BLSA’s Food Drive Extrava –CAN—za!

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

On the night of Wednesday, November 18th, 1L students stayed late after class to get work done. Now, this is nothing new; but unlike most nights, the students weren’t working in the library. Instead, they congregated in the Law School lobby to construct their canned food masterpieces for the Black Law Students Association’s Annual Thanksgiving Baskets Food Drive. Every year, sections of first-year students compete against other sections to collect canned goods and fashion them into the most creative, original, and impressive structures they can.

thanksgivingbasket4This year, the 1L class came out in full force to make sculptures that would blow the judges away. Teams drew inspiration from around the world, with one recreating the Berlin Wall, and another constructing the Eiffel Tower in a beautiful tribute to Paris. Others represented holidays: one team made a turkey of color-coordinating cans and another crafted a large cornucopia to celebrate Thanksgiving. Another team created a Christmas display, complete with Christmas lights, a tree, and a festive fireplace. Another team created nearly life-sized replicas of Darth Vader, Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda in a Star Wars-themed exhibit titled “May the Torts be Wythe You.” Students and professors alike were amused by the way this section incorporated their professors as all of the different characters.

During the lunch hour on Thursday, judges walked around and looked over all of the structures, judging based on content (variety of foods, size and volume of the items, etc.) and creativity. They had three awards to bestow, with the grand prize winners receiving a pizza party and the ever-important bragging rights.

The “Most Creative” award went to “Can-dy Land,” a beautifully crafted recreation of the beloved childhood board game. Featuring whimsical locales such as the Chocolate Swamp, Ice Cream Sea, Sundae Summit and CAN-berry Castle, the bright colors and striking design made the display a sweet treat to behold. Not to mention the fact that the team brought in a cotton candy machine to serve cotton candy and create a fully immersive experience.


The grand prize winner, winning awards for both “Best Content” and “Judge’s Choice” was “We Americ-CAN End Hunger.” The impressive sculpture featured a map of the United States constructed of cans and food boxes, complete with a Mississippi River made from the blue tops of mayonnaise jars. On the left of the map stood a five-foot tall replica of the Golden Gate Bridge made of color-coordinating cereal boxes. On the right side was a creative rendition of the Capitol Building. Up against the wall was an American flag made from pasta boxes and red and white soup cans. Boxes of macaroni and cheese spelled out USA as the final touch to give this amazing creation its winning look.


Not only was the competition fun for all involved, but BLSA ultimately collected over 4,600 canned and boxed foods for those in need in the Williamsburg area. In this season of Thanksgiving, it is events like these that make students especially thankful to be a part of the William and Mary Law School family.

My section- "May the Torts be Wythe You"

My section- “May the Torts be Wythe You”

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To see the Law School news story, click here.

Hearing from an Alum in Criminal Law

newtonby Dakota Newton, Class of 2018

One of my favorite things about law school is listening to stories from the practicing attorneys and other speakers that professors and the school invite to campus. All of these people have good stories to tell, but I especially enjoy stories from the people who work in criminal justice. Nothing beats a good murder case, especially when the murderer was never caught.

On October 29, Professor Marcus invited Eddie Nickel, an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney from Richmond and 2007 graduate of the Law School, to talk with a group of 1Ls from his Criminal Law class. Eddie talked about his work as a prosecutor generally, the sort of cases he generally deals with, and how he manages to work through the seventy-plus cases that land on his desk each week (good judgment and long hours, if you are curious). He also discussed the full extent of his involvement as a prosecutor, which extends far beyond what I had ever thought.

Eddie’s job begins with talking to the police officers who are on patrol, so he can understand what challenges they are facing with previous offenders. On top of that, Eddia has a massive caseload, daily court appearances, data collection, recidivism analysis, and policy recommendation. So, if you are an excellent juggler and want to bear the responsibility of keeping the Virginia criminal justice system effective and equitable, then this may be the job for you.

Eddie Nickel

Eddie Nickel

After impressing us with his wide range of skills and prodigious work rate, Eddie settled into the stories, specifically a story of a suspected murderer in Richmond who has successfully evaded multiple convictions over the past quarter century but could be sentenced shortly if Eddie’s office is successful next month.

Overall, it was an excellent experience and a tantalizing glimpse of the careers that are just a few short years away.

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See Eddie’s W&M Valentine’s post from 2011 here.


Professional Skills in the Legal Practice Program

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

One criticism of law schools are that much of the information and subject material learned simply doesn’t translate into the professional arena. Put simply, law school gives you the foundation to become a successful attorney but doesn’t actually provide you with the training necessary to be a practicing attorney.

At William & Mary, the Law School places extraordinary emphasis behind the Legal Practice Program. The program includes legal writing, legal research, and professional skills taught by a practicing attorney. Many attorneys have said that these courses are the most important classes at the school. While I could dedicate 10 blog posts to this program, today I will highlight the professional skills portion of the Legal Research & Writing Program.

The professional skills portion of the program is taught by a practicing attorney and is usually held one night per week. In this course we learn the practical aspects of being an attorney: how to interview clients, how to deliver oral reports to senior attorneys, and how to counsel a client on a legal matters. Although this sounds daunting, personally I think these classes are fun. For the interviews and counseling sessions, we even get to go to our professor’s law office to conduct the interview/report. While many people become nervous before these assignments, most are ungraded, and the professor gives you great feedback, so you can improve for the graded sessions at the end of the semester.

While I am not allowed to reveal the plot lines for any of the interviews (Just in case they are reused next year) I can say that the plots are all fun and informative. My Legal Practice class is actually one of my favorites because I am learning valuable skills from an expert attorney that are applicable in the professional world. Learning how to deal with a client, even if they are trying to push you off topic, is a skill that simply cannot be learned from a book but rather through hours of practice.

Yesterday, I had my last ungraded client counseling session and tomorrow is my graded client interview. Even though it is a graded assignment, based upon the feedback I’ve received in previous sessions, I am confident that I will do great!

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PSF’s Halloween Party

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

On the night of October 31, the halls of William and Mary Law School were filled with ghosts and goblins celebrating All Hallows Eve at the Public Service Fund (PSF) Halloween Party! The annual event raises money to provide stipends for students who take unpaid summer jobs. Not only did law students get to help a worthy cause, but they had a frightfully good time in the process!

Members of PSF transformed the Law School lobby into an inviting party space that was both elegant and eerie. Costumed volunteers served Halloween-themed, while other volunteers tended to the DJ table and made sure the event was a “Thriller.” Twinkling orange lights and cobwebs were draped along the walls, and skeletons dangled from the chandeliers. Even George Wythe and John Marshall got in the spirit, as the faces of their busts were adorned with festive Halloween masks.

Shrieks of delight echoed through the building as students saw their friends dressed in all fashions of ghastly garb. For instance, the characters of the board game “Clue” attended, but even in a building full of law students, no one could figure out “whodunit.” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg made an appearance, wearing her signature gown, bun, and glasses. The Queen of Hearts and Alice and Wonderland were there too, but thankfully, no one lost their head that night. Other attendees included the Avengers, Ghostbusters, Harry Potter, Russel from Up, Dr. Who, and Wonder Woman, among many others. People even showed off their legal humor, with a “Wild Tort” and The Bluebook making appearances as well.

One of the highlights of the night was the “Walk-Off” performed by the group dressed as characters from the movie Zoolander. The two characters strutted their stuff on the dance floor, performing the exact choreography as in the movie, and the audience erupted into uproarious applause. Their moves and costumes earned them the title of “Best Group Costume” in the costume competition. The “Best Individual Costume” award went to the student who dressed as Wolf Law Library’s beloved librarian, Steve. A ghoulishly good time was had by all. It showed that in the end, law school is not all that “scary” after all!

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Keeping Perspective

swinkby Austin Swink, Class of 2017

As final exams are on the horizon, many law students begin to feel more stress. This does not go unnoticed by professors. A professor of mine recently opened class with a conversation about keeping perspective. The professor challenged all of us students to keep the full view of life when engaging in our professional work. As a side note, this professor styles his course around the phrase, “not losing the forest for the trees.” No doubt this motto extends to more than just the subject covered in the coursework. In life it is important to find things outside your profession  to value and pursue. This is a lesson that can be learned in law school, and I encourage prospective students to practice it from the first day of their legal education.

My professor’s comments reminded me of the best advice I heard about law school years ago. A lawyer told me to be sure to maintain mind, body, and soul while in law school. This can mean different things to different people, but there is a kernel of wisdom there that is universal. For me, taking time away from the library and my studies is crucial. If I have the opportunity to take an entire day off from studies, I do. If it’s just an afternoon away, I still take it. Believe me, it will be tempting to rack up the hours in pursuit of that almighty “A” on the final exam, but you will find more success in giving your mind space to think about things unrelated to law school.

With regards to maintaining one’s body, I run. Running may not be everyone’s favorite thing to do, but the general objective should be to get outside and be on your feet. Williamsburg is great for that. There are many trails and parks that are ripe for an afternoon picnic or a morning walk with your favorite coffee or tea.

With respect to maintaining one’s soul, I recommend being involved in the community. While spending time with law school friends is great, dare to find friends who are “locals.” For me, that community is at my church. Regardless of your faith, becoming involved in a local organization can broaden your perspective on your new residence and lead to experiences (meals, volunteering, sightseeing, etc.) that will greatly enrich your law school experience.

William & Mary is a great law school. But one of its most overlooked advantages, is its location. It’s a great place to not “lose the forest for the trees” and to maintain mind, body, and soul while pursing the most rigorous and rewarding academic experience of your life.

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Attend a Classmate’s Wedding

sniderby Abby Snider, Class of 2016

On October 17, I was lucky enough to attend the wedding of my close friend – and law school classmate – Sue Buyrn. I met Sue in the first couple weeks of our 1L year. We quickly bonded because, in addition to the fact she’s a genuinely awesome person, we are both members of the same sorority. Everyone at William & Mary Law knows Sue – she’s a positive, kind, and hilarious presence at the law school, with a wonky sense of humor.

Sue’s now-husband, Matt, proposed during our 2L year. She’s been busy juggling wedding planning and law school since then, which is not an easy feat. Earlier this fall of our 3L year, another close friend and I drove down to Sue’s bachelorette party in Charleston, SC – listening to the wedding playlist most of the way there and back – and spent a fun weekend with Sue’s sisters and high school and college friends. Sue’s wedding was so much fun, a true ode to the beautiful, homey, and fun families both she and Matt have. Being the Type-A planner law student that she is, every detail of her wedding was intricately and perfectly thought out.

In Charleston, SC at Sue’s bachelorette party.

In Charleston, SC at Sue’s bachelorette party.

Making friends like Sue, and getting to share some of life’s most important moments with those friends, is an often overlooked aspect of law school. I’ve developed close friendships here at William & Mary Law. Through the nervousness of 1L year, to surviving difficult classes, studying long hours during finals, and spending hours applying for jobs, your law school friends become some of the people you rely on most. Law school is an intense, crazy experience, and it is difficult for friends and family to truly relate to what you go through during law school. You can’t adequately explain to your high school friends the embarrassment of getting cold-called and having no idea what the answer is. Law school is all-consuming, and as lame as it is, most law students spend a majority of their time talking about law school (we can’t help it!). Sue’s wedding reinforced how amazing my William & Mary Law friends are, and in general, how great the student body is as a whole.

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Fall Formal

pembertonby Shevarma Pemberton, Class of 2018

I have to say, the 2015 Fall Formal was a success! My expectations were blown out of the park. The Student Bar Association (SBA) did an amazing job putting this event together.

My first impression of the event was very telling—when I arrived there was a line full of patrons waiting to enter the venue. In my experience, that is usually a good sign of a successful event. SBA clearly did a great job propagating the event and getting students interested. And the promise of a good event did not go unmet—I was thoroughly satisfied when I overcame the line hurdle and made my way into the party.

Immediately upon entering, I was faced with a wonderful spread of food, which was just what the doctor ordered. While getting my fill, I easily transitioned to the next order of business due to the live show that was underway. “The Right to Bear Arms” band had the crowd going with upbeat selections that were familiar tunes everyone could get down to. I really enjoyed the band’s performance, and it seemed everyone else did too. And the fun did not end with the band’s run. The music continued through the event DJ who really did his thing. The music was great, and the DJ led the dance floor in performing the respective dances to the songs. It was a spectacle and I thoroughly enjoyed the show.

In light of the stresses that we have all been immersed in as 1Ls, it was especially great to stand back and see that fellow classmates were letting lose and having a good time. And on a more personal note, I was happy that I pulled myself away from midterm studies to relax and have a fun night. For me, the event was a great success in more respects than one.

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Office of Career Services Workshops

borkby Emily Bork, Class of 2018

As the leaves continue to change, fall is in full swing here in Williamsburg, which means…it’s time to start thinking about the 1L summer job search!

While this may cause a panic in some students’ minds, our Office of Career Services (OCS) has worked tirelessly to calm our fears and guide us on the path to what will be a summer full of legal experience and excitement. OCS provides a weekly e-mail newsletter to students regarding upcoming employment fairs, seminars, and helpful reminders and application deadlines.

OCS has also created a number of workshops exclusively for 1Ls to teach us the basics of how to explore different legal practice areas and careers. We’ve attended sessions that have taught us how to craft a well-tailored legal resume and the ever-so-important networking skills. OCS has additionally provided each 1L student with our own Career Planning Manual, which provides a detailed roadmap on how to conduct our job search at every step along the way—from assessing our basic interests to exploring careers within our target areas to finally launching our 1L summer job applications after we return from winter break.

OCS provides a series of mini-workshops that highlight the important public and private sector employment online databases. These 15-minute mini-seminars are great sources of useful information on how to successfully navigate the plethora of online resources available to students.

We will begin our individual advising sessions with our OCS Deans during the upcoming weeks. I am looking forward to discussing both my short-term goals for this summer as well as my long-term aspirations after graduation and receiving one-on-one advice from my OCS Dean.

W&M OCS is just another reason why I have no doubt that W&M was the perfect choice for me. OCS is very pro-active in providing 1Ls with guidance, direction, and advice as we take the very first steps in our legal career. I can’t wait to see what my 1L summer has in store!

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A Tribute to Our Past: The George Wythe Room in the Wolf Law Library

satiraby John Satira, Class of 2017

After a summer away, I returned to William & Mary Law School this semester and was welcomed by a brand new edition to the Wolf Law Library: The George Wythe Room. To learn more about the George Wythe Room, I sat down and spoke with Ms. Linda K. Tesar, Head of Technical Services and Special Collections, and I got some more information about the newest edition to William & Mary Law School. As a fan of history, museums, and libraries, I appreciated having the opportunity to learn about the Room.

George Wythe Room

George Wythe Room

In 2007, the Wolf Law Library began gathering books for the George Wythe Collection. The special collection was meant to contain books and other documents that are important the legacy of George Wythe. The idea to create a room dedicated to displaying the collection blossomed in 2010, and the Room was completed and opened in August 2015. Why the focus on George Wythe? Not only is he the partial namesake of our law school with its official title as the Marshall-Wythe School of Law, but George Wythe was the first ever professor of law in the United States while he taught as the Professor of Law and Police at William & Mary in the  late 1700s. Wythe is so important, in fact, that along with having his own room, the Wolf Law Library also runs an academic wiki called the Wythepedia that is an online database of all things George Wythe-related.

The George Wythe Room has been modeled off of the Thomas Jefferson Collection in the Library of Congress, which makes the room seem like a modern replication of the type of library Wythe himself would have had. Currently, the Room contains nearly 330 titles and over 650 volumes. You can even check out a digital recreation of the Room here. Due to some of the books being many, many years old, the displays are protected by ultraviolet (UV) glass, special lighting, and a climate control system that keeps the temperature and humidity consistent. The precautions are important for preservation of the historical documents, or as Ms. Tesar puts it, “That’s what rare books like.”

Room 2Aside from books and related documents, other features of the Room have historical significance as well. In particular, the Room contains three notable paintings. The first is one of George Wythe himself, which is displayed prominently in the Room for obvious reasons. There are also two lithograph paintings in the George Wythe Room: one of Thomas Jefferson and one of John Marshall. These two men are among the most notable and nationally prominent of Wythe’s legal students, with Jefferson serving as the third President of the United States and Marshall serving as the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

One of the reasons I chose to attend William & Mary Law School is due to its well-regarded status as a starting point of American legal education. Walking past the George Wythe Room each day helps to remind me of the important legacy William & Mary has, as well as a legacy that I am now a part of.

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1L Review Sessions

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

Welcome to my first 1L blog post! I will be talking about how review sessions work to help combat the number one fear in law school: final exams.

There is no denying the proverbial “elephant in the room;” all doctrinal classes are based on one four-hour exam at the end of the semester. With fast-paced classes and complicated readings, many law students (especially me) are virtually always thinking about the final exam. While many entering students are more nervous about “cold-calling” in class; in reality, the final exam is the overwhelming determinate of your final course grade.

Ok, I know that this doesn’t seem to be a pleasant topic, especially for my first blog post, but this month, I discovered a game-changing resource that W&M offers to 1L students: review sessions conducted by TAs. Every few weeks, TAs will conduct evening review sessions that highlight important course material and hypothetical problems, “hypos,” that mirror exam questions.

These sessions are extremely helpful! The sessions allow you to review material and ask lingering questions about specific legal issues. A few weeks ago, I attended a review session for Criminal Law, and the TA not only reviewed course material, but also shared her techniques for approaching exam questions. I was impressed since TAs must first finish among the top students in the class, and I trusted the advice she gave my classmates and me. These sessions are designed to eliminate some of the uncertainty that plagues first-semester law students.

In that week’s review session, my TA covered a hypothetical fact pattern containing several crimes including murder, accomplice liability, negligence, and their respective defenses. While this might seem overwhelming, the criminals in the fact pattern were actually Disney characters, which added much appreciated humor to the problem. Our TA wrote a step-by-step answer on the board by attributing crimes to each Disney character within the hypo.

I believe these sessions will be immensely helpful when I begin to prepare for final exams. I will be more prepared when studying, and more confident when taking the actual exam. Although I’ve barely scratched the surface of exam prep, these review session have clearly set me in the right direction for being successful. If you attend William & Mary, I would highly recommend attending these sessions.

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Summer at the Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic

swinkby Austin Swink, Class of 2017

This past summer, I worked at The Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at William & Mary Law School. This clinic specializes in providing pro bono legal aid to veterans. The Puller Clinic primarily focuses on the practice areas of disability compensation with the Department of Veterans Affairs and discharge upgrades with the armed services. The clinic’s reputation has grown throughout the legal community and the nation. This is well earned. The clinicians and students at the clinic work very hard to help these deserving veterans.

One of the most exciting developments at the Puller Clinic this summer was the kickoff of Military Mondays. Military Mondays is a partnership with Starbucks in which the Puller Clinic staff hold legal consultation meetings with veterans at a local Starbucks location. The veterans at these meeting make appointments to receive free legal advice regarding their disability compensation claims. More information on Military Mondays can be found here.

I have found the work at the Puller Clinic to be both personally and professionally rewarding. The veterans we work with are not new to the VA claims process. They have often endured rejection, frustration, and confusion. While the men and women at the Department of Veteran Affairs are working to help veterans, the system is in need of reform. That discussion is for another time and place, but the reality veterans face is enough to motivate law students and clinicians to take action.

The first lesson students learn at the Puller Clinic is that the men and women served at the Puller Clinic are not victims. They are hardworking men and women who spent time performing a duty that over nine in ten of us will never personally experience. They sacrificed, and the result was the endurance of the greatest nation on earth and the continued advancement of human freedom in the globe. This is no small accomplishment, and in return we owe them a great debt. That debt can never be repaid. However, by serving our veterans through programs like the Puller Clinic we can do our part to honor their service by serving them.


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