Exploring Law and Justice: My Jurisprudence Learning Community Journey to Richmond

A group of students sit and stand behind a wooden dais and in front of a red curtain and two large pillars.
Members of the Schar School Jurisprudence Learning Community visit the Virginia Supreme Court.

As a student in the Schar School of Policy and Government Jurisprudence Learning Community (JPLC), I have had access to enriching resources and opportunities in and out of the classroom since day one. The JPLC is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors interested in law—those exploring how the law pertains to their chosen career path in public administration, policy, or politics, and those hoping to pursue law school after graduation. 

One out-of-class experience took place in February 2024, when we traveled to Richmond, the capital of Virginia. Led by JPLC Director Shea Holman, we got first-hand experience of the American legal system and expanded our interest in law.

Starting off at the University of Richmond School of Law, we dove into the atmosphere of law and justice on the Spiders’ vibrant campus. We enjoyed an informative and interactive presentation from admissions, took an insightful tour around campus, and ate a tasty lunch. We also heard from current students and it was helpful to learn about the challenges and successes they have encountered while on the path to their dream law career.

One of the most memorable parts of the trip was meeting U.S. District Court Judge M. Hannah Lauck. It was a unique opportunity not only to speak with her, but to visit her chambers and meet her law clerks, who were all incredibly welcoming. We heard impressive stories from Judge Lauck’s 20-year career, received priceless advice, and had our questions answered. I was particularly impressed by the family bond evident on Judge Lauck’s team. They stay in touch years after their clerkships and are always willing to help each other. Overall, Judge Lauck has surrounded herself with supportive and reliable people who we found inspiring.

The first day came to an end with an awesome bonding experience with my fellow classmates in the JPLC at an Irish pub in historic downtown Richmond. Learning communities have given me an opportunity to connect with like-minded students and make meaningful friendships in classrooms and beyond. (As a first-year student, I was a member of the Democracy Lab, in which students engage with the issues that define the journey of democracy in the United States and around the world.)

Despite heavy rain, the second day of the field trip was filled with highlights. We started off with a visit to the Valentine First Freedom Center, where we were able to explore the history of religious freedom in the United States in the spot where the Virginia General Assembly ratified the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom written by Thomas Jefferson.

Following that, our group went on a nice walk in downtown Richmond and ended up at the Executive Mansion—which had never been a part of our plan. This impromptu visit to the governor’s home was a fascinating experience as we had a chance to look at the artwork encompassing a vast amount of history and culture of the state of Virginia.

The next stop took place in, surprisingly, a former bank. Walking through the revolving doors, we entered the Supreme Court of Virginia, where we explored the highest institution of the state’s judicial system. The main highlight for me was the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of sitting in the Supreme Court Justice’s seat and feeling the weight of power that comes with it.

With JPLC, you just can’t get enough of cool opportunities; there are always more to experience. Our trip continued at the Virginia’s General Assembly, where we met Schar School alumnus Senator Saddam Salim and attended a hearing. Following the tour of the General Assembly, the trip came to an end, leaving me with an even bigger passion to pursue a successful legal career in the future.