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CLASS OF 1978
Along her varied career path in law, Avarita L. Hanson has found a home in academe. In 2000, she joined the John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, where she is associate dean for academic affairs, associate professor of law, and chief academic officer for the JD program. She teaches trial and appellate advocacy, juvenile law, and client interviewing and counseling.
Hanson brings a wealth of experience to academia; she worked for a large law firm, started her own private practice, and held public service positions. She also brings the particular knowledge and understanding of being first in a field.
As a student at Penn Law, she was among the first female students of color. She was active in the Black American Law Student Association (now the Black Law Student Association), and had the opportunity to meet revered African American attorneys like Sadie T.M. Alexander, Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, and Ralph Smith. “That was the beauty of it,” she recalls, “the connections we had among alumni and other attorneys of color in the Philadelphia community.”
As a newly minted graduate of Penn Law in the 1970s, Hanson found herself in the first generation of female attorneys who, she says, “wanted to have it all.” The large firm she joined after graduation proved “unaccepting” of female lawyers who wanted both a career and a family, so she opened her own small private practice in her adopted state of Georgia. She enjoyed the autonomy, but was then enticed to become the Pro Bono Director for the State Bar of Georgia, Clerk to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, executive director for the Examining Boards Division of the Georgia Secretary of State, and a part-time Fulton County Juvenile Court Judge. In the 1980s, she hosted“Legally Speaking,” a public television program aimed at bringing legal knowledge to the general public and featuring female lawyers and lawyers of color.
Hanson remains an active supporter of the Black Law Student Association at Penn Law and the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys.
Early in his career, Richard P. Schifter specialized in bankruptcy law and corporate restructuring. Today he is a respected specialist in private equity investing.
After a one-year clerkship with the Hon. Max Rosenn of the U.S. Court of Appeals Third Circuit, Schifter joined Arnold & Porter’s Washington, D.C., office and was named partner in 1986. In 1994, he moved to the Washington, D.C., office of the Texas Pacific Group, a Fort Worth private equity firm that invests capital in and sells established businesses. He finds the private equity business exciting, though the triumphs are more measured. “Litigation provides clearer victories and defeats,” he says, “while in business, it’s often a matter of degree.”
Penn Law, he says, taught him to “think logically.” He recalls civil procedure with the legendary A. Leo Levin, the Leon Meltzer Professor of Law Emeritus, as his favorite memory of his years at the Law School. Perhaps inspired by his classes with Levin, Schifter enjoys teaching and has conducted business seminars at the Georgetown University School of Business and the Harvard Business School.
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