Experiences with the Family Law Clinic

Raffaeleby Nick Raffaele, Class of 2015

Nick Raffaele is originally from Clearwater, Florida. He earned his B.B.A. from the University of Miami in 2012 with majors in Political Science and Business Law. After graduating and sitting for the bar exam, Nick will be joining Phillips and Peters, PLLC to practice family law in Norfolk, Virginia.

Students looking to gain hands on experience in the legal field of their choice should look no further than William and Mary Law School’s Clinic program. As someone involved in domestic law, W&M actually offers two clinics directly related to my interests: the Family Law Clinic and the Domestic Violence Clinic. I began my Clinic career by enrolling in the Family Law Clinic for the fall 2014 semester, and the experience and networking I gained have proven invaluable. Of course, getting course credit in the process is quite convenient.

My supervisor at the family law clinic was Darryl W. Cunningham, Esq., and we worked out of the Williamsburg office for the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia. He was a fantastic mentor, who was clearly passionate about his work and always seemed enthusiastic to teach his profession to his students. The Clinic experience was a perfect blend of independent exposure to and measured instruction in case management, client service, and litigation strategy. Each student was given about three files to manage, and we all met once a week to discuss our cases and give each other advice on how to proceed. Mr. Cunningham would also give lessons on different aspects of family law each week, such as the stages of a divorce lawsuit, the principles that govern custody/visitation disputes, and calculating child support.

The clinic was a fantastic opportunity to step away from the doctrinal aspect of legal education and gain truly practical experience. Throughout the course of the semester, we had chances to appear in court using Virginia’s Third-Year Practice Certificate. We also spent plenty of time meeting with clients, drafting pleadings, and communicating with opposing counsel. In fact, networking opportunities presented by the Clinic led to my offer of employment after graduation. I am very much looking forward to working with Mr. Cunningham again during the spring 2015 semester as part of the Domestic Violence Clinic.

This blog post is part of a series featuring student experiences in William & Mary Law School’s nine clinics. To view more clinic posts, click here.

Read about Nick’s 2013 summer work here.

Michael Toner Talks Elections

lennonby Kate Lennon, Class of 2017

On March 2nd, law students interested in Election Law were able to enjoy a lunchtime talk with Michael Toner. Mr. Toner is a current partner at Wiley Rein and the former FEC Chairman. He was also the Chief Counsel to the Republican National Committee and General Counsel to the Bush-Cheney 2000 Presidential Campaign. The discussion began with Mr. Toner speaking about the changes in election law and finance in regards to recent Supreme Court cases, as well as what changes to Court’s make-up could mean for the future in Election Law. Mr. Toner discussed that this is a time of deregulation, but if some of the more conservative justices retire, we could see more increased regulation again in the next ten years.

Michael Toner

Michael Toner, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC)

As the discussion moved into a question format, the topic turned more towards the future of campaigns. Mr. Toner explained that we no longer live in a world where a successful presidential candidate can get by on a few million dollars in donations. With President Obama breaking records with donations in the $750 million range, Mr. Toner predicted a 2016 election campaign potentially breaking the billion-dollar mark. He found this to be particularly likely with candidates like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush potentially taking significant roles in the 2016 election.

It was clear from the start that Mr. Toner was personally fascinated with Election Law. He stated at one point that he chose his career path because he was able to combine his two interests in law and politics into one job. His enthusiasm about the topic spread through the room and really drew the attention of the professors and students. As a first year student, the novelty of having such interesting and accomplished speakers here at our school has not yet worn off. I am not sure that it even will at all. Every day at the law school is a new experience, and lunchtime speakers like this one are just one of the many avenues for these experiences.

Learn more about our Student Bloggers here.

Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic

Yakubisinby Chris Yakubisin, Class of 2016

Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Chris graduated from Duquesne University with a B.A. in journalism. He is currently a staff member of the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal and works as a Graduate Research Fellow at the Law School.

During my first week of law school classes, my criminal law professor cautioned the class not to forget that the people we read about in our casebooks are real people. It is important to remember this for many reasons, but I feel that my professor’s comment was meant to serve as a reminder that an attorney must do more than know the law.

Indeed an attorney’s responsibilities are many and each contributes in some way to the inevitable moments of panic that all law students face. While the most obvious and well-known contributor to these “panics” is knowledge of the law (certainly everyone has some anxiety before exams), perhaps the lesser known responsibilities are the most important. Attorneys must have empathy for their clients, be reliable and organized, and be an effective communicator and advocate. In order to make it through law school, all law students will learn to be organized, they will learn to write, and they will learn at least some kind of responsibility.

However, it is possible to go through law school with very little interaction with clients, or little time keeping experience. To put it another way, opportunities to develop your practical skills may not be easy to come by in a casebook. This is not what I was thinking of when I the enrolled in the Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic, though. I knew the Clinic was the first such program to be certified by the Department of Veteran’s affairs, and I knew I would have the opportunity to work with veterans, but I didn’t know that I would have the chance to develop such a wide variety of legal skills by participating in the program.

Students in the Clinic were grouped into teams of two, and each team was responsible for six clients. Since each client is unique, every student experienced the Clinic’s work in a unique way; however, certain things were the same for all of the teams. For example, each team had to communicate with their clients regularly, gather and organize records, account for their time spent doing work for clients, and interview a new client.

The basic things like keeping time helped develop practical skills throughout the semester, and it wasn’t always easy to account for time, but doing these necessary and perhaps tedious tasks were worth it to be able to participate in such a rewarding program.

Sometimes while doing hours of reading about federal income tax, or civil procedure, one can forget about why they want a law degree, or how a lawyer can help people. Being able to spend a few hours each week working for real people, really helping them, was extremely rewarding. Being able to do real legal work, rather than simply read about it was something I looked forward to doing outside of class. Rather than having to wait until the end of the semester to get a grade and see how much you learned, the clinic offered many successes throughout the semester.

While the claims process for veteran’s benefits claims is slow and complicated, small victories were possible throughout the semester. Thinking about them now, it seems silly that things like adding a dependent to a claim, or retrieving records form the VA are “victories,” but in the world of veteran’s benefits, even a menial administrative task can be difficult to accomplish. Often veterans are told that such things can take up to nine months, so, when you get it done in a couple weeks, you feel like you’ve really accomplished something.

Looking back now, though, I don’t think about the innumerable phone calls, e-mails, and letters involved in the process. Rather, I think about the people I’ve helped and the impact working with the clinic has had on my life, and now, when I find myself dwelling in a moment of panic I can take some comfort in knowing that I’m already well on my way to being a practicing attorney, I’ve already got some experience helping people.

This blog post is part of a series featuring student experiences in William & Mary Law School’s nine clinics. To view more clinic posts, click here.

Moot Court: Bushrod Tournament Results and Wise Words from Tom Goldstein, Silver Tongue Award Recipient

wentworthby Christie Wentworth, Class of 2017

The William & Mary Law Moot Court team just added nineteen new members following this year’s Bushrod T. Washington Moot Court Tournament. The Moot Court program, whose participants compete in tournaments around the nation, gives students an opportunity to develop and refine oral advocacy and brief writing skills. Bushrod tournament participants receive a cumulative score for the tryout period, and the eight competitors with the highest scores compete in a single-elimination tournament. The final round is open to students, staff, faculty and the general public and includes the presentation of the Edmund Randolph Silver Tongue Award. This year’s award recipient was Tom Goldstein, one of the nation’s most experienced Supreme Court practitioners and founder of the SCOTUSblog. Before the start of the final round, Goldstein spoke about oral advocacy in general and then outlined three main differences between Moot Court and Supreme Court arguments.

Tom Goldstein, Partner at Goldstein & Russell, P.C. and co-founder and publisher of SCOTUSblog

Tom Goldstein, Partner at Goldstein & Russell, P.C. and co-founder and publisher of SCOTUSblog

Goldstein, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and American University’s Washington College of Law, began his speech by advising students to be prepared, to realize that judges’ questions are not meant to attack, and to be cognizant of who the audience is. Depending on the context of the case, the court, and who these judges are, attorneys must bring a unique set of skills and focus on different aspects of the case.

In comparing oral arguments made before the Supreme Court and those prepared for Moot Court, Goldstein emphasized three points: style, the art of the possible, and the principle of relative advantage. First, he noted that form and style tend to matter more for Moot Court than they do for the Supreme Court. While this may seem counterintuitive, he pointed out that the Supreme Court justices are seeking concise answers to questions; content matters more than presentation.

With regard to his second point, “the art of the possible,” Goldstein advised oral advocates to think about the audience and to appreciate what the judges or justices are capable of deciding. He pointed out that the Supreme Court justices will be very familiar with the case and will already have an idea of which party will win or lose. Because it is unlikely that any of the justices will completely change his or her mind, it is important to maintain modest ambitions. For example, he stated that a realistic goal might be to convince 1-2 judges to shift their viewpoints by 20-30% on 1-2 points. While this may seem discouraging, an attorney that argues before the Supreme Court has the opportunity to influence how a client wins or loses and has the chance to shape the rule that results from the case. On the contrary, Moot Court judges tend to be more open to persuasion, will not be as familiar with the case, and may still be trying to decide who will win or lose. Moot Courters, use this to your advantage!

Lastly, Goldstein explained what he calls the “principle of relative advantage.” Think about what you know and what the judges or justices know and tailor your argument so that you can add something new to their perspective. As he mentioned in his second point, Supreme Court justices will already be familiar with the facts of the case and the arguments in the briefs. During oral argument, link points in a different way that will allow the justices to change their opinion about the case. In Moot Court, judges will read the problem and think about it, but likely will not have prepared to the same extent. This gives the oral advocate the advantage of knowing the case better than the judge and the ability to demonstrate control of the material by making connections and by weaving relevant cases and facts into the argument.

After Goldstein’s speech, the two Bushrod finalists—Gordon Dobbs and Victoria Jensen—employed some of this advice in their own oral arguments in a case regarding First Amendment rights in schools. The competitors each demonstrated mastery of the material and made convincing arguments before a panel of esteemed judges including Professor Grove, Professor Hamilton, Professor Larsen, Tom Goldstein, and Moot Court Chief Justice Chris Kaltsas. These judges determined 1L Gordon Dobbs to be the champion of this year’s Bushrod Tournament. Perhaps you will be one of next year’s competitors!

Learn more about our Student Bloggers here.

Experiences with the Coastal Policy Clinic

forrestby Jeremy Forrest, Class of 2015

Jeremy is is third-year student from Newport News, VA. He is a 2008 graduate of Hampden-Sydney College.

I knew as a 1L that I wanted to be a part of the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic after reading about the clinic’s mission and talking to 2Ls and 3Ls about their work with the Clinic. Growing up along Virginia’s coast, I experienced firsthand the exact issues the Clinic addresses. I look forward to the opportunity to investigate difficult problems that have no easy solution.

The Clinic Director, Roy Hoagland, brought a wealth of knowledge to the clinic. Almost every week the clinic hosted a guest speaker who was part of the frontlines of creating and enforcing environmental policy in Virginia’s Chesapeake region. These speakers included state government officials, an EPA scientist, private attorneys, grantmakers, and a former legislator who championed much of Virginia’s environmental legislation over the past 30 years.

The past semester’s work was highlighted by the Clinic’s involvement with the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change. In September, the members of the Clinic attended the first meeting of the Commission at the Capitol in Richmond. Afterwards, we were able to attend a reception and meet with both Governor McAulliffe and the Secretary of Natural Resources (and W&M Law Alum) Molly Ward.

coastal policy

In early December, the Clinic hosted the second meeting of the Commission in Williamsburg. The Clinic organized a series of speakers including the head of the Norfolk Division of the Army Corps of Engineers, VIMS scientists, and Senator Kaine.

In addition to the Clinic’s work with the Commission, each member of the Clinic worked on projects individually. The focus of each of our projects was on exploring a discrete scientific issue and addressing how the issue could impact public policy. Some examples include the potential for governmental liability for failing to address the impacts of sea level rise; the effect of sea level rise on the efforts to measure Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts; and providing assistance to an effort to coordinate the region’s sea level rise adaptation efforts.

The Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic provides students with an experience of the kind of work environmental lawyers do on a daily basis. While most people think that the law is about going to court or drafting contracts, the Clinic shows the value of lawyering in the context of guiding public policy .

This blog post is part of a series featuring student experiences in William & Mary Law School’s nine clinics. To view more clinic posts, click here.

Student Legal Services Provides Law Students an Opportunity for Hands-On Experience

keefeby TJ Keefe, Class of 2017

Given the many hours of  independent reading and researching that accompany a 1L experience, I sometimes lose track of how interpersonal the legal profession really is.  Although esoteric legal concepts frequently occupy my thoughts, I try to remember that the practice of law is really the act of solving real-world problems for real-world individuals.  In the spirit of this mindset, I decided to join William & Mary’s Student Legal Services team.

Blow Memorial Hall  (2)Student Legal Services  was established by William & Mary Law students who hoped to use their abilities to serve other members of the College community. The organization is entirely student-run, and relies on over thirty-five volunteers to staff its office on William & Mary’s main campus.  From room 316 in Blow Memorial Hall, Student Legal Service volunteers research whatever legal issues the students and staff of the College bring to the office. Cases involving landlord-tenant disputes or criminal citations are common, but the office has handled a much greater variety of cases in the past.

In order to provide the best assistance possible, the Student Legal Services team has an established system. Members of the campus community are encouraged to set up an appointment in order to discuss their legal questions confidentially. Once  a member of S.L.S.  team has documented the details of an community member’s legal problem on an intake form, volunteers draw on their researching skills to find all applicable laws. As law students who have not yet passed the Virginia Bar, S.L.S. volunteers are forbidden from providing clients with any recommendations beyond the explicit text of the law. Even so, clients often leave with a much clear sense of  what laws will be applied to their specific legal issues.

I would recommend S.L.S. to anyone interested in gaining some hands-on experience with the law. Although law school can be quite academic in nature, William & Mary’s Student Legal Services has definitely provided me with the refreshing opportunity to assist with real-world legal problems.

Learn more about our Student Bloggers here.

Top Ten Lessons Learned in the Appellate Clinic

by Claire Wheeler JD ’15 and Danny Yates JD ’15 

Danny Yates is a 3L from Richmond, VA. He attended William & Mary for undergrad, and next year Danny will be clerking for Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons on the Supreme Court of Virginia.  Afterward, he will working at a large law firm in Richmond.

Claire Wheeler is from Silver Spring, Maryland. She earned her B.A. from Harvard College. In addition to being a member of the Appellate & Supreme Court Clinic, Claire is a member of the Public Service Fund Board, the Alternative Dispute Resolution competitive team, Environmental Law & Policy Review, and has served on both the Executive Board and as Chair of Undergraduate Recruitment for the Black Law Student Association. Claire will begin working as an Associate at Venable LLP in Washington, DC in the fall of 2015.  

wheeler yatesWe first heard about the William & Mary Appellate Clinic last year when a friend from the 3L class said that she would be arguing before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  Oral argument before a three-judge panel of federal appellate judges is an experience that only a small handful of litigators enjoy, and is an even rarer occurrence for law students.  After observing intense oral arguments before a panel of Fourth Circuit judges in William & Mary’s McGlothlin Courtroom, we found the opportunities the Clinic provides to be even more enticing (and slightly terrifying).  A few months later, we were impressed upon discovering that the Fourth Circuit panel unanimously agreed with our friend–and the Clinic had won its appeal!

The Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic is one of nine clinical programs offered at William & Mary Law School.  These clinics allow law students, under the supervision of practicing attorneys, to represent real clients in legal disputes involving everything from veterans’ benefits to coastal policy to domestic violence.  Specifically, the Appellate Clinic provides pro bono representation in federal courts of appeals and before the Supreme Court.  Our cases typically address constitutional questions and our clients have ranged from convicted felons to small business owners.

The past two and a half years at W&M Law have been a constant cycle of reading cases, analyzing statutes, and discussing policy issues.  However, the Appellate Clinic has revealed to us what it really means to be a good lawyer.  As members of the Clinic, we’ve had the opportunity to learn the basics of appellate advocacy as well as the intricacies involved in representing clients on appeal.  From teamwork, to brief writing, to mooting for oral argument, we could not imagine better preparation as we move closer to trading in our backpacks for briefcases.

Below are the top ten lessons learned in the Appellate Clinic:

10. When drafting a brief, headings are extremely important.

Although it may be hard to believe, judges, just like law students, sometime resort to skimming a brief.

9. Put two spaces after every period.

We must admit that we are not sure whether there should be one or two spaces following a period at the end of a sentence; however, under the guidance and instruction of our professor, Tillman J. Breckenridge, an expert appellate lawyer at the international law firm of Reed Smith LLP, the answer is always put two spaces.

8. Do not use the phrase “begs the question” unless the point you are making actually raises a question.

This may be just another “pet-peeve” of our professor, but his underlying message is to write in a clear and concise manner.  Lawyers have a tendency to be verbose, and Professor Breckenridge is conscientiously making us more persuasive writers.

7. The statement of facts is the most critical section of any appellate brief.

It’s human nature to want to know who should win right off the bat, and it’s easier to win hearts if you’ve already won judges’ minds.

6. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but somehow brief writing is never complete without formatting issues and computer glitches.

We have encountered our fair share of “technical difficulties” over the past few months as we worked to draft briefs, respond to motions, and compile appendices.  Often we found that formatting can be the most time-consuming aspect of the brief-writing process.  Nothing is more frustrating than spending hours working away on filing just to have your word processor freeze up and cause you to lose everything!  Both of our computers have crashed at various points in the past few months–making us true believers in the saying that you should always “back up your back up.”

5. It is “darn near impossible to win a case at oral argument, but it is easy to lose one.”

In class, we regularly listen to and critique oral arguments with the goal of improving our own oral advocacy skills.  Professor Breckenridge taught us that oral argument is not something to just “get through.”  Rather, use your few minutes at the podium to “move the ball forward.”  Oral argument requires extensive preparation.  You must know the record cold, and you must try to anticipate every question the judges might ask.  At the end of the day, appellate advocates often describe three arguments: the argument you plan to make, the argument you actually made, and the argument you wished you made.  However, the most important thing to remember is to answer questions clearly, honestly, and with a thought as to how our case fits into the overarching law.

4. Sometimes your client can make your job a lot tougher.

Sometimes clients can be demanding or have unrealistic expectations.  We’ve learned that it helps to put yourself in their shoes, and to strive to communicate clearly.

3. Cooperation and teamwork are best for your client and your sanity.

Although our workload for the Clinic can be intense, we are fortunate to be paired with terrific partners.  Unlike most other law school classes where group work is virtually nonexistent, the Clinic relies on a team-oriented structure.  We are eight third-year students, paired into four sets of partners.  We comb through federal dockets for cases presenting constitutional issues or civil rights violations, and then decide as a group which ones to take on.  Casework is divided among the partner groups, and all brief writing is a two-person effort.  Teamwork is an integral part of our daily work in the Clinic, and it demands flexibility in accommodating different stylistic preferences, organizational methods, and personalities.

2. Credibility is your most important tool as a lawyer.

You spend years building it, but it can be lost very easily.  In just a few short months, Professor Breckenridge has taught us many nuances of appellate advocacy–from brief writing techniques to oral argument advice to general practice tips through his weekly “musings on professionalism.”  However, the advice always comes back to the importance of credibility and character.

1. If you don’t enjoy the work you’re doing, you’ll burn out quickly.

At times, our participation in the Clinic has required us to burn the midnight oil and make some sacrifices.  We spent part of Thanksgiving Break compiling a brief on the merits of a client’s First Amendment challenge to alcohol advertising regulations.  Additionally, on the first day of Christmas break, the two of us drafted an emergency motion in a federal criminal case involving an illegal search and seizure.

Appellate_Group-web

Nonetheless, these experiences have sharpened our time management skills.  As Professor Breckenridge constantly reminds us, “once you graduate and start practicing, you will never again have as much free time as you did in law school.”  As we head into the new year, and our final semester of law school, we are thrilled to continue with the Clinic.  We look forward to putting into practice many of the skills we have learned over the past six months as we zealously represent future clients.

This blog post is part of a series featuring student experiences in William & Mary Law School’s nine clinics. To view more clinic posts, click here.

Phi Alpha Delta is Back!

greenby Kelly Green, Class of 2017

America’s oldest law fraternity, Phi Alpha Delta, has been revived at William & Mary Law School. Phi Alpha Delta (or PAD) provides a mix of fraternal camaraderie and professional benefits. Since the fall, over forty students have joined the George-Wythe Chapter, with membership continuing to increase as word spreads throughout the School.

Part of this growth can be attributed to the national prestige and major networking benefits associated with PAD, but a significant portion is due to successful programming. PAD kicked off its comeback last semester with a bonfire on a chilly Friday night, featuring hot cocoa and s’mores, and continued with a bowling night and a Super-Bowl watch party.

However, Phi Alpha Delta is undoubtedly more than a social organization. This semester, PAD is focusing on academics and alumni relations. Numerous law supplements have been collected in an effort to establish a bookshelf in the library to assist members with their studies. There are also several review sessions planned for first-year students looking to solidify their understanding of second-semester classes.

By far the most interesting event this semester is initiation at the United States Supreme Court on March 4, 2015. A group of future PAD members will be travelling with the rest of the membership to get initiated in Washington, DC. Members will also go on a private tour of the Capitol and meet several well-connected PAD alumni. The initiation should also feature at a Supreme Court Justice.

All in all, Phi Alpha Delta coming back is an excellent thing for students at William and Mary Law School. It features a uniquely diverse blend of programming and resources that will prove beneficial for students now and in the future.

 pad 2

Learn more about our Student Bloggers here.

1L Interviewing, Part 1: The Alumni Mock Interview Program

brownby Cathy Brown, Class of  2017

Have you ever felt nervous before an interview?  One of my college friends was always petrified of the interview process, afraid of embarrassing herself or being unable to think of an appropriate answer to a tricky question on the spot.  Consequently, I’ve been involved with quite a few mock interviews over the past few years, posing as the interviewer the night before her meeting to help her practice and allay her fears.

This semester, however, I had the opportunity to practice honing my own interviewing skills when the Legal Practice Program partnered with the law school’s Office of Career Services (OCS) for the Alumni Mock Interview Program.  This program began with representatives from OCS giving a presentation on interviewing techniques in every 1L’s Legal Practice class.  In class the following week, we watched some demonstration videos illustrating examples of successful interviews and those that missed the mark.  After watching the clips, we had the opportunity to critique them as a class.  We also split into pairs and practiced interviewing with a classmate so we could practice fielding difficult questions in a friendly atmosphere.

Finally, the program culminated on January 30th, when each member of the 1L class was assigned to have a mock interview with a William & Mary Law School alum.  To make the experience as rewarding as possible, the Office of Career Services assigned students to an interviewer from a field that matches our potential legal interests.  For example, I’m tentatively interested in practicing family and elder law at a small firm, and my alumni interviewer – who started his own small firm – specialized in juvenile dependency.  To make conditions as realistic as possible, students were asked to dress professionally and conduct some preliminary research on the interviewer’s work.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous before going into my interview; however, my interviewer was extremely friendly and clearly excited to be back at his alma mater, helping to train the next generation of lawyers.  After a nice twenty-five minute conversation and a few minutes of helpful feedback, he sent me on my way, feeling more confident in my ability to be professional and express myself in the interview setting.

This mock interview program couldn’t have come at a better time, since my classmates and I are beginning to be called in to interview for summer internship positions.  Next week, for example, I head to Richmond for an interview at the Government & Public Interest Interview Program (expect an update on that in my next blog post!).  Although I’m sure I’ll still have butterflies in my stomach before the interview, at least I can go into the program knowing that William & Mary has given me a unique opportunity to develop interviewing skills, and has given me the tools I need to succeed.

Learn more about our Student Bloggers here.

Experience with the Domestic Violence Clinic

askrenby Jill Askren, Class of 2015

Jill Askren is originally from Vero Beach, Florida. She earned her B.A. from the University of Central Florida, double majoring in Political Science and Economics. As a 3L, she serves as a Lead Articles Editor for the William and Mary Law Review and as the Scholarly Series Coordinator for the Institute of Bill of Rights Law: Student Division. 

I had the opportunity to participate in the Domestic Violence Clinic during my 3L fall semester. This was a great experience as the clinic gave me a chance to work with actual clients, not just the hypothetical clients used in law school courses. The clinic’s focus was on advocating for protective orders for individuals through the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia. We started the semester by learning more about domestic violence and how it is such a widespread problem. A representative from a local domestic violence center then came and talked to us about the best ways to interact with clients and how to understand their situations.  We also practiced conducting client interviews and cross-examinations so that we would be prepared when we received our cases.

The matter to which I was assigned involved cyberstalking. I met with the client and with my clinic advisor to discuss the issues and come up with questions along with opening and closing statements. When I got to court, I was a little nervous because I had never before presented a case to a judge. But once I got started, it got easier, and the client received the protective order. The other students in the clinic worked on cases involving a range of domestic violence issues, and we were given the opportunity to share our experiences at the end of the semester and learn about each other’s work.

I am grateful that William and Mary offers students the chance to participate in clinics. In my past internships and externships, I had not been so involved in a case from start to finish. Plus, with my Third-Year Practice Certificate, I was able to question witnesses and give statements in court. But beyond the practical experience, clinics allow students to examine societal issues and work to help those in our local community.  These are all valuable skills for when we start practicing law. My only regret is that I will not be able to see how the clinic grows next year now that it has received a grant from the Department of Justice to expand its reach.

This blog post is part of a series featuring student experiences in William & Mary Law School’s nine clinics. To view more clinic posts, click here.

Halfway There!

lizradby Liz Rademacher, Class of 2016

On January 15, William & Mary Law celebrated a tradition that I’ve been looking forward to celebrating ever since my 1L year: the Halfway Through BBQ. Every year, the Law School throws a barbecue complete with all the fixings for 2L students who have just finished the first half of law school. After making it through our first three semesters here, my classmates and I felt like there was plenty to celebrate!

Over pulled pork sandwiches and generous helpings of baked beans and freshly-made applesauce, second-year students enjoyed catching up with each other. We chatted about what the second half of law school held in store and took some time to reflect on how far we’d all come since that first day of class a year and a half ago.

While people roasted marshmallows over a fire to make s’mores in the crisp winter air outside on the patio, I was struck by just how quickly my time in Williamsburg has passed. In my short time here, I’ve taken thirteen classes, worked as a summer intern in Washington, DC, become a Law Review staff member, done an externship in Richmond, and so much more. My classmates have won moot court tournaments or started their own organizations; they’ve worked as student attorneys at clinics and performed their own independent academic research. I’ve seen many of my classmates get engaged or get married—a few have even had their first children! And through all these milestones and changes, the entire Law School community has been a constant source of support and strength.

So much has happened since law school began, and I’m excited to see what new adventures and opportunities the second half of this journey will bring my classmates and me. Cheers, Class of 2016, we’re halfway through!

Learn more about our Student Bloggers here.

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