Winding Up At William & Mary: Reflections from a Graduating 3L

B WillisBy Blake Willis, Class of 2018

The Class of 2018 graduated in May, and after having several weeks to reflect on the past three years, I’m finding it hard to sum them up in a simple blog post. William & Mary Law School is a special place – there is no doubting that; however, to try and describe the experience here probably would not give it full justice. As the oldest law school in the nation, it seems obvious to mention the history and tradition the school bolsters; the outstanding faculty; the internship and externship opportunities; or the incredible alumni base of which our students have access. However, as someone who has both read and contributed to the Get Wythe It! blog in the past, I know these topics get plenty of attention.

Rather, it is more accurate for someone like me – a recent graduate – to describe what made my three years here memorable and special. In truth, the best parts of the Law School differ for each person.

From the day you decide to attend William & Mary Law School, you will be welcomed into the community by current students, alumni, faculty and staff. The message is always consistent – what an amazing place this law school is. You would think with a message like that, people would be exaggerating, but the funny thing is the message is entirely founded in the realities that make up the School. You hear about internships and externships; the outstanding alumni who come to speak at the school, sponsor conferences, and host mock interviews each year; the competition teams and numerous student organizations; the first-rate faculty and staff. Truthfully, these words do not fully describe all that is William & Mary or what the School offers its students. 

Willis Grad 2018 0083Law school, like so many other things in life, can be whatever you make it. William & Mary is so special because its students are encouraged to pursue their goals, follow their passions, and explore their curiosities. The School, in short, is a community. For many students entering their first year, they know exactly what it is they want to do, what type of practice they want to pursue, the kind of lawyer they want to be; for many others, law school is a blank slate – where they can find their passions and discover something new. I was somewhere in the middle. I knew I wanted to work in private practice, preferably, litigating; however, I did not know what or where I wanted to be. So, in essence, William & Mary was perfect. The community – students, alumni, and faculty – provided the perfect support system and breeding ground of ideas and opportunities, allowing me to discover something that peaked my interest. That interest came in my 2L year when I took classes on Land Use Regulations and Property Regulation. I was fascinated and knew this was the area of law I wanted to pursue. I began working with alumni and faculty to determine a career path and what steps I should take to achieve this goal. The path was not always easy – I was entering a particular field, with little applicable experience or background and I met challenges along the way. However, with the help of my friends at William & Mary and an amazing network of alumni around the country, I found internships, externships, and volunteer opportunities to help me get there. In the end, I was able to land my dream job with a small property rights firm in Norfolk where I will begin working in September, 2018.

This was my path; for some it was easier and some harder. However, with the community support at William & Mary, and a range of career, volunteer and student organization opportunities available at your fingertips, everyone here has a wonderful opportunity to become a leader, find their passions, and discover their path.

Not only does the Law School community recognize and support this ideal, they do an outstanding job of acknowledging student success. Graduation Weekend is just one example. Over the course of a weekend in mid-May, the school, the students, and their families gather to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of the graduates over the past three years. Students are recognized for achievement not only in academics, but also for service to their communities (within the Law School and the Williamsburg area); for their volunteer work; for representing the Law School on competition teams; and for becoming leaders. It is truly a sight to behold. Over the course of our graduation weekend, the parent of one of my classmates remarked to me: “Wow, your class really is quite impressive.” It is true, we are. But we are in very good company at William & Mary.

WM Law Grad 2018 0157So what can I say to someone about to enter law school, or a prospective law student? I would offer only this: attend a school that will support you and where you feel comfortable. Seek out a school that will offer you opportunities not only to learn how to be a lawyer and succeed both academically and professionally, but that will also encourage you to grow as a person. You will be better for it – I know I am.