Reading Groups Make for Lively Discussions Among Faculty and New Students

by Vinayak Balasubramanianvinayak, Class of 2019. Blog post reproduced with permission of the Communications Office.

There are many fears that are common among incoming law students. For some, there is nothing scarier than an unsolicited interaction with one of those incredibly smart law professors at the front of each classroom.

But that was not the case at Chowning’s Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, where six 1L students gathered with Professor Thomas J. McSweeney on a hot August day to discuss “The Return of Martin Guerre” by historian Natalie Zemon Davis. The book explores a legendary sixteenth-century French legal case.

As they sipped on cold beverages and enjoyed some appetizers, the group engaged in a lively chat about various themes presented in the book, including the French legal system in the Middle Ages, the role of women during that time period, and the growth of state power over the church. Over the course of that discussion, the students connected with the professor and got to know each other.

“One of my goals was to get people talking to each other, and I thought that went very well,” McSweeney said, reflecting on the meeting. “There were interesting questions and reactions, and the conversation was very lively and collegial.”

Professor Thomas J. McSweeney, second from left, and 1L students discussed "The Return of Martin Guerre" during a get-together at Chowning's Tavern.

Professor Thomas J. McSweeney, second from left, and 1L students discussed “The Return of Martin Guerre” during a get-together at Chowning’s Tavern.

McSweeney’s group is one of 14 led by faculty that make up William & Mary Law School’s 1L Reading Group Program. Among the books chosen this year by participating faculty for discussion were “The Autobiography of an Execution” by David R. Dow, “Gideon’s Trumpet” by Anthony Lewis, and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. (See this year’s list of books and faculty discussion leaders.) According to Rhianna Shabsin, Senior Assistant Dean for Admission, there were 159 1L participants this year (more than two-thirds of the new class).

Over the summer, all incoming 1L students were sent an email inviting them to sign up for a group. Professors then reached out to the students in their groups to schedule a time and place to meet. Many groups met at restaurants or at professors’ homes.

Vice Dean Laura Heymann said the program was launched in 2015 to provide new students with an opportunity to get to know the school’s faculty and to expose students to legal topics in a casual setting.

The reading groups covered a large array of legal topics, including legal history, religion, terrorism, race, criminal justice, and feminism. They were all designed to help students think about the law and to prompt discussions about important legal and social issues.

For example, McSweeney said he chose “The Return of Martin Guerre” because it helps provide a framework for students to understand legal texts. He said that the story is constructed using facts from depositions that later permit the judge—and by extension the reader—to draw conclusions about the heroes and villains.

“It helps us understand how legal actors become characters in a story,” he said. “Events may not have significance at the time of occurrence, but they must come together in the end to tell the story.”

Kelly Ann McCarthy, a 1L student in McSweeney’s group, said that she participated in the program because she thought it would be a good opportunity to get to know a professor outside of class, as well as an excuse to read something other than a legal casebook.

“It was interesting to see how students applied what we were learning in class to non-class materials, and how different aspects of the law met in one place,” she said. “It was also interesting to see how records of legal proceedings provide a window into a different time.”

Heymann said that she had received very positive feedback about this year’s program.

“Both students and faculty seemed to have really enjoyed the experience,” she said. “I’ve heard from some students that the books they discussed caused them to see things in new ways, both within and outside the classroom.”

Supreme Court Preview Provides a Special Look at the Future of Election Law

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

The news lately has been full of different election law issues. While it is a presidential election year, with plenty of news-worthy stories, there have been numerous court cases from around the country in recent months which are appearing to reshape the way that the legal community looks at election laws. William & Mary is known for having one of the oldest and strongest Election Law Programs in the country. This year, the Supreme Court Preview, hosted by the Institute of Bill of Rights Law (IBRL), featured a high-powered panel which focused on the Court’s possible future in this highly charged area of the law. Moderated by Professor Rebecca Green, the Chair of the Election Law Program at the Law School, the panel featured four of the most prominent Election Law experts in the country, including: Paul Smith (Jenner & Block), Paul Clement (former Solicitor General) , Pam Karlan (Stanford Law School) and Lyle Denniston (SCOTUSBlog).

One of many panels that occurred as part of the Supreme Court Preview.

One of many panels that occurred as part of the Supreme Court Preview.

These experts focused on a number of different election issues including racial gerrymandering, the Voting Rights Act, race and politics in elections, voter suppression, different types of court review, and whether or not the court should even be involved in this area of the law. One thing they all certainly agreed upon, was that this area of the law is incredibly exciting and one of the most volatile areas of legal study occurring right now.

This is but one example of many from the Supreme Court Preview this month. The Preview, which takes place every September, features a Moot Court demonstration by some of the nation’s leading appellate advocates, and sessions focused on criminal law, civil rights, the Court and the 2016 Election, Business Law, Race and the Legal system, the legacy of Justice Scalia, and the current Supreme Court with only 8 members. Each year, the Preview is attended by numerous students, faculty, legal experts and practitioners from around the country and members of the public. It is one of the most popular events at the school and definitely something to look forward to each and every year, especially in years like 2016, where there is no shortage of legal debate around the country.

Click here to learn more about the Supreme Court Preview.

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.


1L Perspective- The First Month

zaleskiby James Zaleski, Class of 2019

Just like that the first month of law school has come to an end! It has been a month filled with stress, late nights, and exhaustion but I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Now is a good time to reflect back on the first month of this crazy transformative experience we call law school.

Classes have consumed the majority of my time this first month. All 1Ls take the same classes during the first year. The classes I am taking this semester include: (1) Criminal Law, (2) Civil Procedure, (3) Torts, (4) Legal Writing, and (5) Lawyering Skills. One of the rumors about law school that I quickly found to be true is the copious amount of reading! Law school professors assign multiple cases for each class. The readings are complex and often the main point of the case is not particularly clear. I frequently find myself reading the cases multiple times. However, after just one month of practice, I know my classmates and I are increasing our proficiency and are on our way to becoming savvy case readers.

The professors are some of the most brilliant and accomplished instructors I have had in my academic career. As a former high school teacher, I have an appreciation for excellent teachers. All of my professors are experts in their field; they have a passion for teaching their material and challenging students to think critically about the law. One way professors cultivate this atmosphere of learning is through the Socratic Method. I received a personal introduction to the practice during the first week of classes. My classmates and I have found that the rumors regarding the Socratic Method to be overblown. The Socratic Method ensures everyone comes to class prepared. It keeps the class engaged and challenges students to arrive at key insights. While everyone was nervous the first week, I feel most people have become accustomed to the method and enjoy the rigorous discussion it provides.

I also spent a lot of time this past week preparing for my first law school exam. While most law school classes only have final exams, several professors offer midterms. These midterms help relieve some of the anxiety over final exams because they serve as a good introduction to the law school exam format. In preparation, I reviewed my class notes and I completed my first outline. The professor also provided a hypothetical that I used to practice responses. The most challenging aspect of the exam was the time crunch! My classmates and I are anxiously awaiting the results.

student orgsOutside of class, I have found myself busy attending interest meetings for many student groups. I have attended meetings for the Immigration and Law Service Society, the Military and Veterans Law Society, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mock Trial, and the Latino Law Student Association. These meetings are great opportunities to learn about the organization, to meet new people with similar interests, and to learn how to become involved as a 1L. A nice perk is all of them provided lunch!

The first month of law school has been a demanding experience. However, after just one month, I can already tell I am receiving a valuable education, and I am on my way to becoming an excellent attorney.

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

Meet the 2016-17 Student Bloggers

The Admission Office is lucky to have a number of student bloggers lending their writing talents to us by posting about their law school experiences throughout the year. 

Learn more about them below!

alsawafI’m Sami Alsawaf, and I am a 3L from Melbourne, Florida where I attended the University of Florida. While there, I majored in Political Science and Psychology. I was involved with College Democrats and worked as a research assistant in the Psychology Department. As a  junior, I had the opportunity to intern at the State Capitol in Tallahassee where I worked in the Office of Economic and Demographic Research. I decided to come to William & Mary because I truly felt like the school cared about my best interest–they weren’t going to let me fall through the cracks. When I visited, everyone was so nice and genuine that I could tell people weren’t putting on a show for me. Everyone here is welcoming and always willing to work together. In addition to the sense of community, I also really loved the Williamsburg area. The area is just so beautiful! I’m also involved in a few activities. I’m President of the Women’s Law Society and an Articles Editor for the Journal of Women and the Law.

grecoMy name is Marc Greco, and I am a 2L from the Bronx, New York. I attended college at Boston University, where I majored in Philosophy and was an active member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. At William & Mary, I am a member of Law Review and the intramural softball team. When I am not busy with law school life, I enjoy playing sports, listening to music, and going to concerts.

kaiserMy name is Alyssa Kaiser, and I am a 1L from the small town of Belvidere, New Jersey. I am a 2016 graduate of Seton Hall University in New Jersey, majoring in Psychology and Political Science. Deciding to attend law school was a natural decision for me, as I have always been attracted to the practice of law. Whether it be from my high school days, during which I obsessively watched trials on television, to my undergraduate career, where I had the opportunity to more concretely confirm my passion for the law through internships and research opportunities, my excitement has never wavered. William & Mary stood out to me among other law schools, and I find myself especially impressed by their commitment to create “citizen lawyers.” I am eager to find out what this first year of law school has in store for me and the rest of the Class of 2019!

stithI’m Mitch Stith, and I am a 3L from Columbus, Ohio. Prior to law school, I attended Capital University where I majored in Spanish and Political Science and was a student-athlete, competing on the cross country and track and field teams. At William & Mary, I am a member of the Law School’s Alternative Dispute Resolution team and the College’s club cross country team. Following graduation, I plan to return to Ohio.

zimmermanMy name is Liesel Zimmerman, and I am a 2L originally from Niagara Falls, New York. I graduated from the State University of New York at Geneseo in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. This past summer, I was a Law Clerk at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York. I enjoyed my experience so much that it has confirmed my interest in becoming a prosecutor. Here at William & Mary, I am involved in the Christian Legal Society, the Moot Court Team, the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, and the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law.

willisMy name is Blake Willis, I am a 2L from Eastford, Connecticut. I attended Seton Hall University in New Jersey, where I studied International Relations. I was an active member of the Zeta Psi Fraternity and graduated from SHU in December, 2014. I came to William & Mary Law School because of its commitment to creating “citizen lawyers” and the active community that the school embodies. At W&M, I am involved in the Student Bar Association as a 2L class representative, the Federalist Society, Election Law Society, and the Bill of Rights Journal. I spent my 1L summer at the Virginia Department of Elections in Richmond.

zaleskiI’m James Zaleski, and I am a 1L from Midlothian, Virginia. I completed by undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech in 2014 where I received my Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with a second major in International Studies. I spent the past two years teaching Spanish in rural South Carolina as an AmeriCorps member with Teach for America. I chose William & Mary Law School because of its vision of developing citizen lawyers and its strong commitment to public service. I am currently serving as the Public Service Admission Ambassador, and I look forward to beginning my legal studies at the oldest law school in the country!

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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

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.