‘Humans of UVA Law’ Wraps Up 5 Years of Storytelling; Relive Some of the Best Entries


‘Humans of UVA Law’ Wraps Up 5 Years of Storytelling; Relive Some of the Best Entries

As “Humans of UVA Law” draws to a close after five years of featuring members of UVA’s School of Law community, the school shares some of its favorite posts and introduces the photographer most recently behind the series.

Often it was a student. At other times, a faculty or staff member, or just someone walking by. Every time, the subject posed for a photo while sharing a personal story, a lesson learned, or something amusing, giving us a glimpse of the people who are a part of the University of Virginia School of Law community.

On Sunday, “Humans of UVA Law” wrapped up with a post featuring a well-known community member (see last entry below), five years to the month after the weekly feature began. Inspired by the photo blog “Humans of New York,” which spawned books and a documentary series, the Law School series launched on Tumblr in July 2014. Nearly 300 people associated with UVA Law in some way have been featured via the school’s social media channels during that time.

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Several staff members in the Communications Office have worked on “Humans” over the years. School of Law communications associate Julia Davis has been interviewing and photographing subjects since August 2017.

“I liked getting to know students,” she said. “Everyone has such a vast array of backgrounds. Someone would start talking during an interview, and they would bring things up that would really surprise me.”

Community members have shared that they were a foster child, a professional singer or dancer, that they ran for office, the difficulty of coming out as gay, their reasons for pursuing a law degree, and why they chose to attend UVA Law.

“People would talk about their relatives, their families, their pasts,” Davis said. “People have shared intimate things about their lives and things that were really important to them. A few people have cried.”

Davis got her own start in photography when she was 4, after she received a book on how to take photos with an accompanying red plastic camera, with lessons led by a teddy bear.

“There were little assignments for you to do to practice – like getting a photo of something close up,” she said. “I don’t really remember a time before when I was taking photos, but I do know that that bear book was my first photography item I owned.”

She eventually graduated to disposable cameras, planning ahead to buy cameras when trips were coming up, or if a snowstorm was in the forecast. She got her first camera, a Polaroid, while in the third grade.

“At that point I was trusted; I took good enough care of all of my disposable cameras,” she said. “I would save up all my money for the Polaroid film. It was essentially a quarter for each shot, so I would have to plan things out very, very carefully.”

She got her first prosumer camera her senior year of high school, and has been traveling, taking photos and upgrading her photo equipment ever since. After joining the Law School Communications Office in May 2017, she became the school’s primary photographer, and even traveled to Nepal with the Human Rights Study Project to log their experiences in photos and video.

“Humans of UVA Law” has been a weekly assignment that she’ll miss.

“I looked forward to meeting a new person every week and learning things I never would have known about them,” she said.

To celebrate the end of the series, the Law School is sharing some of its favorite Humans posts from the past five years. All are available on the tumblr site here.

Seizing an Opportunity

“I started working really, really hard in high school, and my parents didn’t understand it at first. But when I started bringing home straight As, they took a real interest, especially my father. I remember one day when I was 14 or 15 years old, my dad had me Google the top 10 colleges in America. I showed him the list and he said, ‘You’re going to go to one of those.’ That was a really important moment in my life. It just cracked open my whole world.” More

A Hidden Talent

“I typically don’t reveal this, but I’m a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do. I hate real violence, but I have always enjoyed martial arts movies. My son and I trained together for about eight years. One thing I learned from it is that fighting is dangerous – if anything, I avoid physical confrontation all the more now.”

Why Law School?

“My dad graduated from UVA Law in ’99 when I was 7. … He was a quadriplegic and he was hospitalized and became ventilator-dependent when I was 22. I was the primary person responsible for hiring the elder care attorney. I had started to think about law school at the time. The attorney was such a great advocate for my family in this really difficult health care system for people who are aging or at the end of their life. It just confirmed that law school was what I wanted to do.” More

Coming Out

“In between my junior and senior year of college, I came out to my parents as gay. And that didn’t turn out very well. They asked me to leave and figure out everything on my own.

“For a time I had to sleep in my car a little bit. Not that many people know this. I had to lie to the cops, saying I was just traveling through. I studied for the LSAT quite a bit while I was living out of my car.” More

A Collegial Community

 “The second day of Con Law, I’d just driven back to Charlottesville from Northern Virginia … my friend had just had her baby. I had very little sleep and hadn’t done all of the reading. The first cold call was me for 45 minutes of Marbury v. Madison. It was such a great moment of ‘this is the UVA community.’ Right before class I’d asked some people to loosely explain a particular aspect of the case. If not for their help before class, the 45 minutes would have been really painful, but I got through it. It could have been horrific, but it turned out to be one of my favorite moments of last year.”

The Call of the Wild

“I love the outdoors – especially fishing. So if I finished an exam in the morning and the weather was good, I’d grab my fly rod, hop in the car and drive to one of the many gorgeous streams in Shenandoah National Park in hopes of landing some trout. As often as not, I didn’t catch a thing. But just being out on the water and focusing on my casting brought me down from the stress of exam-taking and kept me from second-guessing all of my exam answers.”

The Law of Time Out

“It’s hard to explain to a 2½-year-old in a way that would make sense to her what you do at work [as prosecutors]. So, we told her we put bad people in time out. Now, it’s how she knows it. When people ask her what her parents do, she tells them we put bad people in time out for a long, long time.”

Twins With Personality

“[Our parents] could tell our differences even before we were born – that there were different personalities between the two of us.”

“Yeah, actually, I kicked [him] upside down so he was born breach. And I stole his nutrients so he had to go into intensive care for the first hour of his life.”

Keeping Your Friends

“Make sure you clear up the clouds with your friends. You should have blue skies with your friends. You can fix most mistakes, as long as you have the guts and the honesty to do that, and people will be happy to have you do it.”

First-Generation Hero

“I’m a first-generation college student as well as law school. I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer – I’m going to do the best I can because I’m setting the legacy. … I’m a huge superhero fan. I’m going to channel my inner hero because I’m doing this for the greater good. I want to do public service for the purpose of protecting the public.”

A Chess Mentor

“One day at Dupont Circle, someone came up to me and asked me if I would be willing to talk to young female chess players and encourage them to play. I thought that was a great idea. Soon after, I decided to move to New York and start teaching children. It came to mind though that I should learn to teach chess first! So, I joined Chess NYC. They dispatched me to a few low-income schools and I quickly became the head coach for all those schools. I loved teaching them and watching them learn the many lessons I’ve learned from playing chess (logical reasoning, humility and problem-solving). I did that for a full year before coming here to UVA Law School.” More

A Family in Law

“We were in the same section.”

All My Students

“I was walking through the halls of the Law School with my son a few months ago, and I stopped and chatted with a student. My son said, ‘Is that one of your students?’ and I said, ‘No,’ because I had never taught her. But then I paused and said, ‘Yes.’ My son said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Well, in the past I would have said yes if a particular student had taken a class with me or worked as my research assistant. But as I answered your question, I realized that they are all my students now, and I love that idea.’ I feel a personal responsibility to help them all thrive here in every way they can.”

A Judge in the Family

“My grandmother went to law school at night while she was also working and being a mother. She was actually the first elected female judge in Tennessee. For her, that was always a huge source of pride …

“She decided to run because she was a practicing attorney at a small firm in Nashville. They hung out a shingle and represented anyone who came in.

“One of her clients was before this judge, and the judge was, as my grandmother would say, a ‘male chauvinist pig’ to her and her clients, so she left the courtroom that day and decided she was going to run against him.

“And she did, and she beat him.”

Happy Lawyers

“An experience that always stands out to me was during my last ‘Legal Research and Writing’ class in Fall 2013 with Professor Sarah Ware. At this point, my section had turned in our last assignment, and our attention span was split between thinking about 1L summer jobs, finals, and perhaps the reading for our following ‘Civil Procedure’ class. Professor Ware wrapped up the semester by taking the time to talk to us about being ‘happy lawyers’ – not just happiness, but seeking contentment in the not-so-distant future in whatever position we sought. She provided a great outlook on mapping a path to happiness in a high-stress career, touching on how it can be a reality if we take certain steps now. It definitely affected how I approached my job search in the following semesters, and shaped part of my outlook for my career.”

3-D Charlie

“I had Charlie Goetz for Contracts my first year of law school with my small section. Charlie Goetz was so notorious for giving students Ds that he was known as ‘3-D Charlie.’ So, the upperclassmen were telling us: ‘We feel bad. Because there are only 30 of you in this class, three of you are going to get Ds.’ And everyone was freaking out about how we were going to get Ds. So we all decided that we were going to befriend Professor Goetz in hopes that our friendship would help us avoid getting a D.

“There was a 5K called Race Judicata. And apparently Professor Goetz was some sort of special runner. He made a statement in class. He said, ‘The chances of any of you beating me in this Race Judicata are slim. But you know I have a reputation of being 3-D Charlie. So, I’ll tell you what, if any of you actually do beat me, I will guarantee you will not get a D.’ So, I remember leading up to the race, I went to the gym and trained. I was a cross-country runner in high school, and I was determined I was not going to be one to get a D. So the race came and we were neck-and-neck, he and I, for the last maybe 100 yards. But I was able to sprint past him, and I beat him. It was the most glorious day of my life. I could not believe that I beat him. I was celebrating, my class was celebrating, and he came over and shook my hand. It was a moment of glory for me. That is one memory that I’ll never forget.” More

Lighting the Way

“I’m painting all the light poles here. I painted 212 light poles over at John Paul Jones Arena. It takes a million people to keep things going here.”

A Holiday Surprise

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen?

“A fake Santa.” (lots of giggling)

Lean on Me

“A student said I’m like a bartender here, and I wasn’t sure if that was good, but he said, ‘No, no, it’s good. You hear our sorrows, you ask about our families, which really helps us to feel normal. You also push new candy on us.’”

Building a ‘Great and Good’ Future for UVA

One person whose identity is known to the entire UVA community, UVA President Jim Ryan, closed out the popular “Humans of UVA Law” series with an inspiring submission:

“To build toward the future requires nothing more and nothing less than that we rededicate ourselves to the original, animating purpose of UVA – to serve. If everyone involved with UVA – students, faculty, staff and alumni – understands that this is our ultimate aim and their primary obligation, I have no doubt that we will be the leading public university, and one of the very best overall, in 2030 – and for good reason.”

Photos by Julia Davis, Kimberly Reich, Warren Craghead, Ian Bradshaw, Jack Looney and Mary Wood.

Media Contact

Mary Wood

Chief Communications Officer University of Virginia School of Law