Brooklyn Law School’s students are often in the limelight for their accomplishments. Among the latest to draw accolades are Leanne Welds ’14 and Elizabeth Geddes ’15, who have won prominent scholarships and national visibility, respectively.
Leanne Welds ’14 was recently awarded the New York Bar Foundation’s Real Property Law Section Lorraine Power Tharp Scholarship, created in honor of the community leader, attorney, and former president of the New York State Bar Association. The $1,500 scholarship is awarded to a second- or third-year law student who best exemplifies the core values important to Ms. Tharp: academic excellence, a demonstrated interest in public service, high integrity, and an interest in real property law.
A member of Professor David Reiss’ Community Development Clinic, Welds’ interest in real estate and affordable housing began during an externship during her second year with Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit that provides expertise for affordable housing and sustainable communities. During her second semester, she externed at Tempo Networks, a local Caribbean television station, where she became interested in transactional work. She combined both sets of skills as a summer associate at Simpson, Thatcher & Bartlett, where as part of the real estate group she worked on a multibillion dollar real estate acquisition. Welds will return to Simpson Thatcher in the fall as an associate in the real estate group.
A musician and singer by training, Welds is a native of Kingston, Jamaica. She studied music at Pomona College, where she was recognized by the faculty with the William G. Blanchard Memorial Prize in Music and performed at the 20th and 21st Century Chamber Music workshop with soprano Lucy Shelton. She was a member of the Pomona College Choir and the Pomona College Glee Club. Channeling her inner Ella Fitzgerald, she was also a singer in the Pomona College Jazz Band.
During college, Welds found herself increasingly drawn to issues of social justice. Whether through her class on International Law and the Use of Force, Race in the US Economy, or Native American Literature, the mission of the law was making its imprint. “I was fascinated by the idea of how rules govern society and how society determines the rules,” she said. “As I continue to develop my career, I hope to have a hand in both affordable housing and private real estate transactional work.”
In addition to her scholarship, Welds will be a guest member of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA)’s Real Property Law Section during the 2014 calendar year. She will also be invited to attend Executive Committee meetings of the NYSBA Real Property Law Section during the 2014 calendar year.
“It isn't surprising that Leanne was selected for this honor,” said Professor David Reiss of the Community Development Clinic (DCD). “As a student in the CDC, her passion for real estate law was complemented by hard work, sound legal judgment, and serious intellectual firepower. She is a pleasure to supervise and teach.”
* * *
Elizabeth Geddes ’15 was a winner of the October 2013 National Law Review Law Student Writing Competition. She received second place for her article, “The H-1B Visa Program: Its Contradictory Perception and Why the U.S. Must Increase the Visa Cap.”
The H-1B visa is a temporary work visa for non-immigrant workers in a specialty occupation and requires a higher degree or its equivalent. This visa program is arguably the most important temporary work visa, and has been simultaneously portrayed as both as the means to a more competitive American workforce, and as a device for usurping high-skill jobs and competitive pay from “native-born” American workers. In her article, Geddes addresses these two contradicting perceptions in order to ultimately show that the H-1B visa is a positive and necessary program that needs to be fully understood and promoted.
“We have to raise the cap because we are stalling our progress as a nation,” said Geddes. “The common misperception is that these visas are taking American jobs. But for every job that is filled that creates two and a half more jobs. Companies like Microsoft have over 6000 jobs open today. It’s not that they don’t want to hire citizens; it’s that our citizens are not qualified. We are lacking in qualified science technology engineering and math (STEM) candidates. We are making it harder for qualified people to come here and harder for them to stay, and that stalls progress and puts our country behind the curve.”
A University of Virginia graduate, Geddes first became interested in the topic while working as a recruiting manager at a technologies company after college. She found that the majority of highly skilled STEM candidates were consistently burdened by the H-1B visa program. After five years in IT recruiting, she decided to address the issue by pursuing a legal career and becoming an immigration lawyer.
At the Law School, Geddes is President of the Immigration Society, Secretary of the SBA, and a member of the Moot Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Team and the Immigration Court Observation Project. This past summer she worked as a legal intern at the International Rescue Committee, where she filed applications for adjustment of status for refugee and asylee clients, and also helped conduct outreach to refugees and other immigrants. She is currently a part of the Safe Harbor Clinic, and next summer she will be an associate at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewy, LLP, one of the country’s leading immigration firms.