By Kellyn McGee • January 05, 2016•Writers in Residence, Careers, Law School
In August 2012, Savannah Law School opened its doors and began its quest to educate future lawyers in America’s first planned city. The same city that banned lawyers in the original charter (rum and brandy were also prohibited, but I think you’ll find that the famous “Chatham Artillery Punch” has a drop or two of each). Since its opening, the school has welcomed students from across the country (most from outside the southeast), received accolades for its renovation of the historical buildings it occupies, and achieved full accreditation from the American Bar Association in an astonishing two years. Guarded by the 300-year-old Candler Oak, Spanish moss, and ghosts (real and imagined), it is the school where life meets law.
The inaugural class graduated on a warm, sunny morning in May 2015. Kayley Stoner is one of those alumni. She received her bar exam results and was sworn into the Georgia bar in October. Kayley received her Bachelors of Science in Legal Studies with a minor in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida. She’s from Riverview, Florida, but, with family who lived, vacationed, and spent holidays in Savannah, she liked the idea of attending school where she would have a great support system. She was also drawn to the small class sizes and the strong background of the faculty. Kayley began working for a local attorney before she received her bar results and is now an associate in his firm. She decided to remain here because of the network and friendships she developed in the legal community through externships and bar association service. In the blink of an eye (well, maybe not to her), she went from being a new law student in a new city to practicing law in various local counties.
As the school has grown, so have the entering classes. Each class has been predominated by women students – the current 2L class entered with 71% women. The largest class to date entered in the fall. Zandrill Ellis is a member of that class. She is from Atlanta, Georgia and attended Armstrong State University, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She chose to attend college in Savannah because she wanted to experience living in a small town. She grew to love the quaintness of the city and considers it her new home. While searching for law schools, she was excited to learn that Savannah Law had opened and was fully accredited. A stroke of serendipity brought her to Savannah at the right time to join the Class of 2018.
While I’ve served Kayley and Zandrill in my capacity as professor and dean of students, I have a special connection with each of them. I am a founding faculty member at the school, so Kayley and I started this road together. Joining this faculty was my first appointment in academia and it’s been exciting to watch both of us grow in our professions these last few years. I met Zandrill when she was a high school intern at my previous job. I worked for the state’s mandatory bar association and I remember that Zandrill didn’t want to be a lawyer, even though she was a participant in a local bar’s legal internship program. I like to think that taking her to a friend’s courtroom to watch closing arguments in a criminal case worked to change her mind all these years later.
I know that 2016 will bring adventure and challenges and growth to Kayley and Zandrill (and me!). I look forward to following their path this year.