Hixon Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership

To be completed in the spring of 2017, the James A. and Robin L. Hixon Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership building will provide an additional 12,000-square-feet to the Law School.

The Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership will serve as headquarters for our clinics and practicum, which give students opportunities to
represent real clients in actual cases. It will also be home to our highly regarded Legal Practice Program. For three semesters,
students gain the writing, oral communication, and professional skills they’ll need to be great lawyers.

Students, faculty, and staff signed their names and left messages of good will for the new wing on the last piece of steel, and this piece of steel was installed on August 18.

building 1

building 2










Visit the construction website to see the latest pictures.

Professor Jay Butler Joins Faculty

by Jaime Welch-Donahue, Blog post reproduced with permission of the Communications Office.

How to Succeed in Law School

ellikerby Kevin Elliker, Class of 2014

How to Succeed in Law School

Treat it like a Job

This month, several thousand aspiring lawyers will enter law school. Unsolicited advice abounds. Does the internet need another blog post on the topic? Probably not. In my experience, however, “need” is not generally a prerequisite for advice. The following comes with two caveats. First, most advice is worth what you pay for it, and my advice comes free. Second, my thoughts are based on my experiences, which are particular to me. Take it or leave it. (Or, if you prefer, caveat emptor).

In August 2011, I moved to the colonial swampland of Williamsburg, Virginia. I’d spent the previous two years working as a high school teacher, and the year before that in graduate school. In other words, I was coming into law school as a putative grown up. At the same time, the excitement and anxiety of that first week in the law school made me feel like a high school freshman trying to figure out the combination to his new locker.

Early in the semester, I frequently heard that I should “treat law school like a job.” Luckily, before I entered the mind-altering experience of legal education, I had endured the life-altering experience of holding a full-time job after college. Still, I wasn’t quite sure what “treat it like a job” meant (Should I pull a 9-to-5 shift in the library every day? Do I need to schedule my lunches into a calendar? What about vacation time?). Looking back, I think I know what that advice means.

Specifically, the approach you would use to be good at a full-time job can be a useful way to make decisions about how to get through law school. I think people who are good at their jobs do five things. (Update: My personal attorney pointed out a vital sixth thing I foolishly overlooked!)

1. Show up.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Ninety-five percent of the work in law school is just showing up.” (Actually he didn’t. As it turns out, TJ didn’t say a lot of things. He did, however, play a vital role in the creation of the oldest law school in America. #TribePride). Simply put, if you don’t show up, you can’t succeed.

Being in “the room where it happens” is the most valuable thing you can do for yourself in law school — assuming that you’re also paying attention while you’re in there. In most classes, you want to learn to think like your professor. That requires you to be in class, go to office hours when you have a question, and attend review sessions when they are offered.

But what if you didn’t do the reading? You should still go to class. But what if you’re going to get cold-called and will look like an idiot? The potential for wounded pride is not a good reason to skip class. The same goes for dropping by office hours to clarify a confusing concept. Plus, most exams are graded anonymously, so your pre-exam shortcomings won’t count against you. Moreover, you’ll soon learn that just because you did the reading doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

2. Do the work.

libraryPerhaps this is obvious, but you should do the work for each class. From time to time, you may end up making decisions about where to focus limited resources (time, energy, consciousness), and that might require skimming a dissent or skipping the notes. You will figure out the right balance. There’s not a creative way to say this, because doing the work is not a creative endeavor. It is what is expected of you if you want to do well.

3. Work hard.

If you think “do the work” is obvious, then “work hard” may also seem self-evident. But this isn’t August or September advice; it’s October and November advice. You’ll soon develop a routine and start to feel comfortable with the daily grind. Don’t let that comfort become complacency. To be clear, I’m not advising you to stay at the library until midnight every night or consider skipping Thanksgiving dinner so you can perfect your Torts outline.

The tough truth, however, is this: as a working adult, the moments when everything on your plate is perfectly balanced will be infrequent. Sorry. The upside is that you are fully capable of prioritizing and compartmentalizing your tasks to focus on what matters at that moment. The best I can say on the subject is the best I’ve been told: keep at it.

4. Do you.

The typical first-year law school experience unfortunately paints the picture that there is a single “right way” to learn the law. This is wrong. (Trust me, I have a graduate degree in teaching that I don’t use anymore). That misconception is furthered by the herd mentality of 1L. To put it politely, what other people do in law school should be white noise to you.

Although you may be taking the same exam as your classmates, and those exams will be graded on a curve, how you choose to prepare for that exam should be a product of who you are as a learner. So feel free to ignore the classmate who touts a meticulously tabbed outline. Don’t feel pressured to join a study group if that’s not your style. You will figure out works best for you.

(That said, don’t reinvent the wheel for the sake of iconoclasm. Many study techniques persist because they work. Try a few and see what sticks for you. Just don’t follow the crowd for the sake of keeping up with the crowd).

5. Take some time off.

During my first fall in law school, a 2L said to me, “You 1Ls don’t understand how much free time you have right now.” I didn’t believe her, given that I felt like I needed to dedicate all my time to reading, eating, and sleeping, and I felt guilty if I did anything else. But then 2L rolled around, and I realized the truth of her observation. Now two years removed from law school, I look back wistfully at being a 1L, and I’m glad I also spent time making friends at law school dances, blowing off steam playing ping pong, and taking long lunches after a stretch of morning classes.

Anybody who is good at their job knows that it’s important to take time off. Moreover, as a law student, you have a flexible schedule. After you graduate, you probably won’t be able to go to the gym in the middle of the day, or take a mid-afternoon nap, or play intramural sports against undergraduates. So take advantage of your ability to do things away from the library. It will not only make you happier day-to-day, but also make it easier to focus on your studies. Recharging your batteries a little bit at a time is vital to making it through the long slog of each semester.

6. Seek Feedback.

After I first posted this article, my brilliant personal attorney (my wife) pointed out a vital sixth thing that people who are good at their jobs do: they seek feedback. Of course! It makes no sense to put your head down and plug away at a job, giving full effort, without checking to make sure that you are on the right track.

As a 1L, meeting with a professor (or even a teaching assistant) can be very intimidating. They’re an expert and you’re a novice. But that’s also the reason why they’re the professor and you’re the student. So go ahead and darken the professor’s doorway during office hours if you need a few minutes of their time to clarify a tricky subject. If your professor gives practice questions or a midterm, don’t be afraid to ask if they’d be willing to go over your answer with you. Such feedback can be invaluable to you as either reassurance that you’re doing the right things or a sign that a course correction is necessary.

All of this probably sounds simple. Good news: it is! But everyone has tough days when they want to quit their job, and law school will be no different. Prior experience navigating those kinds of days helps. Perhaps that’s why the majority of the students who finished at the top of my class had something in common: they held full-time jobs between college and law school.

Reposted from Kevin’s August 18 post on medium.com.

Welcome Class of 2019!

Photo by Colonial Photography

by Elizabeth Cavallari, Senior Assistant Dean for Admission

William & Mary Law School welcomed its newest students on August 15. The 236 members of the J.D. Class of 2019 were selected from a pool of 4,243 applicants, hailing from 38 states, the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands and four different countries (China, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom). Additionally, six students hold dual citizenship with the United States and Canada, Ecuador, Ireland, Panama and the United Kingdom, and one is a dual citizen of Canada and France. The Class of 2019 has a median LSAT of 162, the 85th percentile, and a median undergraduate GPA of 3.75.

In addition to the first-year J.D. candidates, 52 students have joined William & Mary Law School for one year of study in the American Legal System Program as LL.M. degree candidates. These new members of the Law School community are citizens of Cameroon, China, India, Italy, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Russia and Saudi Arabia. The Law School also welcomed one transfer student and two exchange students continuing their legal studies.

“The size and strength of our applicant pool is a tribute to the Law School’s reputation,” said Faye Shealy, Associate Dean for Admission. “Our incoming students are an accomplished group of individuals and aspiring citizen lawyers, and we are truly impressed that these highly qualified individuals seek legal education at William & Mary. We have many reasons to believe they will contribute to the Law School community and legal profession in ways that continue the William & Mary traditions we value so highly.”

The first-year class received undergraduate degrees from 156 different undergraduate colleges and universities, 15 in Virginia and 141 in other locations. The leading undergraduate schools are the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary. There are also three or more members of the Class of 2019 from (listed in alphabetical order) Cornell University, Elon University, Florida State University, George Washington University, North Carolina State University, Pennsylvania State University, Princeton University, Trinity University (Texas), the University of Florida, the University of Maryland–College Park, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Wake Forest University and Washington and Lee University.

first yearsPolitical science, history, international relations, English, economics, psychology and philosophy are the predominant majors studied by 62 percent of the 1L class. Fifty-four members of the class graduated summa cum laude, and 23 have been honored with membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Eighteen members of the class have master’s degrees (one has earned two, and another has earned a master’s and a doctorate) in fields such as art history, construction engineering, economics, education (secondary and special), history, philosophy, public administration, and religion.

Jacob Cain is a First Lieutenant in the United States Army and was last stationed in Anchorage, Alaska. Cain is originally from Oakman, Alabama, and earned a bachelor of science, magna cum laude, majoring in civil engineering from Alabama A&M University and a master of engineering in construction engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His work experience began at NASA in Huntsville, Alabama. “I was responsible with my team in testing all materials that would leave this planet. That includes astronaut underwear to the most advanced computers,” Cain says. “We tested to see how these items would react in different environments in space.” He left NASA to begin a military career where he was the head environmental engineer for the Army in Alaska. “Being responsible for all EPA and OSHA regulations for 8,000 soldiers and 14,000 airman located in Anchorage, I had incredible opportunities to travel the state of Alaska and to visit places only accessible by jumping out of planes.”

He states that he has been “privileged with the opportunity to see the military justice process first hand. Seeing how a Judge Advocate can assist soldiers, commanders and the whole Army motivated me to want to be that person, a Judge Advocate that would help our nation’s Army be even stronger.” He is looking forward to joining the JAG Corps upon graduation from William & Mary Law School in three years.

Cain is one of 12 that have served in the military, and three (including Cain) are attending law school under the auspices of the highly selective Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP).

Thirty-three members of the Class of 2019 have taken advantage of study abroad programs. The most popular locations were England, France, Spain, Italy and China, with the rest of the class studying abroad in 24 other countries. Six speak three languages, and one speaks four languages fluently. Two were Fulbright Scholars.

Dorronda Bordley came to William & Mary Law School from Felton, Delaware, and earned a bachelor of arts degree, magna cum laude, in sociology from Wake Forest University as a first-generation college student. Following her graduation, Bordley traveled to Taitung City, Taiwan, as a Fulbright Scholar under a one-year grant to teach English. “Through games, music and other activities, I tried to inspire my students to celebrate themselves while also embracing diversity as global citizens.”

Bordley then worked at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley through AmeriCorps VISTA. “With a focus on combating poverty, I spent the year creating legal presentations for veterans and service providers on basic civil legal issues such as housing, debt, veterans’ benefits and family law. Through these experiences, both as a Fulbright Scholar and an AmeriCorps member, I learned the importance of bridge building to better communities and have committed myself to serving my community, both globally and locally.”

While at Wake Forest University, Bordley co-directed a gospel choir, was a tutor, and was active in the random acts of kindness group. She is excited to join William & Mary Law’s Class of 2019 because she was “looking for a school that emphasized community lawyering and provided opportunities to advance in the field.”

Like Bordley, her 1L classmates are quite willing to share their talents with others. More than 65 percent of class members have strong experience volunteering and engaging in community service. Three have served as missionaries, and five have participated in alternative break service trips. They have done everything from acting as a captain for a Relay for Life team, volunteering as museum docents, serving as a guardian ad litem, working with Habitat for Humanity, advising a prison entrepreneurship program, serving food at local shelters and soup kitchens, teaching GED classes, working as an EMT or firefighter, raising money for charity through dance marathons, and volunteering at animal shelters. Five students in the class are Eagle Scouts. Several are active in environmental organizations.

Many in the J.D. class found time to get involved in extracurricular activities that demonstrated their leadership skills. Seven members of the class were part of student conduct boards with one as chair. Nineteen were active in student governments, and two served as student body presidents of their undergraduate institutions. Involvement in political organizations was also important for many class members, with 11 participating in College Republicans or College Democrats. Three served as president of their organizations. Thirty-three participated in mock trial, moot court, debate, or Model UN, and nine were captains.

The Class of 2019 took advantage of opportunities to explore their chosen profession as summer interns for law firms, political campaigns, Commonwealth and District Attorneys, the Democratic National Committee, LGBT and transgender law centers, strategy consultants, the Department of Justice, domestic violence organizations, lobbying groups, governors, the foreign service, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, judges (local, state and federal), police departments, probation offices, public relations firms, the Republican National Committee, the White House and state legislatures, among others.

Matthew Sarfan of Hampton, Virginia, graduated from James Madison University in May. He earned a bachelor of arts, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, as a justice studies major with a concentration in crime and criminology. Sarfan spent the summer of 2014 interning at the Newport News Public Defender’s Office and “saw how vital defense is for those who cannot afford counsel.” During the academic year, he was research assistant for New Bridges, an immigrant resource center in Harrisonburg. On campus at JMU, Sarfan was a leader in his fraternity, serving as recruitment chair, judicial board head and recording secretary.

Growing up along the Chesapeake Bay, Sarfan has always known of William & Mary, and he “chose William & Mary because of its dedication to shaping citizen lawyers. I am confident after my three years I will be prepared to use my education to give back to my community.” Additionally, internships “led me in the direction of William & Mary to further my studies and prepare to help clients with the complex legal issues they face.”

Along with Sarfan, 51 have participated in Greek life. Two have served as presidents of their fraternities, two have served as presidents of their sororities, one founded a fraternity on campus, and one was president of the Panhellenic Association. Six students were active with Equality Alliances, and another led the Black Student Alliance. Many members of the class participated in student-led newspapers, political magazines and academic journals. Five members led as editors.

first years 2Twenty-three members of the Class of 2019 were involved in pre-law organizations, with four acting as president or vice president and another three as secretary. Many volunteered on political campaigns, and 37 incoming 1Ls completed research with faculty.

Three were Teach for America Corps members, one was a Peace Corps member, seven were AmeriCorps members, and eight others have teaching experience. Overall, 52 percent of students in the new class have full-time work experience, some as paralegals, legal assistants, policy researchers and legislative aides.

Whitney Nixdorf hails from Blue Springs, Missouri, and has been a high school English teacher and community college English instructor since her graduation from Missouri State University,summa cum laude, with a bachelor of science in education and English. Nixdorf also holds a master of arts degree in curriculum and instruction, with an English emphasis, from the University of Missouri–Kansas City. “I’ve been a teacher for the last eight years,” Nixdorf says, “and I decided to study law because I felt it was time for a new challenge. I always encouraged my students to explore all of their interests and push themselves to be greater. I began to realize that I needed to take my own advice.”

She was incredibly active in her school and local community. Nixdorf advised the National Honor Society and Habitat for Humanity, was the lead developer of a new curriculum, and mentored other teachers for secondary communication arts.

“Knowing that I wasn’t just going to any law school, but William & Mary specifically, made the decision to change my life a lot easier. The beauty and historical significance of the place gives a certain weight to the endeavor. My impression of William & Mary is that people here want students to be successful and to find fulfillment in their work. I have felt genuinely welcomed by the people of Williamsburg, and the faculty, staff and students at William & Mary are warm, bright, and intellectually curious. I am certain that this was the right choice for me, and I am thankful to be a student again.”

Like Whitney, many were involved as mentors and have served as coaches for youth sports teams, big siblings, youth group leaders, Girl Scout troop leaders, peer advisors, teaching assistants, camp counselors, relationship abuse organizations, Special Olympics volunteers, and writing and academic tutors.

The Class of 2019 has been active in intramural and adult recreation sports, with 29 having participated in varsity sports (six were captains). Of these, one played professional baseball, one played professional basketball in Europe, one was a semi-finalist for track in the Olympic trials and holds seven school records, and one was a four-time academic all-American. Others have been involved as members of a cappella groups, choirs, jazz bands, marching bands, theater productions, dance companies and improv comedy groups. Two were choir directors, and others have been music and dance instructors. One founded a student hip hop group, and two play three or more instruments. Several are active in mixed martial arts with two achieving their black belts.

Additionally, the Law School’s LL.M. Program draws students from all over the world to continue their legal studies in Williamsburg. Ruian (Grace) Guo and Satam Alshammeri are two of these students.

Satam Alshammeri received his LL.B. degree in law from Kuwait University. While Alshammeri was raised and educated in Kuwait, he is from Saudi Arabia. He is interested in business and international law and would one day like to own and run his own business. Law is his passion, and Alshammeri “felt that my social skills, passion towards justice and my perception of local laws would help me to excel in my study of law in order to become an acclaimed lawyer, working to ensure that justice is served in my local community.”

Grace Guo joins the LL.M. class from Shanghai, China. She received a LL.B. in international economic law from Shanghai University of Political Science & Law and was an exchange student at Auburn University for a semester and studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic for a summer. Guo is interested in commercial arbitration law. She chose William & Mary “not only because William & Mary is the oldest law school in America but also the uniquely designed study program for LL.M. students where we are able to have the opportunity to study with JD students.”

Reposted from William & Mary Law School news.

Summer Internship with People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty

maryby Mary Pickard, Class of 2018

Mary Pickard is a 2L at William & Mary Law School from Detroit, Michigan. Mary graduated from Spelman College majoring in Political Science with a minor in Spanish.  While attending Spelman, Mary interned with the 6th Circuit Court in Oakland County Michigan and served as a Congressional intern for Congressman John Dingell of Michigan.  During her undergraduate studies, Mary served two terms as a member of the Spelman Student Government Association as Secretary of Academic Affairs and President junior and senior year, respectively.  Additionally, Mary was a member of Phi Alpha Delta pre-law society, Pi Sigma Alpha, a Women of Excellence Scholar, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.  While at William & Mary, Mary has been able to explore her passion for corporate, international, and human rights law.  

Entering law school and quickly beginning the job application process can be an overwhelming experience; however, with the assistance of the Office of Career Services (OCS), searching for an internship became much less daunting.  When I began school, I knew I wanted to work within the international sector, whether domestically or abroad.  I have been interested in international law for several years and understood that in order to work in any international sector, international experience was essential.  I explained these goals to my OCS dean, and she was extremely receptive and helpful with writing cover letters, interview preparation, and informing me about various job opportunities.  As I continued my job search, I was excited to learn about the internship opportunities through Professor Warren’s Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, which would afford me the opportunity to work abroad while broadening my legal training.

passopThis summer, I am a legal intern with PASSOP, People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty, a non-profit organization that works to defend, protect, and ensure the rights of all refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants in South Africa. The range of services PASSOP offers to its clients is incomparable, and because it is a smaller office, I have been able to gain experience in each legal service we provide.  Although writing appeals for asylum seekers and refugees who have been denied refuge in South Africa is the crux of our work, in the time that I have been in Cape Town, I have participated in settlement negotiations, assisted in drafting contractual agreements, met with the Department of Labour for South Africa, contested appeal decisions from the Department of Home Affairs, and handled a variety of employment and housing discrimination cases on behalf of the government and private employers.  The work at PASSOP is endless and a truly remarkable experience as it allows me to practice the skills from a variety of courses including Legal Practice, Property, and Contracts. Additionally, I am able to study and interpret the South African Constitution, the South African Refugee Act of 1998, and the recent High Court decision affecting the status of current and future refugee permit holders.

Moreover, while in Cape Town I have the chance to meet and bond with other outstanding law students.  My friends and I love exploring Cape Town and discovering all of its beauty.  From the vibrant and welcoming people to the variety of delicious cuisines and natural wonders such as Table and Lion’s Head Mountain, Cape Town has afforded me the opportunity to expand my horizons as a scholar as well as an individual.

Overall, working at PASSOP and in Cape Town has been an enlightening experience, and I am thrilled that I was able to work for an organization that works so diligently and passionately for others. One of the best parts of working with PASSOP has been the level of responsibility I was entrusted with since the attorneys assigned me several ongoing cases in addition to daily appeals from the moment I began.  Ultimately, I felt prepared for the tasks assigned, and I am confident that the instruction at William & Mary assisted heavily in my preparation.


Summer Experience: IP Boutique in DC

kaseyby Kasey Koballa, Class of 2018

Kasey Koballa (Class of 2018) is originally from Wilmington, North Carolina.  She graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.  While attending NCSU, Kasey played on the varsity soccer team and worked as a research assistant in an engineering lab specializing in genetically-engineered microorganisms and biomass derivatives.  Prior to entering law school, she worked as a legal intern for a solo practitioner over the summer.  As a 2L, Kasey will be working on the staff of William & Mary Business Law Review and as a board member of the Student Intellectual Property Society.  Her interests include patent law, trademark law, trade secret law, and copyright law. 

With the help of William & Mary Law School’s Office of Career Services (OCS), after preparing various cover letters and resumes, connecting with alumni, and undergoing mock interviews, I was well prepared when December 1st approached, and I could start applying for 1L summer jobs.   I came into law school with a strong desire to study patent law.  Going into my first law school job search, I had high aspirations of working at a firm in Washington, DC to gain experience in intellectual property law.  Little did I know, OCS would help make this goal very attainable.

This summer, I have been working as a Summer Associate at Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck, an intellectual property boutique firm, in Washington, DC.  The firm specializes in various areas of intellectual property law, including patent prosecution and litigation and trademark, trade secret, and copyright law – all of which I have been able to gain experience in this summer.  Working in a boutique allowed me to interact with various associates and partners on a daily basis, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.  There was never anyone around the office that I didn’t recognize.  Further, the smaller environment allowed me to gain hands-on experience in various areas.  I was able to attend a Federal Circuit hearing, attend a deposition, draft responses to office actions, and various legal tasks which I did not expect to be assigned with only having one year of law school under my belt.  On top of enjoying the legal work, as a Summer Associate, I was able to experience the work-life balance that accompanies working in a law firm.

The firm paired each Summer Associate with a Partner Mentor and an Associate Buddy to ease the transition into the program and provide an outlet for any questions that may arise.  In addition to monitoring my workload and bearing great advice, my Associate Buddy scheduled lunches throughout the summer to give me an opportunity to see DC and get to know other attorneys at the firm.  Having spent no more than two days in the city before and coming from a small town, this was very helpful in transitioning into DC life.  Outside of the work environment, the firm hosted various social events during the twelve-week program allowing us Summer Associates to enjoy our time in the city even more.  These events consisted of going bowling and attending a National’s game, a few happy hours, and a wine tasting.

I have gained much more than I anticipated during my work this summer.  Not only have I sharpened my legal writing and analytical skills, but I have also made many connections with attorneys and law students who are passionate about intellectual property law.  The skills I have attained and strengthened this summer will be helpful as I enter my second year of law school, the 2L job search, and my fall externship at William & Mary’s Technology Transfer Office where I plan to further harness my passion for patent law.

Summer Work with DocuSign

Vignaliby Emma Vignali, Class of 2018

Emma Vignali is a rising 2L, originally from historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. She graduated from Auburn University (War Eagle!) with degrees in Finance and Psychology. While at Auburn, Emma developed an interest in finance and corporate governance. She spent time in Washington, D.C., interning for Senator Mark R. Warner, who serves on the Senate Committee on Finance. She then went on to intern in the office of the Chief Operating Officer for one of the largest law firms in the world. Now at William & Mary Law School, Emma serves as Secretary for the Women’s Law Society, and is a member of the William & Mary Law Review. She hopes to either practice corporate law or work in-house after graduation.

As the first semester of my 1L year quickly drew to a close, the thought of finding a summer internship weighed heavily on me. When I began law school, I hoped to eventually work in-house at a large company. However, my first semester of law school provided no substantial clarity on my future calling.  Criminal Law with Professor Combs surprisingly sparked an interest that I felt compelled to pursue. How could I be interested in two so drastically different practice areas? While confused about my future, I decided the best way to ease my mind was to spend my 1L summer immersed in one of these areas.

I began my summer internship search by implementing the first piece of advice given in law school: using my already established connections. The 1L internship search tends to be daunting, especially as students realize the number of law students across the country who are all vying for the same positions.  By reaching out to a close family friend, I solidified an interview with in-house counsel in Seattle. I was so excited to receive the position with DocuSign, Inc., as the opportunity to work in-house is a unique experience for a first year law student. I left for Seattle feeling confident that my summer would help me solidify my initial desire to work in-house.

docusignLife does not get much better than it does working in the legal department at DocuSign. On the first day, I was assigned a mentor to lead me through my ten-week journey at the company. My mentor consistently provided direct feedback on my work and became an amazing resource for career advice. It was incredible to have such close contact with a practicing attorney, especially one who truly cared about my progress throughout my internship.

I was also lucky enough to receive an abundance of interesting projects, spanning a number of practice areas and overseen by a range of attorneys. I was tasked with creating a teaching document for the company on open source licensing. Without a tech background, I found myself intimidated by the new terminology and vast amounts of information. However, receiving a project outside of my comfort zone turned into the ultimate learning experience, as I realized the research and writing skills I honed at William & Mary could lead me to be successful at anything I set my mind to. Yet, my favorite project at DocuSign was drafting a lead generation addendum to be attached to an already existing contract. The concepts taught by Professor Oman in my Contracts class became invaluable for my first contract drafting experience. Drafting an addendum from scratch was something I never imagined doing this summer, but resulted in a budding interest for transactional work.

I also found time to fit in a bit of fun in the beautiful state of Washington. DocuSign offers a bi-weekly happy hour for all employees, which became a great opportunity to get to know the attorneys outside of the office. The interns would also often take lunch breaks just a few feet away at the famous Pike Place Market. On weekends, I hiked the surrounding mountains, flew on sea planes, and even went whale watching!

As nervous as I was just a few months ago, I leave Seattle feeling sure of my goals for the future. The scenic landscape of Washington and the state’s wonderfully generous and friendly people have truly impacted me. I can now say with certainty that I plan to take the bar in Washington after graduation.  But even more relieving is the clarity I have gained on my future area of practice; I plan to pursue corporate transactional law after graduation. My internship at DocuSign allowed me to explore a field I had not previously considered, even if just briefly, and I am excited to potentially incorporate transactional work into my practice after graduation. However, that does not mean I have to dismiss my growing interest in criminal law. My hope is to eventually work at a firm where I can incorporate areas of criminal practice into my pro bono work. My summer experience in Seattle has been fun, enlightening, and completely invaluable. I am excited to return to William & Mary for my second year, where I can put the skills I learned this summer into practice.

Networking and Summer Work After 1L Year

robert jonesby Robbie Jones, Class of 2018

My name is Robbie Jones, and I am a rising 2L. I am from DeLand, Florida (just outside Orlando).  Before coming to William & Mary, I attended Stetson University in Florida where I received my B.A. in Political Science in 2014.  While an undergrad, I worked for my local Congressman and interned with a state circuit court judge. I came to William & Mary because I felt the strong sense of community when I visited the school.  At William & Mary, I am on Law Review and the Moot Court team.  I am also an Academic Success Program TA.  Some of my favorite non-law school activities are sports, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

The summer job search can be an exciting, yet daunting activity for a 1L.  After all, I had just barely figured out how to adequately prepare for classes, and it was time for me to start thinking about what I wanted to do during the summer.  Of course, the Office of Career Services (OCS) was giving us all the help and advice we needed, but it was still a big decision to think about.  I knew I wanted to try to work for a federal judge if possible, so I figured the best place to start would be looking for William & Mary alumni who were judges.  Fortunately, I found Judge Gregory Presnell, a United States District Judge, located in Orlando who is also an undergrad alum from William & Mary.   I reached out to the judge, interviewed during winter break and was hired before I headed back for school!

The lesson I learned through all of this is the importance of just reaching out to people already in the profession.  When I reached out to Judge Presnell, he agreed to meet with me without knowing my grades, involvement at school, or really anything.  I saw firsthand the greatness of the W&M alumni network.  As important as credentials are, I’ve learned that this is a profession where connections matter.  All it took was sending an email to a federal judge (and the W&M connection!) to realize my summer job goal.

Now that I’m working, I have learned so much.  Judge Presnell gives me hands-on experience and treats me just like one of his law clerks. I have written court orders, given my input on pending issues, and observed almost every type of court proceeding in existence.  Judge Presnell will definitely be a mentor of mine long after my internship is finished.   Having a first-year summer job in a place that allows you to see the practical side of the legal profession is a priceless experience. I am so thankful to William & Mary for providing me with such great opportunities thus far!

How to Find the Right Law School for You

rhiannashabsinby Rhianna Shabsin, Senior Assistant Dean for Admission

How to Research Law Schools

One of the most important and most often overlooked steps in the application process is to thoroughly research the law schools you’re considering. Whether you’re just getting started in your law school search or are about to press “submit” on your applications, the right research can go a long way in ensuring you find a school that’s just right for you.

Getting Started: What to Consider In the Beginning

No two law schools are exactly alike, and the qualities that make one school perfect for one person may be the very things that make it the wrong choice for another. Here are some things to think about as you begin your law school research:

What are your career goals?

intl lawDo you want to work in public service? Land a job at a large firm? Work at a federal agency? The number and variety of jobs available to lawyers are vast, but different schools will have different programs available to meet your specific career goals. Look for things like clinical opportunities and externships, and take note of those places that have an active and engaged career services office. You may also want to consider the area of law you would like to practice in and look over each schools’ curricular offerings in that area. If you’re unsure what kind of law is for you, look for schools with well-rounded course offerings that will allow you to get a wide range of subjects under your belt before graduation.

Where do you want to practice relative to the school’s location?

Law schools are typically thought of as “national” or “regional.” National schools draw students from across the U.S., and they tend to have alumni in most states. These schools may have concentrations of alumni in specific areas of the country, but, generally speaking, their reach is nationwide. Alumni from regional law schools tend to be concentrated in one region, state, or even in one specific area of a state. Which type of school is right for you will depend on several factors, including the geographic region in which you want to practice after law school (if you know) and your financial situation and the relative costs of each school.

In what type of school environment will you thrive?

For the most part, law schools today are a far cry from the ultra-competitive environments portrayed in films like The Paper Chase and books like One L. But each law school has its own distinct personality, and the degree of collegiality will vary from one school to another. In addition, some schools will offer more interaction with and access to professors than others. Think about the type of environment that works best for you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions of admission offices and current students!



Now that you have an idea of some of the things to look for in a law school, it’s time to begin gathering that information. A great place to start is the LSAC website. It has information about law schools, preparing for the LSAT, and dates of law school fairs across the country. The resources on the LSAC site can help you as you work to narrow down the list of schools you’re interested in.

Next, look around on the websites of the various schools you’re considering. You’ve already thought about what you’re looking for in a law school – which schools offer the programs and environments that appeal to you? If you are still an undergrad, your school’s prelaw advisor is another great resource.

Finally, once you have your top schools narrowed down, consider attending a law fair or, if you’re able, visiting schools in person. Admission officers are happy to answer any questions, and most schools will set up a campus visit so you can get a firsthand look at daily life in law school. In fact, if you’d like to arrange a visit to William & Mary, we can do that for you right here!

This is a series written by the admission staff at William & Mary Law School about the admission and application process. The posts in this series will be published in no particular order and are not inclusive. The series is designed  to provide information and advice to our applicants as they apply to law schools!

Reprinted from October 31, 2013.

Recommendations for Law School and for Life

fayeshealyby Faye Shealy, Associate Dean for Admission

Recommendations are an important part of William & Mary’s whole file review and are effective because they detail what makes the applicant stand out and paint individual pictures of each applicant. William & Mary Law School requires two recommendation letters and welcomes more. Don’t underestimate the importance of these letters which may address your intellectual development, aptitude for independent thinking and research, analytical abilities, writing skills, leadership and/or creative qualities. After all, William & Mary Law School is an academic environment and a community that values each member. We read recommendations. Many are powerful components of our decisions. They provide insights that cannot be gleaned from transcripts and test scores alone.

Who to Ask? 

groveProspective law students are expected to make contact and establish relationships with professors and others. Consider faculty members, administrators, internship/program supervisors, coaches, employers, and mentors. You will rely on them to write recommendation letters that will land you a place in the professional school of your choice, as well as for employment, organization memberships, and life’s opportunities that are important to you.

You do not want to seek out your university’s most prestigious professor or your state senators unless they know you. Readers will recognize the writer’s passion for your future that is not conveyed in a letter that begins “even though I do not know this candidate, he/she is one of my constituents and I recommend them.” Find those who can comment specifically on who you are as a person, prospective law student, and future lawyer. We know your grandmother and other relatives love you and support you for admission…but no, the required letters should be from non-family members.

How to Ask? 

killingerThere are good and bad ways of approaching those you want to help you gain admission, land the job, obtain that prestigious scholarship, or the nomination for that board position or become a member of the bench. Time your request. Don’t ask at the end of class with twenty others present, interrupt activities, or make your approach in the parking lot. Be sure to make “the ask” well in advance of the due date. I suggest at least three weeks, at a minimum.

Request an appointment, explaining that you’d like to discuss something important to you. Prepare to make the official ask and related explanation during the meeting. Specifically ask the individual if he or she would be able to write a meaningful and positive recommendation for you by a certain date. Pay attention to their response including what they say and their demeanor. If you sense reluctance, pause, or hear words doubting they have information or time to do so, thank them and proceed to others on your list. Don’t spend your valuable time fretting over a “no”…that person may have personal problems or work issues that prevent them from saying “yes” even if they could and would write a glowing letter for you.

How to Help the Recommender Help You? 

robertsYou ask recommenders for a favor – no one has to write recommendations for you, and no one has more to gain from terrific letters than you. Help your referees by providing all the necessary information with an organized presentation. A folder with all documents hand delivered during the meeting or attached to one follow-up email can be very helpful. Don’t assume what they do/don’t know about you. A cover sheet highlighting salient details, your resume, transcript(s), perhaps a copy of the paper you wrote for their class, admission essay, or written statement of career/professional goals on how this next step is relevant/important to you. Do not be modest. Your participation in competitive admission processes is one of the times that self-promotion is entirely appropriate and expected. Of great importance, include clear directions on how the recommendation is to be submitted.

You, more than anyone, can influence the contents and effectiveness of the recommendation letters. Make sure your references fully understand your goals and the importance placed in your request. Trust me, writing good recommendation letters takes serious thought and time. The more prepared you are when making the request, the easier their task will be and…the more effective the product should be. Make sure to provide your name as identified on your application (fine if they personalize with your nickname as long as official identification is a match with your application as submitted to the school), your telephone number and e-mail address, in case they need further information.

To Waive or Not to Waive Access? 

Many recommendations (including those submitted though the LSAC’s CAS process) require you (the individual being recommended) to decide whether to waive or retain your rights to see your recommendation. Many assume confidential letters tend to carry more weight with admission committees. Many writers prefer their letters be confidential. Do not infer that as negative. For example, the person writing the letter for you may be receiving the same request from your peers and friends and may fear what is written will be shared and compared. The letter writer  may have superior comments for you and associated reasons for the product not to be circulated for reasons very positive in your favor. Hopefully, you will identify individuals as your recommenders that you have full confidence in supporting you. That said, if you want access to what is submitted, exercise your option by not signing the waiver. FYI: Many individuals may provide you with a copy of their letter, even if it is submitted to the school confidentially.

To Follow-Up or Not To Follow-Up? 

As the deadline for your application materials approaches, you need confirmation that your file is complete. William & Mary provides that communication through the on-line status checker and via email. Plan a follow-up with the recommender if the deadline approaches and you do not have confirmation that the recommendation has been submitted.

thank youIMPORTANT: Be sure to send a thank you note or email message expressing your sincere appreciation for the support extended to help you progress along your professional school and career goals. This is a thoughtful gesture. This is also smart. You will need another such letter or assistance later from references that help you now. Speaking from over 30 years of experience writing letters and providing references for students, graduates and former employees, I always appreciate hearing the results of the process from the applicant. When I have written letters (now mostly for employment of our students/graduates), I am interested in the outcome and sincerely appreciate the individual sharing that outcome and their related excitement about what’s next in their career and life. I want William & Mary students and graduates to succeed. I want deserving employees to progress. I am delighted to help them and ecstatic in celebrating their successes.

What Next?

Check off this step in the application process. Hopefully, you have a reason to proceed with confidence that each recommendation submitted for you is exactly what you have earned and another reason to take pride in your hard work and accomplishments.

This is a series written by the admission staff at William & Mary Law School about the admission and application process. The posts in this series will be published in no particular order and are not inclusive. The series is designed  to provide information and advice to our applicants as they apply to law schools!

Reprinted from September 23, 2013.

What Makes an Application Stand Out?

yourphotoby Elizabeth Cavallari, Senior Assistant Dean for Admission

“What makes an application stand out?”  We hear this question a lot from prospective law students, and there are a lot of components to the answer.  At William & Mary there is no magic formula or benchmark that we expect all applicants to reach: we do a full-file review of all elements of your application (GPA, LSAT, work experience and extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and personal statement) so we can fully evaluate you as a candidate for admission.  Having said that, there are some traits that really mark potential applicants as people who will become successful law students and lawyers, and the way that these traits show up in applications can really vary!

Oral Communication

The ability to articulate yourself well and persuasively make your case will be important to your success as a student and as a practitioner after graduation.  How can you showcase your oral communication abilities in your application?  A number of activities, including participation in Mock Trial, leadership roles in campus organizations or Greek Life, employment projects, collegiate or recreational sports, and countless others can demonstrate your ability to be a persuasive speaker.  Additionally, oral communication is as much about speaking as it is listening.  Working with clients and co-workers requires listening critically, taking key information from conversations, and utilizing what you have learned.  Think about the experiences that have developed and honed those skills, and make sure we see evidence of that in your application.

Written Communication
library (1)It shouldn’t be a surprise that lawyers and law students have to write often and write well, so we expect a high level of writing proficiency from our candidates: even though legal writing may seem a bit like a foreign language during your first weeks of law school, you should still have a strong foundation from which to build.  Prospective students still in school should take courses that develop your objective and persuasive writing.  Utilize your school’s writing center and other resources at your disposal.  For those in the work force, embrace opportunities to write in your job (beyond writing another quick email); volunteer for projects that require heavy writing and will stretch and challenge you.


Knowing how to utilize case law, statutes, administrative regulations, and other sources of binding and persuasive authority is instrumental in the legal profession.  What research experience do you have?  Your research background does not necessarily have to include research with a faculty member (particularly if you’re not passionate about the topic or subject).  Did a class spark an interest that led to an independent study or thesis?  Have you been driven to learn more about a topic than you learned in a lecture?  Have you started a new project at work that required you to critically examine previous efforts?  Make sure your application reflects the research you have done and indicates your ability to successfully transition those skills into the arena of legal research.

While we try to discern these three skills, this doesn’t mean that we ONLY look at those abilities while reviewing your application.  Make sure to highlight your abilities in oral communication, written communication, and research, but remember that these skills constitute just one piece of the puzzle.  William & Mary Law School would be boring if all of our students were cookie cutter!  We take shaping a diverse and interesting class seriously, and we want to get to know you through your application and see how you can help make it even better!

This is a series written by the admission staff at William & Mary Law School about the admission and application process. The posts in this series will be published in no particular order and are not inclusive. The series is designed  to provide information and advice to our applicants as they apply to law schools!

Reprinted from September 10, 2013.