Dane Shikman loves the law. As a boy growing up in San Francisco, he would discuss cases, clients, and strategy with his father, a criminal defense attorney. Not surprisingly, Shikman found his way to George Washington Law to pursue a career in appellate advocacy. And he threw himself into his studies with an unrivaled passion.
“I have always been an inquisitive student,” Shikman tells Tipping The Scales. “But I never expected I would enjoy so much diving into these thick textbooks and trying to figure out what’s right in a given scenario or what a particular rule would mean for the community.” For Shikman, law school is more than a means to a lucrative job. It is a new way to engage with the world around him. “I really do love it,” he adds, “because it is intellectually stimulating and exposes me to issues in the world I would have never otherwise considered.”
LAW SCHOOL PREPARES STUDENTS TO TACKLE AMBIGUITY
And this curiosity, coupled with his hunger and moxie, turned Shikman into one of the country’s best and brightest 3L law students. He was elected by peers to be the editor-in-chief of the George Washington Law Review. He earned internships at the U.S. Department of Justice along with white-shoe firm Quinn Emanuel. Most impressively, Shikman teamed up with classmate Kyle Siinghal to beat out 189 teams and win the 2015 National Moot Court Competition.
In the process, Shikman came to grips with one of the hardest lessons of law school: There are few cut-and-dry answers. “Before law school, I consistently took absolutist positions on most issues…but I am learning now to cast aside false dichotomies of black and white and to discern shades of grey,” Shikman concedes. “Part of my struggle now is to avoid getting lost in the nuances and to stay cognizant of the dictates of common sense.”
DIVERSE GROUP RANGING FROM A WHITE HOUSE INTERN TO AN OPERA SINGER
Shikman is just one of the most promising law school graduates of the year’s Class of 2016. This inaugural feature from Tipping The Scales spotlights those 3Ls who set themselves apart by a combination of their academic performance, extracurricular leadership, personal character, and innate potential. Based on selections by administrators and faculty, this year’s crop of the best includes 29 candidates from 14 top law schools ranging from the University of California-Berkeley to Northwestern University to Duke University. It includes a diverse group of 17 women and 12 men whose common thread is a commitment to service and a hunger to make a difference.
Forget the stereotypes of self-doubting burnouts and anxiety-ridden cutthroats. These future attorneys will assuredly bring a unique and often counter-intuitive blend of personality and experience to courtrooms and boardrooms everywhere. Vanderbilt Law’s Lawrence Crane-Moscowitz is an award-winning opera singer, while the University of Texas’ Hannah Alexander studied ballet for 14 years. Boston College’s Andrea Clavijo spent a summer in college studying French hip hop and rap–in Paris. And William & Mary’s Katie Chounet is known to dress up as her favorite characters at anime conventions.
It doesn’t stop there. Arizona State’s Chase Millea was once Patrick Wilson’s stunt double in a movie called The Switch. The UC-Berkeley’s Misha Tsukerman has authored over 2,600 Yelp reviews. The University of Minnesota’s Amber Kraemer is a former national champion in SASS (Single Action Shooting Society), a competition that entails dressing up in cowboy costumes and using 19th century firearms to compete in timed shooting (a quirky hobby based on famous western stories and movies). And let’s not forget Duke Law’s Seth Pearson. Not only did he intern at the White House where he’d interact with the President and First Lady, but he also auditioned for American Idol, ultimately losing out to a contestant who forgot her lyrics and burst into tears.
CLASS MEMBERS HAVE ALREADY WRITTEN LAWS AND BEEN CITED BY THE SUPREME COURT
This year’s class comes from all corners. They hail from Grand Island, Nebraska, to Istanbul, Turkey, and seemingly everywhere in between. Many of them have even enjoyed successful careers before entering law school. William & Mary’s Kaylee Gum rose to the level of a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force’s JAG Educational Delay Program. Vanderbilt’s Crane-Muscowitz spent four years as an operations analyst at Goldman Sachs. Meghan Claire Hammond, editor-in-chief of the Northwestern University Law Review, left a successful career as a regional commercial manager at Svitzer to enroll at Pritzker. Hammond’s classmate, Jarrett Burks, earned a master’s degree in education and taught with Teach For America for three years before stepping onto the Chicago-area campus. And the University of Washington’s Tomer Vandsburger, another Teach For America veteran, takes great pride in knowing that many of his low income students are now enrolled in top colleges and universities.