Insight into Legal Practice

by Liz Berry, Class of 2016

The first week of law school is overwhelming. You’re thrown into three doctrinal classes and start learning theories before you even understand what class you’re taking. Negligence say what? Where is Blackacre? It’s a lot to handle. And it seems like being a lawyer isn’t quite what you expected it to be.

Legal PracticeAnd then you hit Legal Practice. Legal Practice was the only real class you had during “Law Camp”- William & Mary Law School’s orientation, and it seemed decent enough. Everyone was put into “Legal Firms”- or sections of around twelve people that would be in all of your classes. The law school even paid for your entire firm to go out to dinner! You’re taught how to brief, how to cite, how to read, how to write a memo. You have one Legal Practice class where you work with a professor on writing, and another class where you practice being an attorney. This is one class that makes sense.

And by the time Week Five hits, you love (or at least somewhat genuinely enjoy) Legal Practice. Sure, it seems like extra work on top of all the reading you have to do for your doctrinal classes, but in Legal Practice, you actually get to be a lawyer. There aren’t any theories or strange Tort cases where people get hit by falling flour barrels (even though I love to read about those weird cases). This is the real world. You are a lawyer.

Almost every week you meet with an adjunct who is a practicing attorney. While you do spend some time in class with the adjunct, most of your time is spent doing simulations and gaining experience in how a lawyer actually behaves. So far, our firm has done presentations to a “senior attorney” regarding a divorce case, and next week we interview a “client” about a very secretive, private, legal situation that I simply can’t disclose on this blog (attorney-client privilege, you understand). Granted, the attorney and client are the adjunct and TA for my firm, but it truly is a simulation that helps you understand how to prepare and work with potential clients and upper-level management. My doctrinal classes are great, but I truly think that having access to a practicing attorney and being able to get live feedback on how you interact in legal situations is an invaluable experience.

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