Santa Clara Law Honors Outstanding Graduates

Each spring, Santa Clara Law selects three members of the graduating class for special recognition in honor of their academic achievements, service, and leadership. “The selection was truly difficult this year because the Class of 2019 boasts many outstanding leaders who have not only excelled in their individual studies but added so much to our community with their concern for others,” said Dean Lisa Kloppenberg at the reception honoring the students on May 17. Meet this year’s honorees below.

Ariel Keller JD ’19 received the John B. Bates, Jr. Dispute Resolution Award. Established in 2017 by John Bates JD ’74 and his wife, Deni, this award is given in recognition of the student’s coursework, publications, performance, and service related to the field of dispute resolution.

Keller graduated magna cum laude from Santa Clara Law and earned a certificate in International Law with an international business specialization. In 2012, she earned a bachelor’s of science degree in accounting with a minor in political science from Santa Clara University. While in law school, Keller was very involved in student activities, including serving as the judicial recruitment chair for the Honors Moot Court Internal Board, a team member of the ABA Mediation Competition, president of the Tax and Estate Planning Society, and co-treasurer of the Santa Clara Law Student Bar Association, among others. While in law school, she interned at PricewaterhouseCoopers, at Santa Clara County Court with Hon. Vanessa Zecher, and she was a volunteer in family law at the Pro Bono Project in San Jose.

She received many awards while in law school including an Emery Scholarship for all three years, a bronze certificate for pro bono recognition, a Witkin Award for Negotiation, and she was a quarter finalist in the Honors Moot Court Internal.

“Ariel is among the most outstanding mediation students I have encountered in my law school teaching experience (8 years at Santa Clara and 10 years at Stanford),” wrote Dana Curtis JD ’87, lecturer at Santa Clara Law, in her nomination letter. “She was extraordinarily well prepared for every assignment. She consistently demonstrated in class discussion, role plays and written assignments that she had read and internalized both the required and recommended readings. She eagerly accepted and applied ‘stretching’ feedback in role plays. She was supportive of her role play partners, offering insightful, constructive feedback. Her written assignments demonstrated not only a spirit of inquiry into dispute resolution but also a high level of self-awareness in reflecting on her roles as lawyer and mediator.”

Curtis also lauded Keller’s work in the ABA Mediation Competition. “Ariel brought this same enthusiasm, dedication, intellectual ability, grasp of the fundamental principles of dispute resolution and emotional intelligence to the ABA competition. She went beyond what was required, requesting extra practice sessions, preparing ‘Representation Plans’ or visual aids for most practice sessions, though not required to do so, and following up with re-writes that incorporated written feedback. Both in class and during the competition, Ariel collaborated with her classmates/team members and actively supported their learning. She was a great team member.”

“I am very grateful for the people I met during my time in law school,” says Keller. “Santa Clara Law has great professors and alumni who generously give their time and share their experiences.” Keller says it is difficult to choose her favorite Law School class, adding that she especially enjoyed Mediation with Professor Dana Curtis. “She taught us skills that expand beyond the practice of law and can be used in all aspects of life,” said Keller.

After graduation, Keller will join the corporate group at Hogan Lovells in Menlo Park.

Maria Palomares Sanchez JD ’19 received the Dean’s Outstanding Student Leadership Award. This honor is given to the student in each graduating class who exemplifies the Santa Clara Law motto of “Lawyers Who Lead,” and has served other students, the school, and the community.

Sanchez earned her bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, in criminal justice with a legal studies concentration from California State University, Stanislaus.

As a law student, Sanchez was involved in many organizations, including the La Raza Law Student Association, serving as secretary in her 2L year and as co-president in her 3L year; the Immigration Law Society, where she served as co-president; the Criminal Law Society, where she was co-vice president; and as a competitor on the Internal Trial Team. She also served as a Santa Clara Law Admissions Tour Guide and a SCU Campus Ministry Graduate Assistant.

While in law school, she also worked as a law clerk at Berliner Cohen, Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, and the Santa Clara Office of County Counsel, and she attended the Contra Costa County Prosecutor Academy.

Sanchez received several honors while in law school, including the Dean’s Scholarship (2017-18), a Witkins Award for Immigration Law, a Bay Area Minority Students Clerkship Program Fellowship, and she was a quarter finalist in the Honors Moot Court Internal.

In his letter nominating Maria, fellow student Osvaldo Otamendi praised Maria as a powerful mentor to younger students. “She would frequently go out of her way to ensure that we 1Ls would be best prepared for our classes by teaching us how to outline, giving us tips for classes based on the professors we had, and most importantly she would check in on us and make sure we were using our time wisely, and be there if we needed someone to talk to,” he wrote.

“It is difficult to find someone who works harder than Maria,” he continued. “Those of us who have the privilege to be her friend are constantly astounded by all the things she does for her school and for her community. She gets to events early, ensures that things are running smoothly, stays to clean up, and ensures that everyone gets home safely, particularly when events go late into the night. Maria is a selfless human being that gives of herself, just because she believes it is the right thing to do. She understands the level of privilege it takes to be in law school, and has worked amazingly hard just to get here, overcoming difficult obstacles. She is a humble, kind, hard-working giver, and she is going to make an incredible lawyer.”

Sanchez describes her law school experience as “rigorous, demanding, and life changing,” adding “I am grateful for the support and care that Santa Clara offered me. Santa Clara is a community that will welcome you and help you reach your goals. I will always cherish the great relationships that I developed with classmates, staff and faculty.”

Sanchez points to Immigration Law as her favorite law school class. “I enjoyed learning about the complexities of the American immigration system, from its evolution to how it intersects with other areas of the law like constitutional and state and federal criminal laws,” she says. “It was especially rewarding to later apply that knowledge in the Immigration Appellate Practice Clinic before the Ninth Circuit.”

After graduation, Sanchez will be an associate in the estate planning, trust, and probate administration department at Berliner Cohen. She also plans to pursue an LL.M. in the future.

Brian Pettis JD ’19 received the Mabie Award for the Outstanding Graduate. This honor is presented annually by the Mabie Family Foundation to the graduating student who best represents in his/her class the type of student Santa Clara Law is most proud to graduate by reason of demonstrated qualities of scholarship, community leadership, and a sense of professional responsibility.

Pettis graduated summa cum laude from Santa Clara Law, earned a High Tech Law Certificate with a specialization in corporate law, and is a member of the Order of the Coif. From 2001-8, Brian Pettis spent 7 years in the Air Force (including 4 years of active duty) as an Airborne Cryptologic Linguist, where he conducted airborne intelligence missions, held a top secret security clearance, and was an airman leader in every training school. He received medals and other commendations for his service. He also worked from 2005-18 as a police detective and field training officer for the San Jose Police Department, where he investigated more than 7,500 complex cases of financial abuse, identity theft, fraud, and burglary.

The first in his family to go to college, Pettis earned his bachelor’s of science degree in global business management, cum laude, in 2012 from Bellevue University, and also earned a certificate in Spanish Linguistics form the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.

During his law school career, Pettis received many awards and scholarships including the Emery Merit Law Scholarship, the William and Inez Mabie Foundation Scholarship, and several Witkin Awards for Academic Excellence. He served as a research assistant to Professor Eric Goldman for all 3 years of law school. As a 2L, he served as vice president of the Law and Business Society at Santa Clara Law. In Summer 2017, he was one of the first two law student interns that Airbnb ever had, and he also served as a summer associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in Palo Alto in 2018.

While in law school, Pettis served as a senior board member of the Veterans Law Society, an officer and a volunteer with the reserve unit of the San Jose Police Department, as a member of the board of directors in his church, and as a team manager and coach for his son’s Little League team.

“As a research assistant, Brian literally changed the course of my scholarship,” wrote Goldman in his letter of recommendation. “In Fall 2016, I was deciding whether or not to write a paper on emojis and the law. I liked the topic, but I wasn’t sure the project had enough substantive payoff to make it worth doing. Brian strongly advocated for doing the paper, and his conviction eventually persuaded me. It was a good call. My work on emojis and the law has become one of my signature scholarly projects, generating attention throughout the world. I owe it all to him for convincing me to do it,” wrote Goldman.

“As a law student, Brian is the complete package,” Goldman added. “He has dazzled me with his intellectual capacity, work ethic, service mindset, and dedication to his community. As a person, he has consistently impressed me with his dedication to his family, his integrity, and his thoughtful, considered judgment. He would make a great elected official, something I’ve suggested to him several times.”

Pettis didn’t have just one favorite class in law school: “I had quite a few,” he says. “I would say that of the ones that I really enjoyed, it was always a combination of factors: great professor, great classmates, and interesting law and cases. Luckily for me, this was the case for almost every class.”

“Without the amazing classmates, professors, support staff, and administrators at Santa Clara Law, I could not have enjoyed this experience or learned as much as I have,” says Pettis. “I’ve always believed that what makes any place great are the people. I chose to come to Santa Clara Law because of these great people and am so happy I chose the right school for me. Attending Santa Clara Law has been a life-changing experience.”

After graduation, Pettis join Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in Palo Alto to work in corporate law.