Ringing in the New Year with Law Week

Emily Stanley

by Emily Stanley, Class of 2020

For me, starting law school was a lot like being immersed in a new culture and new language. I personally had almost no knowledge of the law when I came to William & Mary, so everything was new to me. Just a few months ago, I was Googling the definition of “torts,” emailing friends who were already in law school with frantic questions, and worrying about whether I’d be able to remember the difference between the plaintiff and the defendant when discussing cases in class. Now, I’m reading several criminal and tort cases each day and comfortably debating them with classmates. This transition has been hard, but it was made easier by William & Mary’s fabulous first week program for 1Ls, called Law Week.

One of the main reasons I chose to attend William & Mary Law was the collegial and supportive community. However, I didn’t realize the full extent of it until I arrived in Williamsburg. I went to a small, community-oriented college for undergrad, and I was excited to have a similarly close-knit experience in law school. In the weeks before Law Week, incoming students organized a number of social activities via our Class of 2020 Facebook page to get to know each other before classes began. The Saturday before our first day of Law Week, a large group of us got together in downtown Williamsburg. I was so impressed by how friendly everyone was and by how excited my classmates were to meet each other!

By Monday, I already knew a few people in my class and had even made a couple of friends. We were asked to wear business attire on the first day so that we could take professional group photos, and I was initially nervous and uncomfortable in my new suit, which I’d had to purchase for the occasion. When I put on the suit that morning I felt a bit like I was wearing a costume. However, as the day went on, I started to feel more comfortable in the traditional garb of the lawyering profession. Several faculty and student leaders welcomed us to William & Mary and to the legal profession in general, and it began to sink in that this was our first day on our journey to becoming lawyers. From then on (although I thankfully got to change back into more casual clothes), each Law Week session provided me with information that helped me feel more at ease with the transition.

Law Week was a whirlwind of activity. We participated in many academic activities, such as a case briefing workshop and our very first Torts class. We also met several of our professors and Dean Douglas, who gave us terrific Class of 2020 baseball caps.First Day of Law Week The Office of Career Services gave us an introduction to navigating our career paths, and a panel of alumni spoke about their own career trajectories. There were also more social activities, like an ice cream social and a student activities fair.

At night, there were more built-in optional activities to help facilitate socializing and acclimatizing to our new community. Different student organizations, like the Public Service Fund and Honor Council, hosted events around town. One of my favorite of these was a walking tour of Colonial Williamsburg, organized by the George Wythe Society. At the culmination of the tour, Dean Douglas delivered a lecture in the Great Hall of the Wren Building, the oldest standing college building in the United States. Wren Building Bell1He then informed us that we were starting a new tradition of ringing the bell in the Wren Building to ring in our first week of school. Then, at graduation, we would each get to ring the bell for a second time, bookending our law school experience.

After the official Law Week activities were over, some of us ended the week with a trip to Virginia Beach on Saturday, which members of the class organized on the Facebook page, inviting anyone who wished to come. We enjoyed a last day of summer vacation bonding in the sun together. Then, it was home to start studying up for our first week of classes!

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