Nashville School of Law

Nashville School of Law Celebrates the Class of 2024

Nashville School of Law Celebrates the Class of 2024

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On Saturday morning, May 25, Nashville School of Law student Jessica Locke Russell was in Chattanooga getting things ready for her daughter’s spring showcase dance recital.  They would miss the first half of the performance because, as her 9-year-old daughter Isla expressed, Locke-Russell was having her own special recital that day, too.

Isla Russell and her mom and NSL graduate Jessica Locke Russell '24

The two-hour, one-way commute from Chattanooga to Nashville was routine for Locke Russell.  And on this day, she and her family would drive it again for the NSL Graduation Ceremony.

“I kind of like feel like I can do anything.  I feel elated but also emotional because this has been my life.  Although I know what’s next it’s almost like I am not totally ready because this (NSL) is what I have known for the past several years.”

Her fellow classmates shared similar feelings.

“It is very surreal because this has been such a big part of my life and so many accommodations have been made so I could get to this point so it feels a bit strange to be graduating,” said Laura Waynick ’24.

“My dad is an attorney so I will be working with him at Wilson and Haynes in Shelbyville.  It is bittersweet to graduate.  I have met a lot of great classmates here, made a lot of great friends, but I am looking forward to the future. I can’t say enough about NSL. The staff, faculty, – it has been amazing, and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else,” said Austin K. Wilson.

Sixty-nine students received their Juris Doctor degrees during NSL’s 116th Commencement Ceremony at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. 

NSL Class of 2024. Photo credit - Uchida Media Group.

NSL Dean William C. Koch Jr., Aubrey B. Harwell Jr., Chairman of the NSL Board of Trust, and commencement speaker Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge W. Neal McBrayer delivered messages to students, their families, and friends.

In his keynote address, Judge McBrayer provided insight on how our ambitious NSL graduates could become outstanding lawyers.

TN Court of Appeals Judge W. Neal McBrayer delivers keynote address. Photo credit - Uchida Media Group.

“It strikes me that the great attorneys tend to have one thing in common: sharing their skills free of charge where there is a need for legal services,” said Judge McBrayer.

“’Access to Justice’ has become something of a rallying cry within the legal
profession. In courtrooms across this state, there are people who lack the benefit of counsel. But the unmet need exists beyond the courtroom. Because the need varies, you can share your talents in any number of ways. Perhaps you will provide legal advice to a non-profit organization serving your communities. You might assist a person of limited means with applying for benefits or expunging a criminal record. You can even draft a will, power of attorney, or advance directives for a veteran, firefighter, law enforcement officer, or emergency responder. 
Members of this class will enter private practice or government service or work for entities, both for profit and not for profit. In each of those settings, teach yourself where the need is and help to meet it. If you do, in my mind, you will be on your way to being a great attorney. The benefit of helping others goes beyond reputation: it leads to greater happiness.,” McBrayer said.

During the ceremony, Dean Koch recognized several students who received notable awards.

The Dean’s Certificate of Recognition is awarded to graduates completing 50 hours of Pro Bono Service throughout their law school career. This year we recognized Batol Abdullah and Nathan Nicholson.  

Receiving the Dean’s Certificate of Excellence for recording the most pro bono hours in the School’s Pro Bono Service initiative was Nathan Nicholson. 

When receiving their diplomas, the following students obtained membership certificates to the prestigious Cooper’s Inn Honor Society: Kristina Bagwell, Josh Hunter, Brian Hurst, Jordan Long, Ali Sovine, Dakota Vermillion, and Katie Woodard. This is an honor reserved for those in the top 10 % of their graduating class.

This year, Kristina Bagwell won the Founder’s Award for having the highest grade point average.

NSL Director of Recruiting and Alumni Affairs Stacey Angello read the names of each graduate as they crossed the stage to receive their diploma from Dean Koch who conferred the Doctor of Jurisprudence degrees upon the students.

NSL Graduate Ali Sovine '24 shares a farewell message.

After the last student crossed the stage, the Class of 2024’s Ali Sovine was asked to share a farewell message in honor of her classmates.  In her speech, she celebrated the unique and determined qualities of her peers.  She thanked the spouses in attendance who were always present and supportive.  And she gave credit to those who helped prepare our graduates to become future lawyers.

“For 113 years, the Nashville School of Law has taken chances on those people who were never supposed to be lawyers according to society and turning them into some of the best attorneys and jurists this State has seen. Since 1911, The Nashville School of Law has recognized that memorizing legal theory or publishing a law review journal article isn’t what makes a great attorney when it is all said and done: it’s grit, it’s drive, it’s determination. And nobody has more of those qualities than this group sitting before me today,” said Ali Sovine ’24.

In closing, Dean Koch congratulated the NSL Class of 2024 and NSL graduate Josh Hunter ’24 offered this year’s benediction.

NSL graduate Josh Hunter '24 gives benediction.

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