulations on your decision to pursue a legal education and to become members of a learned and impactful profession.”
Dean Kaufman drew attention to “5 Habits of Mind and Heart” that all Santa Clara Law students develop from matriculation to graduation: the development of a disciplined mind, a discerning mind, a creative mind, an ethical mind, and a respectful mind. “You will develop these 5 Habits of Mind not in a passive way, but as active, engaged, co-constructors of your own knowledge by building relationships,” Dean Kaufman emphasized. “This transformational process is challenging. Your brain will grow measurably.”
Over the evening, upcoming Santa Clara Law students heard from several featured speakers, including Dr. Julie Sullivan, 30th President of Santa Clara University. Judge Risë Pichon ‘73, J.D. ‘76, who was the first minority presiding judge in Santa Clara County from 1998–2019 and is now a Distinguished Jurist in Residence at Santa Clara Law, administered the solemn Oath of Professionalism to the students.
Distinguished speaker Stephanie Burns J.D. ’95, a current member of Santa Clara Law’s Law Advisory Board and Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Sony Interactive Entertainment, offered her counsel for the students. “This is a time of discovery for you—find your people, find your passions,” Burns noted. “Give yourself permission to try things. It’s not a waste of time. And seek mentorship as you try things; those mentors could start you down your forever path, or show you that you’d hate doing what they do.”
Julie Major 3L and Nicole Poirot 3L, Co-Presidents of the Student Bar Association (SBA), also welcomed the students, offering their own words of advice from their time at Santa Clara Law: “Go outside of your comfort zone and meet new people. You will not regret it. Remember that while grades are important, they aren’t everything. Find your passions outside of law school so you have something to look forward to on the weekends.”
This year marked the second year Santa Clara Law observed the annual tradition of the Breaking Bread dinner, a meal shared by all at Convocation. In addition to sharing food, students spoke with faculty, staff, and alumni in attendance. Fr. Robert Scholla, S.J., lecturer in the SCU religious studies department, blessed the evening and the meal in the school’s Jesuit, Catholic tradition.