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Kavya Mohankumar was a college student in India when she started looking at law schools in the United States. One school in particular, Santa Clara University School of Law, caught her attention. The reason? Mohankumar was attracted to the school’s specialization in intellectual property law as well as its overall international flavor. Mohankumar will need to take advantage of both attributes. Currently a second-year law student at Santa Clara, she plans to work as a lawyer in the United States after she graduates and perhaps later return to practice in India. “There is such a diverse student body. � There are a lot of Indians, Mexicans and Southeast Asians,” she says. Diverse backgrounds fuel thoughtful conversations and classroom debates because “people bring different perceptions” to their interpretations of the law, says Mohankumar. Over the past few years, Santa Clara has crept into the second tier of law schools, coming in 94th place in the most recent rankings published by U.S. News and World Report. The number of applications has also been rising. The school received 2,693 in 2000 and 5,288 this year — for 250 slots. While the law school doesn’t match up with the overall reputation of nearby Stanford Law School and Boalt Hall School of Law, Santa Clara does boast an IP program that consistently ranks among the top 10 in the country. It is also starting to build a reputation in other legal academic fields such as international law. While some students interned at law firms this summer, others from Santa Clara worked at war crimes tribunals in The Hague and Rwanda. The Jesuit school was previously known as a training ground for government lawyers, and a significant percentage of the local judiciary also attended the school. But the school these days is intent on producing lawyers who are as comfortable on an international stage or in a Silicon Valley boardroom as they are in the local courthouse. “Our school has evolved and the program has changed,” says Donald Polden, Santa Clara’s dean who took over leadership of the school in 2003 after serving as dean at the University of Memphis School of Law. “We are definitely heading in the right direction.” Sia Korovilas, a third-year student, says she was drawn to the campus by its reputation in high-tech law. “Usually law schools that acquire a national reputation in one area tend to develop national reputations in more areas,” says Korovilas. “[Santa Clara] has strong future potential in climbing the ranking chart.” Donald Chisum, a patent expert who is also of counsel at Morrison & Foerster, anchors the school’s IP program. Larry Sonsini, the high-profile head of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, sits on the school’s board of directors. Increasingly, Santa Clara graduates are landing at big-name law firms in New York and elsewhere. But Polden insists that Santa Clara has not lost sight of its history as a California law school and that it continues to stock the local legal community. With its broad focus, the school has attracted students that bring a wide range of backgrounds and interests to their legal studies. Almost half of the new applicants are members of minority groups. Unlike many other Bay Area law schools, Santa Clara holds night classes, making it easier to accommodate those trying to juggle jobs, families or both. It also tries to recruit students with interests other than making partner somewhere before they’re 35. David Wong, a 2004 graduate, chose Santa Clara so that he could be close to his family while also pursuing his musical interests. During his second year of law school, Wong was selected to teach a master piano class at California’s Humboldt State University. He also performed at Santa Clara. “Not only did I receive a great legal education,” says Wong, “but I also made tremendous progress as a pianist.” Justin Norton is a San Jose-based reporter at The Recorder.

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