When Chapman University Fowler School of Law graduates log on to take the bar exam online this week, one less thing they’ll have to worry about is where their nourishment is coming from, thanks to the law school’s Bar Lunch Program, which provides each exam taker with a voucher to use anytime during the week of the bar exam. And this time around, they have fellow alumni Ariana Burris (JD ‘09), Jason Burris ‘02 (JD ‘08), and Nathan Camuti (JD ‘14) to thank for their financial support of the program.
“We’re very grateful for the ongoing generosity of our alumni, especially when their gifts have a direct impact on law students and graduates with programs such as the Bar Lunch Program,” said Fowler School of Law Dean Matt Parlow. “They truly believe in what it means to be part of the Chapman Family.”
Ariana—who co-founded the real estate, business, and estate planning law firm Burris Law with her husband, Jason—says helping fund the Bar Lunch Program is important because she’s seen first-hand the effect it has on those graduates taking the bar exam.
“It’s a really nice way to care for the students, and even more so with them taking the bar virtually,” she said. “To me, I’m all about making things easier—anything we can do to take one thing away from them that they don’t have to think about.”
During the October bar exam, a gift from CourtCall CEO and Fowler School of Law Advisory Board member Bob Alvarado made possible the virtual delivery of meals to bar takers. At times when the bar exam is administered in-person, the Bar Lunch Program—supported by contributions from the Fowler School of Law Alumni Advisory Board—provides not only catered lunches, but also the companionship of fellow alumni and law school staff and faculty, including Dean Parlow.
“It’s not just about the school paying for lunch,” said Camuti, founder and managing attorney at intellectual property law firm Camuti Law Group. “It’s about the staff and the alumni showing up there. That’s just such an amazing thing. It’s that extra mile of support. It’s one last icing on the cake of all the time and energy that the school and the students have put into preparing for the bar exam.”
A Culture of Giving
The Burrises have a long history of giving back to both Chapman University overall and the law school specifically in a variety of ways. Ariana served as a Chapman University Alumni Association Board member from 2014 to 2020. Jason is a member (and past president) of the Fowler School of Law Alumni Advisory Board and serves on the law school’s Dean’s Counsel. The couple has also made contributions to the Keck Center for Science and Engineering and the Chapman Fund, and are members of the Charles C. Chapman Legacy Society.
“We set an intention to get involved and stay involved in as many meaningful ways as we can,” Jason said, “with the the end goal of being the go-to within the the community for all things, and in that way, be able to support the students, the staff, the faculty, and the community in any way that we could dream up.”
When it became clear last spring the impact that COVID-19 was going to have on students, economically and otherwise, Ariana and Jason made an additional gift to help offset those burdens, including helping to cover basic expenses such as rent and groceries for students experiencing financial hardships.
“I remember clearly graduating into the economic crisis that started in 2008 and how devastating that was, but I was still able to go to class, see my classmates, and get support from them,” said Ariana. “But in this situation, it felt so devastating for these students who might be very quickly unmoored financially, emotionally, and intellectually. That was the impetus behind making sure we could contribute to the support of those students.”
Seeing fellow alumni like Ariana and Jason give back was partially what inspired Camuti to get more engaged with the Chapman community after he graduated, starting with his selection to the Fowler School of Law Alumni Advisory Board.
“I was very fortunate to be selected to represent the class on the alumni board,” said Camuti, who is also now a member of the Dean’s Counsel. “That was my first step in really being involved with the alumni work. Being on the alumni board is where I met Jason Burris and all of these people who are so successful and generous as alumni that were very encouraging and supportive of me.”
Aside from serving on the Alumni Advisory Board or Dean’s Counsel, Camuti notes that alumni have plenty of other avenues for getting or staying involved in the Chapman community post-graduation.
“It’s really something that I view as a tremendous privilege to be in a position now that I can give back to law students and the alumni network through participating with mock interviews and hiring interns and law clerks when I can,” said Camuti.
A Community Resource
Even beyond formal board positions and volunteering or giving opportunities, Camuti says just staying in touch with other alumni provides terrific benefits and has been a boon to both his personal and professional life.
“Being involved now is about reaching out to attorneys and saying, ‘Hey, can we have a Zoom coffee,’ and trying to build those relationships in other ways,” Camuti said. “Just to be active in the alumni Facebook group gives you visibility. Then people know who you are and what you do. By being active and participating with alumni, it really broadens the referral network that you have. Chapman alumni have a very, very strong loyalty to each other.”
“I love having that resource, the community, that support,” Camuti adds, “but I also realize that for me and other people to have the support, we have to create that community to provide the support.”
In addition, the Burrises said that getting involved with the larger campus community beyond the law school also helped build not only their professional network, but their circle of friends as well. “We have people that we’ve connected with that Jason knew in undergrad,” said Ariana. “It’s just so many different places those people are coming from, building real relationships and real friendships.”
During his remarks on behalf of the Alumni Advisory Board at the virtual Bar Admission Ceremony hosted by the Fowler School of Law in January, Jason reinforced the importance of engagement with the university after graduation.
“Alumni are the backbone of this law school,” he said. “A law school can have the best professors and scholarly publications, beautiful buildings, wealthy donors, and impressive statistics, but the picture’s not complete without engaged alumni who possess a vibrant sense of community and generosity.”
Header image: Jason Burris ’02 (JD ’08) speaks at the Fowler School of Law Bar Admission Ceremony in December 2018.