Washburn Law Has A Top 25 Law Student For Second Year in a Row

­­Photograph: Jake BielenbergFor the second consecutive year, a Washburn University School of Law student has been recognized for being among the top 25 law students in the nation for excelling beyond the classroom. Third-year student Jake Bielenberg is being honored this year, while Joe Pilgrim, '16, was selected in 2016.

Bielenberg was named a Midwest finalist among the nation’s top 25 “Law School Students of the Year" by the National Jurist in its spring 2017 issue. The magazine was looking for the "most devoted 3L students, who has an unparalleled character, a leader with character, who has overcome obstacles."

Despite a difficult and tumultuous childhood, dropping out of high school, and run-ins with the law, Bielenberg was reformed by an inmate — and former Los Angeles gang member — who helped him realize that that it was cool to be smart and successful. Bielenberg obtained his G.E.D.; earned an associate’s and bachelor’s degree in two-and-a-half years (with academic accolades and no financial debt); and was admitted to study at Washburn Law.    

"Jake is a leader and an integral part of the life of the Law School in ways that emphasize both his desire to help others and his excellent academic credentials," wrote Professor Emily Grant in her nomination letter to the National Jurist.

Bielenberg has served as study group leader and a teaching assistant for a 1L legal writing class; worked on the Family Law Quarterly’s student editorial staff; served as a research editor for several faculty members’ scholarly work; currently serves at technical editor of the Washburn Law Journal; and has logged nearly 200 hours of pro bono work with Kansas Legal Services.

Photograph: Joe PilgrimPilgrim was named a top five "National Law Student of the Year" by the National Jurist magazine in its spring 2016 issue. The magazine requested stories of inspirational, devoted students with unparalleled attitudes to be selected for this honor.

Pilgrim, a Navy veteran, was described by faculty as “one in a million." His exceptional understanding of veterans' needs made him instrumental in organizing the Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic. He ramped up student involvement and provided insight into how to approach those who have served in the military. Pilgrim is an associate attorney with Brown and Crouppen, Kansas City, Missouri.