FAMU Law Grad Addresses Court of Appeal as a Top Scorer on July Bar Exam

Orlando, Fla. – Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law alumna Denise Cespedes (’13), who grew up in Miami, Florida, addressed the 5th District Court of Appeal’s Oath of Admission Ceremony on Monday, October 7, 2013.  Cespedes joined other speakers with the distinguished recognition of earning one of the highest scores on the July 2013 Florida Bar Exam.  Only five examinees were selected for this honor from over 2,300 examinees that passed the exam.

The ceremony took place at 2 p.m. at the 5th District Court of Appeal at 300 S. Beach Street, Daytona Beach, Florida.

“It is a proud moment for a law school dean to learn that one of your graduates was a top scorer on a Bar exam,” said LeRoy Pernell, FAMU College of Law Dean.  “Ms. Cespedes is one of the reasons why the passage rate of our first-time Bar examinees has improved by nearly 22 percentage points since 2009.  We are very proud of her accomplishment.”

Although she felt confident after taking the Florida Bar exam, Cespedes admits that she felt relieved upon learning she passed.  The relief quickly subsided to excitement about the possibilities for her future as a litigator.  She was shocked to learn she had scored one of the highest scores on the Bar exam.

“I almost asked them to double check,” Cespedes said of receiving one of the highest scores.  “Once the surprise passed, I felt proud and honored by the opportunity to represent my school.  I never expected I would receive such an honor and complete the exam so successfully,” she said.

Cespedes graduated from the FAMU College of Law as the summa cum laude valedictorian of the Spring 2013 class.  She attended the University of Central Florida where she graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. degree in Criminal Justice.  She returned to UCF prior to attending FAMU to earn the M.S. degree in the same field.

“My decision to attend FAMU was based on several reasons,” Cespedes said. “I wanted to stay close to family and after living in Orlando for so many years, I was hesitant about leaving. I visited the campus and loved the diversity and opportunity, and felt like it was an institution I could become a part of and contribute to.  I’m glad I made that decision.”

Cespedes has held an interest in law since she was old enough to understand the role of an attorney.  She grew up watching the television show Law and Order, and noted the poise and portrayal of legal intelligence the actors displayed during courtroom scenes.  She participated in a high school law class that served as the school’s trial by jury for students facing disciplinary action through school code violations.  “I was able to try cases, defend the accused, mediate disputes among students, and preside over trials on the bench,” Cespedes said.  “I loved the atmosphere of advocating for someone, and I knew the law was my passion.  I have not doubted it since.”

While attending the College of Law, Cespedes was selected as a Holland & Knight Scholar, earning the law school’s most prestigious merit scholarship, and an internship at Holland & Knight, LLP.  She was also a student member of the Central Florida Inns of Court and Hispanic American Law Student Association.


Caption: College of Law alumna Denise Cespedes (’13) stands in the Fifth District Court of Appeal Courtroom after addressing the Court as a top scorer on the July 2013 Bar exam. Cespedes was the summa cum laude valedictorian of the Spring 2013 Class. 

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