Mark Epley- General Counsel to Paul Ryan

newtonby Dakota Newton, Class of 2018

Williamsburg may be a small town, but William & Mary Law has no difficulty attracting excellent guest speakers. This is one of my favorite aspects of law school and on Thursday, January 28th, we had the privilege of hearing from Mr. Mark Epley.

Mr. Epley currently works on the Hill as the General Counsel to Mr. Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House. He handles a wide variety of tasks for the Speaker and his daily agenda includes tasks such as briefing the Speaker on current legal issues, organizing strategy meetings, and negotiating with the staff of other Representatives to build support for proposed legislation. A busy schedule to be sure, but an immensely rewarding one as Mr. Epley gets to experience the political process at the highest level. As you can imagine, Mr. Epley worked very hard during his career to get to where he is now and he was kind enough to share some advice on achieving success. I would like to pass along two pieces of that advice.

Mark-EpleyThe first piece of advice was to stay properly oriented. Lawyers often lead a privileged lifestyle, but we exist to serve the needs of our clients. When Mr. Epley was being sworn in as a new lawyer after passing the bar exam a Justice from the Virginia Supreme Court told him that the law was a unique profession because lawyers carry the burdens of their clients. Our job is to help in times of need. So long as you can remember to orient yourself towards the client then you will develop relationships of trust and achieve true success as a lawyer.

The second piece of advice was to always remain a student. We spend three years in law school, but it takes a lifetime to obtain a legal education. It will be tempting to turn off after graduation and focus on just gaining practical experience in our chosen practice field, but that is a waste of an opportunity. Mr. Epley related a story about one of his first jobs in private practice where he had a supervising partner who was an expert in legal ethics. Even though the cases they worked together did not deal with legal ethics, Mr. Epley took the opportunity to learn what he could about that subject. That knowledge came in handy later when he found a very desirable job with a federal agency that listed knowledge of legal ethics as a requirement. If Mr. Epley had not remained a student after law school then he would never had gotten that job and would not be in the job he is in today. So always remain a student, you never know when the knowledge you pick up will come in handy.

So stay oriented and never stop learning. Success is there for the taking so long as you are willing to do the necessary work!

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