Each spring, Santa Clara Law selects members of the graduating class for special recognition in honor of their academic achievements, service, and leadership. “We are so proud of our graduating class of 2021, who persevered in their law studies despite the many additional challenges they faced due to the pandemic. We celebrate all the accomplishments of this stellar group. We especially congratulate all of the students who were nominated by faculty and their classmates for special honors in recognition of their leadership, service, and scholarship,” said Anna Han, interim dean of Santa Clara Law.
Ernest “Ernie” Fok J.D. ’21 received the Mabie Award for the Outstanding Graduate. This honor is presented annually by the Mabie Family Foundation in recognition of academic performance, scholarly activities, leadership, and service roles at the Law School and in the community.
Fok, who graduated in the top 10 percent of his class and earned a place on the Dean’s List, earned a bachelor of arts degree from U.C. Berkeley in molecular/cell biology and cognitive science and a master of education degree from Harvard University. At Santa Clara Law, he was the recipient of several scholarships and awards, including the Thomson Reuters Witkin Award for Academic Excellence (Intellectual Property Law), the CALI Excellence for the Future Awards (Tort Law, IP Litigation, and International IP Law), as well as the Simplr Artificial intelligence and Technology Scholarship, the Defense Research Institute Diversity Scholarship, and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Silicon Valley & Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom Joint Scholarship.
While in Law School, Fok held several leadership positions, including serving as co-chair for the High Tech Law Symposium, senior associate for the Journal of International Law, a teaching assistant for Patent Law, mentorship co-chair for the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Silicon Valley, co-president of the SCU chapter of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, and co-president of EQSCU, an educational and support organization for LGBTQIA member of the community. He also served as a full-time judicial extern for Judge Beth Freeman (N.D. Cal) and published a law journal article on artificial intelligence inventorship.
Santa Clara Law Professor Pratheepan Gulasekaram was among those that nominated Fok for this award. “Ernie was an excellent student,” wrote Gulasekram, noting that he also helped his fellow classmates. “He was very delightful to have in class–always prepared, and his responses were deep and insightful.”
Fok says it is tough to pick a favorite class, but he named three that he especially liked because they were interactive: Tort Law with Professor Ochoa, International IP with Professor Chien, and Constitutional Law with Professor Gulasekaram. “Professor Ochoa helped Torts come alive by having students roleplay as plaintiff, defendant, and the judge; Prof. Chien organized simulations of international copyright, patent, and trademark treaty negotiations; and Prof. Gulasekaram would continuously tweak the facts of the case to showcase the nuances of a constitutional analysis,” he says.
Fok says he was surprised by “how much one can grow and transform personally and professionally in three quick years. I came in wanting to explore the intellectual property space, and I’ve left with the experience, connections, and confidence to be a patent litigator in Silicon Valley,” he says.
Fok will be a patent litigation associate at the Silicon Valley office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.
Jessica “Jess” Miers J.D. ’21 received the Dean’s Outstanding Student Leadership Award for exemplifying the Santa Clara Law motto of “Lawyers Who Lead,” and for serving other students, the school, and the community.
Miers earned her bachelor of science degree in applied computer science and software engineering from George Mason University. She is among the first group of 10 students to graduate from Santa Clara Law’s Tech Edge J.D. program, which combines legal, business, and technology education with hands-on skills development and individualized mentorship. “I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the first Tech Edge J.D. cohort,” says Miers. “Three years ago I said that the Tech Edge J.D. is going to revolutionize law school education, and today I absolutely stand by that sentiment. Being part of the first cohort, I had the opportunity to blaze trails for future Tech Edge generations.”
Santa Clara Law Professor Eric Goldman first met Miers in 2017 when she was a prospective student, and he volunteered to be her advisor for the TechEdge JD program. He later asked Miers to be his research assistant, and in that role, Miers reviewed his draft papers and blog posts. The two have co-authored one paper together and are working on two others. Miers also served as a teaching assistant for Goldman in his Internet Law course, which he had to convert to an online course for Fall 2020. “In this role, she reviewed all of my recorded lectures, helped me build the online course page, navigated my technical difficulties, participated in the course’s synchronous sessions, answered student questions (her peers felt more comfortable approaching her than me!), and held office hours and recap sessions,” wrote Goldman in his nomination letter. “Despite the challenges of online teaching, my Fall 2020 students generally had a good experience, thanks to Jess’ support. I don’t know how I would have survived the transition to online teaching without her help.”
“Between her RA and TA work, Jess has played a huge role in my professional accomplishments over the past three years. With her help, I have gotten more work done, and I’ve done it better. I’m proud to call her my student, my advisee, my assistant, my co-author, my colleague, and my friend,” wrote Goldman
During her time in law school, Miers sought out many competitive internships and other professional experiences, including an internship in Twitter’s in-house legal department, a paid intern for a highly regarded DC-based advocacy organization called TechFreedom, a prestigious fellowship at a newly launched Internet Law academic center at UCLA, and a full-time position at Google in its trust and safety department. Miers also published more than 25 articles on Section 230, presented at TEDx SCU, spoke extensively at conferences, at other law schools, and alongside the authors of Section 230, FCC commissioners, and the former director of the NTIA, and she founded the Internet Law Student Organization at SCU, dedicated to educating students about careers in Internet law and tech policy.
Miers accepted an offer to join Google’s Government Affairs and Public Policy team, one of the youngest people ever to join this critical team at Google.
Alexandra “Alex” Sepolen J.D. ’21 received the ALI-CLE Scholarship and Leadership Award, presented to a student who exemplifies exceptional character, leadership, and professionalism.
Sepolen came to Santa Clara Law after earning her Masters of Public Health from Columbia University, where she focused on sociomedical sciences and earned a certificate in health policy and practice. She earned her bachelor’s degree in public health from Brown University.
“My law school career focused heavily on breaking new ground in scholastic and professional settings,” says Sepolen. “I was the first African-American student to chair the school’s Galloway 1L Moot Court program, direct the school’s Honors Moot Court Internal Program, and serve as a captain of the Law School’s trial team. Through these experiences, law school taught me to not only advocate for others but for myself as well. I am incredibly thankful that I was able to spend three years learning how to use my voice and knowledge to serve others,” she says.
“Currently, only five percent of the legal profession is comprised of Black attorneys, while only two percent of attorneys in the United States are Black women. Aware of this trend, I wanted to attend a law school that offered resources and support to Black students,” says Sepolen. “Receiving resources such as peer-to-peer mentorship, advice from attorneys and judges, professional development workshops, and academic support through the law school’s BLSA chapter was instrumental to my success in law school and readiness for the bar exam and legal practice,” she says.
“Some of the most meaningful jobs and lessons I learned in law school came from our alumni,” says Sepolen. “Hana Hardy JD ’04 gave me exposure to local bar associations such as Queen’s Bench Bar Association and the Minority Bar Coalition, as well as Deborah Moss-West JD ’94 to the Santa Clara County Black Lawyers Association. During my 1L summer, I worked at the AIDS Legal Referral Panel with attorneys such as Allison Pruit JD ’96,who gave me opportunities to assist with client consultations. I was able to learn more about litigation and the court system by working as a judicial extern for the Honorable Lori E. Pegg JD ’86. I also worked for Steve Defilippis JD ’84, and he gave me ample opportunities and exposure to motion practice and discovery. I also enjoy working for Bobby Khalajestani, BA ’05, JD ’15, as a law clerk, and he has been a fantastic mentor.”
In his nomination of Sepolen for this award, fellow student Phil Fox wrote “Alex is regularly a top contributor in class, providing valuable insight and encouraging collaboration among students. She has also been active outside of the school in various roles and is incredibly well-liked by her colleagues. She brings new ideas, creativity, and passion to her work inside and outside the classroom….Alex has been a regular force in the community, always reaching out and becoming involved in activities that can help the people around her.”
Sepolen received several awards and scholarships while at Santa Clara Law, including the Law Faculty Scholarship, the Law Alumni Scholarship, and the Fall 2020 Witkin Award for Academic Excellence in Health Law.
OTHER 2021 STUDENT AWARD WINNERS
In May, Santa Clara Law also presented the following awards to law students.
Riccardo Pompeo received the John B. Bates, Jr. Dispute Resolution Award. Established in 2017 by John Bates JD ’74 and his wife, Deni, this award is given in recognition of the student’s coursework, publications, performance, and service related to the field of dispute resolution.
Pompeo is an exchange student from Switzerland, where he recently completed a bachelors in law and economics from the Universitat St. Gallen, where he has two more years of graduation studies in law ahead.
He says he particularly enjoyed his Internet Law class with Professor Eric Goldman. “Besides being just a fun person in general, he is also a thought leader in his field, so I got to learn from the very best,” said Pompeo. “The course covers many different topics (such as Jurisdiction, Contracts, Copyright) and is a great choice for any international students wishing to get a broad overview of U.S. Law.”
He also enjoyed the breadth of experience among his classmates at Santa Clara Law. “I had the chance to talk to biologists, economists, engineers, and philosophers alike. This diversity in educational backgrounds makes for interesting and enriching discussions during and after class,” he says.
“I am also grateful for the professionalism displayed by the faculty members at Santa Clara Law, who were always immensely approachable, responsive, and supportive,” he says. “I had the opportunity to learn a great deal about the U.S. common law system from excellent professors in a short period of time. I felt very welcome from the beginning to the end of my exchange semester.”
Grant Wanderscheid JD ’22 received the Art Gemmell Prize, honoring the best student paper in International Arbitration/Alternative Dispute Resolution, for his paper: Using WIPO as an Arbitration Institution.
Wanderschied earned his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and a master of engineering degree in computer engineering from Iowa State University. He is working as a summer associate for Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.
“I was and continue to be grateful for how much the school and the professors care about the students,” says Wandershied. “The Santa Clara Law administration, staff, and faculty often go above and beyond to ensure the students are mentally comfortable, have good academic resources, and career resources.”
In addition, says Wanderschied, “the professors are very approachable and obviously enjoy their job, which has gone a long way towards advancing my enjoyment of law school. Through these observations, the opportunity for exposure to IP law firms, tech companies, and the general technology-focused environment in the Silicon Valley area, I quickly realized during my very first semester of law school that coming to Santa Clara Law was the best option I could have personally made over the other law schools I was considering for obtaining my J.D. degree.”