Law Students Help Plant Change in Southeast Community of Newport News

lubranoBlog post reproduced with permission of the Communications Office.

by Jonathon Lubrano, Class of 2018 , Virginia Coastal Policy Center Graduate Research Fellow

On April 23, Arbor Day, William & Mary law students from the Virginia Coastal Policy Center (VCPC), Student Environmental and Animal Law Society, and Black Law Students Association joined the Southeast CARE Coalition for a second year to “Plant the Change” in the Southeast Community of Newport News, Va.

“This event is part of our ongoing commitment to the environmental future and health of the city of Newport News,” says Elizabeth Andrews, co-director of the VCPC. The Southeast Community is considered vulnerable to recurrent flooding and sea level rise because of its location and socioeconomic composition.

The Arbor Day celebration began with a tree planting ceremony at John Marshall Elementary School, followed by a gathering at Newsome House, an African-American cultural and history museum where attendees learned about the rich culture and history of the Southeast Community.

arbordaylargeimageDuring the ceremony, three trees were planted in honor of those who have helped the Southeast Community. The first tree was dedicated to Erica Holloman, leader of the Southeast CARE Coalition and the first African-American woman to earn her doctorate degree from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The second tree was dedicated to George Gaynor, who sponsored an addition to John Marshall Elementary. The third tree was for William & Mary and its various organizations that have worked to improve the lives of Southeast Community residents.

The trees will complement the newly planted garden at John Marshall Elementary. They symbolize a collaborative effort to rejuvenate the Southeast Community of Newport News.

“When students of William & Mary share their time, knowledge, and heart with the residents of the Southeast Community, a community facing serious socio-economic and environmental challenges, they live the rule of citizen lawyering,” says Roy Hoagland, co-director of the VCPC. “With leadership from former and current students like Joe Carroll and Emily Gabor, student investment in this event reflects the best of the Law School.”

Law Behind Innovation

ibrahim_475Blog post reproduced with permission of the Communications Office.

A Q&A with Professor Darian M. Ibrahim on his interest in entrepreneurial law.

Professor Darian M. Ibrahim joined William & Mary from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he was a tenured member of the faculty. His teaching and research interests encompass corporate and securities law and their application to entrepreneurial activity. He received his J.D.,magna cum laude, from Cornell, where he was articles editor of the Cornell Law Review and inducted into Order of the Coif. He holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from Clemson University. Following law school, he practiced law at Troutman Sanders in Atlanta and clerked for Chief Justice Norman S. Fletcher of the Georgia Supreme Court. He taught previously at the University of Arizona College of Law, where he was voted Teacher of the Year for 2006-07 by the student body. His work has appeared in the Cornell Law Review, Vanderbilt Law Review, theUniversity of Illinois Law Review, and other leading journals.

How did you become interested in entrepreneurial law?

My father was a small business owner. Startups (which are at the heart of entrepreneurial law) are businesses that begin small, but their trajectories quickly lead them to outside financing, rapid scale-up, and eventually initial public offering (IPO) or trade sale. Think Mark Zuckerberg in his Harvard dorm room to Facebook as a large public company in a relatively short span. That trajectory is exciting both as a practical and legal matter. Startups present unique legal issues every step of the way: from choice of entity, to how/why angel investors and venture capitalists (VC) contract as they do, to securities regulation that impacts both private angel/VC financing and an eventual IPO.

Your latest article investigated “intrapreneurship.” Can you speak about what the term intrapreneurship means, and the focus of that research?

This article was a bit of a pivot for me. Instead of focusing on innovation in startups (or “entrepreneurship”), this article looks at innovation that takes place inside large corporations (“intrapreneurship”). Intrapreneurship is substantial, important, and understudied. Yet practical problems inside large corporations lead to less intrapreneurship than might be expected. My article suggests that Delaware corporate law can mitigate these problems and affect the intrapreneurial/entrepreneurial balance we observe. The article also explores a hybrid approach—corporate venture capital (CVC)—that combines entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial advantages. In CVC, a corporation’s venture arm can invest in promising startups, and thus share in innovative gains, without having to overcome obstacles to developing those projects internally.

Talk about another recent paper you wrote on equity crowdfunding. Do you think crowdfunding is a positive development for startups? For investors?

As you mention, another of my recent articles examined the latest craze in entrepreneurial finance: crowdfunding. Equity crowdfunding is selling stock over the Internet to a large number of investors. Some of these investors are the “accredited” (read wealthy/sophisticated) angels and VCs who already invest in startups offline. This trend is not at all worrisome from an investor protection standpoint to me, and in fact has several advantages. However, the new crowdfunding law goes further by allowing even unaccredited, unsophisticated investors to invest in brand-new, unproven startups over the Internet. The idea is to help more startups raise money while at the same time democratizing startup investing. However, real investor protection concerns emerge when the pool of potential investors broadens this way. I argue that the law addresses these concerns in the wrong way. The law currently limits the amount unaccredited investors can invest; but this in no way ensures these individuals will make better investment choices. In my article, I suggest the websites that list the startups act as “reputational intermediaries” for those startups – i.e., vet them and vouch for the ones they list. The current law expressly prohibits the websites from doing this.

Given your research, what does the future look like for entrepreneurs?

The future is extremely bright for entrepreneurs. While the outsourcing of manufacturing etc. erodes traditional American strengths, technology and innovation remain things American businesses excel in. My research will continue to focus on how and where this innovation takes place, and importantly, who funds it before an IPO. My niche has been to explore the angels, VCs, CVCs, venture lenders, and other financiers that allow startups to go from small business to public companies. Entrepreneurial finance is a key ingredient to the innovation economy.

What interested you in teaching at William & Mary?

William & Mary has a tremendous faculty; one of the best in the nation. To call these amazing scholars and teachers my colleagues has been a dream come true. It’s also a “traditional” law school in the best sense of that word. Our law school keeps pace with changes in legal education, but we do not overreact to the latest craze or perceived crisis. We continue to do what we do very well, and our students are the beneficiaries.

Is there anything about your experience at William & Mary different from Wisconsin or Arizona?

Many things. The students really stand out. I think that is reflective of how well William & Mary is doing in a down law school market. We offer an outstanding legal education, a collegial and fun environment, and excellent job opportunities for our graduates at a relatively low price point.

As an undergraduate, you studied chemical engineering. What attracted you to the law? Has having a strong scientific background informed how you approached law?

To be honest, I was running away from chemical engineering by going to law school. I am not a person who cares how his car runs – I just want it to get me where I’m going. Chemical engineering was wonderful in terms of its analytical rigor, and it definitely prepared me to excel in law school and beyond. But calculating the viscosity of a liquid was not what I wanted to do on a daily basis. The law has such a practical effect on people’s lives. I had to be a part of that.

Arguing Before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals — Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic

lizrademacherby Liz Rademacher, Class of 2016

I’ve had lots of great experiences at William & Mary Law School over the past three years, but the most rewarding—and most challenging—experience of them all was arguing my very first case in front of a court. And not just any court. I’m talking about the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal appellate court just a step down from the U.S. Supreme Court. I can honestly say that I never would’ve thought I’d argue a case in front of the D.C. Circuit before I started law school, but William & Mary made it all possible for me through its excellent clinical education program.

This journey started in August, when I joined William & Mary’s Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic. Although the clinic focuses mainly on First and Fourth Amendment cases, the issues in our cases are wide-ranging and groundbreaking. The students in the clinic work in pairs throughout the year to monitor and manage our case load.

In September, the clinic began representing a veteran from D.C. in a Fourth Amendment case. Police searched our client’s home after he mistakenly called a suicide hotline, thinking it was an emotional support hotline for veterans with PTSD. Although our client explained his mistake to the hotline operator, the operator called 911.  After going outside his apartment to talk to police, the police put our client’s hands in zip ties and took him to a hospital. Afterwards, police searched his home twice, opened locked containers, and found unregistered guns. Our client was then arrested and charged for having the guns, but the charges were dropped after another court suppressed the evidence as a result of Fourth Amendment violations. Afterwards, our client brought a civil rights lawsuit against the police officers and D.C. government. His case was dismissed by a district court because the judge held that the police had acted reasonably even without a warrant. Dissatisfied with the outcome of the case, the clinic stepped in to handle the appeal. My partner and I were assigned to the case.

courthousefrontOn appeal, we argued that the police acted unreasonably by doing the searches without a warrant and without our client’s consent. For months, my partner and I researched the D.C. Circuit’s precedent regarding similar warrantless searches. In December, we learned that our case would be argued in April. With several deadlines looming in front of us, we decided I would be doing the oral argument and began writing our first brief. In February, the D.C. government submitted their own brief, which we had two weeks to respond to in a second brief. By March, it was time to start practicing giving the argument. I poured over the hundreds of pages of the record in our case and, with the help of the other students in the clinic and professors from the law school, did multiple moot arguments. With each practice round, I got more and more confident and my answers to tricky questions got smoother and more concise.

But it didn’t really hit me that I would actually be arguing the case until the morning of April 18 in the courthouse, when I sat down at the counsel table and saw the three judges on my panel walk into the courtroom. What followed was a volley between the judges and me about the legal issues surrounding our case and the facts on the record. Before doing the argument, I was scared that I would feel too nervous to answer their tough questions. But after doing so many practice rounds, getting peppered with the judges’ questions felt less like sitting through an interrogation and more like slipping into a spirited conversation. Before I knew it, the red light in the courtroom came on, and my time was up.

Whether or not we end up winning on appeal, arguing the case was the most fulfilling part of my law school career. I got to do something that most real attorneys never get to do, and I got to do it before even graduating. It was tougher than anything I’ve done before, but I was well-prepared and learned so much. I’m so grateful that I got this opportunity, and so grateful to have been part of a law school community that was so supportive throughout the whole experience!

Read more here.

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1L Diversity Opportunities

pembertonby Shevarma Pemberton, Class of 2018

The word “diversity” is thrown around a lot. But during my 1L year,  I felt the word take on new meaning, and I grew to appreciate what it represents even more. To put things in context, I think the discourse has made me more attuned to its importance in the legal profession. For one, the profession does not look enough like the population it serves. People feel comfortable when they can communicate with others they relate to. Diversity is not limited to race or ethnicity; it includes women—who are still largely underrepresented in the legal profession—and the LGBT community. But honestly, my law school experience thus far leaves me hopeful. Based on my experience exploring employment and scholarship opportunities, the future of the profession looks promising and will only get brighter.

The combined effort of the Admission Office and the Office of Career Services (OCS) here have been instrumental in highlighting many diversity opportunities. Both offices continue to ensure that students can cast the widest net possible to increase their chances of benefitting from these opportunities. Admissions circulates an email with scholarship opportunities, which is great, because it reduces the time that busy law students have to expend finding these opportunities on their own. I am very impressed at the number of diversity scholarship opportunities that I have gleaned from those emails. I do not have any good news as yet on that front, but I do for my summer employment this year!

I discovered several diversity opportunities through OCS. OCS also assisted with resume and cover letter drafting, interview preparation, and guidelines on follow ups—they essentially covered every step of the process to assist me in securing the job. I have to stress the importance of taking initiative and being proactive. While OCS has been a great resource in helping me seal the deal, I learned of the job opportunity by keeping myself apprised of the American Bar Association (ABA) news. The ABA is one organization that has been very active in its goal to improve the diversity of the legal profession. I applied for a position through the ABA Judicial Internship Opportunity Program (JIOP). JIOP is run in conjunction with several like initiatives, all aimed at producing effective, diverse attorneys to leave their mark on the profession. I am proud to say that I will be interning for a judge over the summer, and while I do not know what the future holds, I do know that I am excited and optimistic because my view of the horizon is very promising.

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A Trip to the Fourth Circuit

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

In late March, members of the William & Mary Moot Court Team had the unique and exciting opportunity to attend oral arguments at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. Additionally, we had the chance to see the court sit en banc, meaning that all fifteen circuit judges were present, rather than the typical three judge panel.

The first case, US v. Aaron Graham, dealt with a Fourth Amendment question of surveillance as it relates to the use of cell phones. Appellant Graham claimed that the government violated his privacy interests when they gathered his location by analyzing where his cell phone registered on cell towers. In obtaining those records from the phone company, Graham argued, the government was essentially carrying out an unreasonable warrantless search. The Government claimed that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the use of a subpoena to obtain evidence about a person from a third party. Because it does not constitute obtaining evidence from a person, only about a person, Graham did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the cell tower records.

fourth circuitIn the second case, US v. Raymond Surratt, Jr., Appellant Surratt claimed he was sentenced erroneously to a mandatory minimum sentence of life without parole. The lower court’s ruling was based on circuit court precedent which was overturned after his conviction. The question arose of whether the habeas savings clause, which allows the court to grant relief for a select category of statutory-construction mistakes, could be applied in this situation. A highly technical case, additional arguments were made by a court-assigned advocate and a representative from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as both submitted amicus briefs.

It was amazing to watch the experienced appellate attorneys in action. For appellate-style argument, lawyers bring a basic outline of the points they want to address to the court. In addition, judges frequently interrupt the presentation to pose hypotheticals and ask questions about the case. Lawyers must be able to remain calm under pressure and think on their feet as they advocate for their clients. Some of the attorneys arguing that day included the United States Attorney for the State of Maryland, a Deputy Solicitor General, and several oral advocates who have argued before the Supreme Court.

For the newly selected 1L members, this was an amazing chance to see the best of the best in action, and to emulate the style of the arguments that we will learn in our Advanced Brief Writing Class next semester. For the 2Ls and 3Ls in attendance, it gave them inspiration for their upcoming tournaments, as many compete in the next several weeks.

After the morning’s arguments, the Moot Court Team went to a popular deli across the street from the courthouse. As we ate lunch, four of the judges came in and took a table right beside us! After watching these incredibly accomplished men and women rule from the bench, it was almost jarring to see them without their robes, eating sandwiches together like old friends. It was a gentle reminder that though these are respected legal scholars whose opinions we read for class, they too were once law students aspiring to greatness. After my experience at the Fourth Circuit, I am more excited than ever to be part of William and Mary’s Moot Court Team!

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Joint Journal Competition

borkby Emily Bork, Class of 2018

Spring is in full bloom here in Williamsburg! Coming from Buffalo, New York, I am not used to seeing flowers budding and the grass sprouting so early in the season, so it is wonderful to enjoy the sights and smells of an early Spring! With the last few weeks of the semester upon us, exam season is also in the air as my fellow classmates and I prepare for our final set of 1L exams. For most of the 1L class, our summer won’t officially kick off though until the following Friday after exams as we will be participating in the annual Joint Journal Competition (JJC).

JJC is a week-long competition program for 1L students who wish to join one of William & Mary’s five academic journals by serving as a staff member during their 2L and 3L years. As part of the competition, students are required to submit both a short written paper, or Comment, of a legal issue and also complete an editing exercise. The competition is designed to evaluate students’ strengths in both their written work as well as their abilities to properly review writings for citation and grammar checks.

journalsWilliam & Mary’s five academic journals are:

  • William & Mary Law Review
  • William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal
  • William & Mary Environmental Policy Review
  • William & Mary Journal of Women & the Law
  • William & Mary Business Law Review

Students who are selected to work on journals as a staff member are responsible for writing a paper called a Student Note during their 2L year. The Student Note not only satisfies William & Mary’s writing requirement for 2L students, but also has the added bonus of possible publication! Students who serve on journals also complete citation and other editing checks of scholarly articles that are submitted to the respective journal for publication. Credit hours are additionally available to students working on their Note and students who serve on an editorial board for their respective journals during their 3L year.

Although this year’s JJC will no doubt present some challenges, I am looking forward to this annual rite-of-passage as I hope to serve on a journal for the rest of my time here at William & Mary. I look forward to this year’s JJC and the opportunity to be a part of the fellowship, teamwork, and collaboration of our journals!

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Admitted Students Weekend: Making the Right Choice

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

Deciding on which law school you will attend can seem like a stressful choice, but as hard as it may sound, you should try to make it fun. It’s an exciting time in your life, and you should enjoy it as much as possible. While there are certainly many things that you will be considering, one of the most important steps that you can take in making your decision is visiting the schools that you are seriously considering. This will allow you to not only see the school, and its surrounding area, but it will also give you a chance to interact with the students, faculty, and community (and your potential classmates).

This month, William & Mary Law School hosted its annual Admitted Students Weekend. Over the course of the weekend, 174 admitted students and 115 guests visited the Law School, took tours, sat in on panel discussions with faculty and current students, met with admissions staff, learned about student organizations, and learned about the law school experience in Williamsburg.

12525189_1045653408833040_3964775838962883318_oWhile this can seem like a lot (and it is), it’s also an important experience in making your decision. It will undoubtedly give you a genuine feel as to what the law school is like. It’s also a lot of fun. Over the course of the weekend, the Law School is buzzing with activity between all of the visitors, student volunteers, and student activity groups. Admitted Students also have the opportunity to experience the Williamsburg community life on their own or with a host student on Friday night. This year, nearly 40 admitted students took advantage of this program, choosing to spend their Friday night exploring Williamsburg with a current law student.

Ultimately visiting the law school will help you to decide whether or not is the right fit for you, which is the most important part. If you would like to visit William & Mary but cannot visit on Admitted Students Weekend, there are plenty of other, smaller Admitted Students events that will take place on weekends throughout the spring. For more information please feel free to visit the Admissions Website.

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Oral Arguments- Legal Practice

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

A few days ago, I found myself in William & Mary’s Courtroom arguing before a practicing attorney against a Motion to Dismiss for improper 1332 Subject Matter Jurisdiction. After arguing for 20 minutes, while constantly being interrupted for questions, the opposing counsel and I were dismissed, allowing the judges to deliberate their holding.

As part of William & Mary’s Legal Practice program, students are required to give oral arguments in front of practicing attorneys, who serve as judges during the fake trial. We are each graded on our argument’s presentation, including the ability to pivot our speech to satisfy each judge’s needs and questions. Although I am not allowed to disclose the actual facts of the fake legal dispute (in case they use the same fact pattern in the future), I can talk about the argument and about preparing to speak in the Courtroom.

A week ago, my adjunct professor held practice oral arguments at her law firm’s Williamsburg office. During the argument, she brought in a guest, who is an actual state judge in Virginia. After the 20-minute argument, we received feedback and advice for how to improve our presentation’s logical flow and effectiveness. The judge told me that I did a great job presenting the material; however, she had great constructive criticism. This advice is something you simply don’t learn from a book but rather through experience. After the practice oral argument, our class had a week to prepare for our graded oral arguments. In the practice argument I argued for the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, but during the graded argument, I tried to persuade the judge to deny the defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.

The real oral argument occurred on campus inside the Courtroom. Our adjunct professor played the role of judge. Although many people don’t know this, when you are presenting an argument in court before a judge, you will be interrupted with questions. In fact, the judge may ask you to fast forward to a certain portion of your argument. Therefore, you should not simply memorize the material, but rather have the ability to flexibly adjust the argument to fit the judge’s needs. Additionally, the judge may pose very detailed questions about the fact pattern, or even regarding cases used as evidence.

An actual argument is composed of three parts: (1) The movant’s argument; (2) the non-movant’s argument; (3) the movant’s rebuttal. In this case, I was the non-movant because I was trying to defeat the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Therefore, my friend Josh, whom I was arguing against, gave his argument first. I tried to simply rebut his argument, so much of my argument depended on what Josh mentioned in his presentation. In addition to being flexible, you also have to prepare for every possible scenario, because you simply don’t know what the other party will say.

When it was my turn to speak, I felt prepared, but before I began the judge wanted me to address a very specific issue within the case. I had planned using that point at the end of my argument, so within the first minute, my argument had been turned on its head. However, I quickly recovered and simply interwove the other arguments behind the judge’s question. Additionally, during the argument, you want to highlight a “theory of the case” or a theme regarding your client’s actions. During the presentation, I was constantly emphasizing the legal theme and trying to create sympathy for my client.

After my argument ended, the rebuttal was given. Then, the judges dismissed us and heard the next set of oral arguments. Although I don’t know what my grade is, or even the winner of the argument, I do feel confident that this experience will help me in the future.

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W&M Honor Council and Exams

borkby Emily Bork, Class of 2018

It’s hard to believe that my first year of law school is quickly coming to an end! Although I can’t deny that I’m feeling the stress of the looming exam period, I have taken comfort in the supportive W&M community of my peers and professors. Throughout my exam preparation, I have realized that everyone here genuinely wants their fellow classmates and students to do well on their exams. Our community is rooted in a deep desire to provide students with an opportunity to do their best and be given a fair chance to succeed.

The W&M Honor Code embodies this sense of fairness and justice among the law school community and works to uphold the dignity of W&M’s mission of educating Citizen Lawyers. The Honor Code is rooted in instilling a sense of moral responsibility in all W&M students as we are called to refrain from lying, stealing, and cheating both within our interactions at the law school and also outside the law school as aspiring attorneys.

The Honor Council is made up of student justices from among each of the three classes who work to enforce the Honor Code and educate students as to the Honor Code’s application in various aspects of law school life, especially final exams. I was fortunate to attend an Honor Council info session on how the Honor Code relates to exam-taking policies.

Many students have open book exams and are allowed to use their own class notes and outlines during exams. Additionally, students often have self-scheduled exams in which they can take the exam at home at their own convenience. If an exam is not self-scheduled but rather must be taken during a specific time period at the law school, professors often leave the room during the duration of the exam. Questions are typically raised concerning what can and cannot be used during exams. Fortunately, the Honor Council is more than willing to provide students with an overview of some of the default rules regarding exam-taking.

For example, if an exam is open-book, the default rule is that a student is allowed to use any outline he or she has prepared for that class as long as the student has had a substantial hand in making the outline. Although professors can change the default rule for their particular classes, the Honor Council info session was a good way to start thinking about these policies. We are all encouraged to think about how the Honor Code relates not only to this semester’s final exams, but also to our goal of becoming Citizen Lawyers.

At W&M, we are called to be honest with our exam taking so as to ensure the integrity of both the exams themselves as well as the integrity of our school. One of the things that I love most about W&M is our dedication to each other as a community, and the Honor Code is just another example of how we are called to uphold and preserve this community of trust.

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Advocacy through Legal Writing

alankoby Nicole Alanko, Class of 2018

My name is Nicole Alanko and I am a 1L from Atlanta, Georgia and Staunton, Virginia. I attended The George Washington University with a major in International Affairs and a minor in Spanish. Throughout my entire undergraduate career, I’ve focused on advocating for equal access to education- from fundraising in honor of Malala to writing my thesis on education for Syrian refugees. Education is the centerpiece to gender equality and equal opportunity, and I hope that my career in law and public service will be a reflection of these higher goals.

At some point in every student’s legal career, they come across a moment that reminds them why they started. My moment came very early in my time at William & Mary.

I went to high school in Staunton, Virginia, a small town west of Charlottesville. I attended the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program at the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School, a half-day program for my junior and senior years where I could take advanced classes that my local high school could not offer. Though I had no intention of entering the STEM fields, this training early on taught me how to think through a problem logically and how to research (two skills critical to the legal profession). This background set me up for success, both in undergrad and now at William and Mary. I always thought that the best way to thank my teachers was to use the skills they gave me to serve others.

Recently, a budget amendment was introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates that would substantially decrease the funding to half-day Governor’s Schools across the state like mine. The amendment favors the four full-day programs across the state by giving them 30% more funding per student, and leaving the fifteen half-day programs to divide up the remaining funds. When I heard about this amendment, I wanted to do something. I spoke with the director of my school and asked how I could help. She was encouraging parents, students, and alumni to write to our local delegates, and had intentions to travel to Richmond to lobby our delegates. I sprang into action. With the help of my Legal Writing professor, I wrote an op-ed that appeared in the local paper, explaining the policy and its effect on our community. I also had the opportunity to visit with our delegates in Richmond to talk with them about the effects of this amendment on our community, as well as the state as a whole. The amendment we opposed was defeated! We didn’t get the exact outcome we wanted, but our lobbying efforts succeeded in defeating the amendment.

Though I haven’t been here long, what I have already learned at William & Mary profoundly influenced how I approached advocating for my school. I wasn’t able to just look at the text of the amendment, but to dig deeper to its wider policy implications. I have learned how to write persuasively: organizing my piece so that even the readers who are in greatest opposition can see my side by the end. In just a little over one semester, I have already seen the profound impact that my legal education has had on my ability to be a better advocate and to stand up for causes near to my heart. Over the course of the next two years, I can’t wait to see how far my education can take me.

Citizen Lawyer 2.0 Seminar

newtonby Dakota Newton, Class of 2018

Law school is mostly about books. There are books of cases, books of regulations, books of statutes, and books that you should have finished reading already. But being a lawyer is about more than just knowing what is in those books. It is about building relationships of trust with colleagues and clients and having the professional skills to cultivate those relationships. Fortunately, William & Mary Law recognizes this and strives to help law students develop the professional skills necessary to become the best lawyers possible.

On February 27th, I had the chance to attend W&M Law’s Citizen Lawyer 2.0 Seminar. Subtitled “the professional success initiative”, the purpose of the seminar was to help law students be better lawyers through enhanced communication skills, a growth mindset, and adaptability to evolving industry conditions. To that end, the school invited several high-end speakers from New York and Washington, D.C. firms to come and teach us the secrets to succeeding in the legal industry. I would like to share some highlights from my two favorite presentations.

Jay Sullivan, the managing partner of professional communications firm Exec|Comm, shared a number of ways in which law students can improve their communication skills. The first tip is to always focus on the client. There is a fine balance between being the legal hero who solves the client’s needs and being the person that they can trust and share those needs with. Remembering to orient yourself properly with a “what can I do to help you?” attitude enables lawyers to maintain that balance. When we focus on the client, rather than our own expertise, the ego stays under control and our clients feel heard and important. The next tip is to know your strengths and weaknesses as a communicator. Recognizing what you naturally excel at and what needs work creates a platform from which you can set goals and make plans to put yourself into situations which will improve your weaknesses. You will never be able to learn the things that “you don’t know you don’t know”, so start now, be honest, and put yourself in situations which stretch your capabilities.

Milana Hogan from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP taught us about the importance of grit and a growth mindset. We have all heard about the power of positive thinking before, but this was fresh. Instead of simply telling us that attitude is altitude, Milana presented evidence from research that she has conducted which found a statistically significant correlation between leadership capacity and the belief that a person can improve their intelligence and talent over time. In fact, belief in the ability to grow mentally is the most reliable indicator of success for lawyers. Not LSAT scores, not GPA, and not internships. So the next time you see a poster telling you to believe in yourself, take it seriously! It just might be what gets you into your dream job one day.

To sum it up, remember to put the client first, and never stop stretching yourself or believing that you can achieve the professional success that you dream of.

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