William & Mary Law School’s Proud History

by Jaime Welch-Donahue

Dave Douglas

Dean Davison M. Douglas, author of “Jefferson’s Vision Fulfilled”

William & Mary Law School has commenced its 231st year, having first opened doors in 1780 at the urging of Thomas Jefferson (Class of 1872).  Though much has changed since William & Mary established the nation’s first law school at the height of the American Revolution, the law school’s mission of training citizen lawyers who seek to serve the greater good remains firmly in place.  We are proud of our story and want to share it.  We want you to know the early training of citizen lawyers and how the philosophy permeates the William & Mary legal education experience today.

  • Law students contributed more than 68,000 hours to community and public service activities in the 2009-10 academic year.
  • Marshall-Wythe awarded $300,000 in summer Public Service Fellowships to 109 rising second- and third-year students in 2010.  These students worked at 91 nonprofit organizations and government agencies in 18 states, the District of Columbia and seven other countries.
  • The Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic is among the newest clinics at the law school and accepted its first clients in 2009.  Law students working under faculty supervision help veterans with their claims for disability benefits while students and faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Psychological Services and Development provide assessment, counseling and referrals to veterans in need of those services.
  •  Through a joint effort of the Election Law Society and Election Law Program, law students trained 66 area college students to work at polling places on November 2 as part of the Tidewater Roots Polling Project.
  • Law students are leading an eight-part series of “Constitutional Conversations” for school-aged children and their parents through May 2011 in a program co-sponsored by the Institute of Bill of Rights Law and the Williamsburg Regional Library.  The program seeks to educate members of the local community about core constitutional principles.
  • William & Mary law students have gone to New Orleans to serve the Katrina damaged area during spring break for four years. Students established a chapter of the national organization, Student Hurricane Network.  Through SHN students were placed in various service opportunities, including helping with manual labor, community organizing, and work in the city’s legal offices.  The last two years W&M students worked in the Gert Town neighborhood. Law student volunteers make a difference for the post-Katrina clean-up and renewal.

We are proud of our unique history and today’s students earning the William & Mary degree!