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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License to …. Bid

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

Law School can be a lot, but its important to remember to take a break, and that’s just what several hundred students did on Saturday night at The Public Service Fund (PSF) Annual Auction.

Each Spring, the Law School’s PSF, a student run organization dedicated to community service, and raising money to help fund students interning over the summer, holds its largest fundraising event: the PSF Auction.

bondThis year, the theme was one that everyone recognized. 007. On Saturday evening, hundreds of Law School Students showed up in their best outfits, to get behind a great cause, and have some fun.

The auction consists of a silent and live auction with items of all varieties, including: art, spa packages, baked goods, meals with professors, golf rounds, gift-cards, mini-vacations, premium parking spots, and many, many more. Every item was donated by students, faculty and the local Williamsburg community.

The night also included food, drinks, and live performances by a number of different individual students and student groups – really bringing together the community.

In all, the evening raises thousands of dollars which go towards funding students working in public service jobs for the summer. While the total is not yet in for this year, last year’s total funds were over $40,000 – all which were donated back to students.

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Interviews galore at the Government & Public Interest Interview Program

borkby Emily Bork, Class of 2018

Interview season is officially under way for the 1L class! Freshly geared with helpful feedback from our mock interviews with W&M alumni last month, my fellow 1Ls and I have been busy with applying and meeting with potential employers for prospective summer internships that are now just a few short months away.

Our interview skills were put to the test at the Government & Public Interest Interview Program, also known as GPIIP, at the University of Richmond. This is one of the largest interview programs for law students in the area who hope to work for public interest agencies this summer. Dozens of employers from public defenders to local city and county attorneys’ offices to legal aid service organizations interviewed with applicants. GPIIP was truly a full day of interviewing, speed-dating style, at its finest! Law students from William & Mary, the University of Richmond, and Washington & Lee, gathered at a large conference center on the University of Richmond’s campus ready and energized to secure an internship for the summer.

Although there was some nervous chatter in the lobby before students went in to the conference center to meet with their designated potential employers for their interviews, it was very exciting to see and hear from fellow law students in the Virginia area. I was encouraged by the large number of students who, like myself, hope to be involved with public interest work this summer.

Lauren and I after a great morning full of interviews!

Lauren and I after a great morning full of interviews!

I went to GPIIP with my friend, Lauren, who thankfully offered to drive (I am the first to admit that my driving skills are not the greatest!). I was more than happy to serve as the navigator as we made our way to Richmond. Although we had to get up pretty earlier in the morning as my first interview was at 9am, it was great to take the short, hour or so ride to Richmond. After our interviews were wrapped up by about noon, we decided to celebrate and grab lunch at a café to re-charge and relax. From our lunch de-briefing, it seemed like we both remembered all that our Office of Career Services had taught us and had pretty successful interviews!

We got back on the road (but not before grabbing a quick cup of coffee) and headed home to Williamsburg. Not only was GPIIP personally rewarding and a meaningful interview experience, but it was a great opportunity to explore Richmond for the day and see another part of Virginia. All in all, it was an awesome way to spend a Friday!

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Great Speakers Visit W&M Law

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

William & Mary Law School hosts fantastic speakers throughout the academic year. One example is a guest lecture by Erwin Chemerinsky who is the 2nd most cited legal scholar in the nation. He is the current Dean of the University of California-Irvine Law School and a prominent constitutional law scholar. He attended Harvard Law School and has argued several cases in front of the United States Supreme Court.

In his talk, Mr. Chemerinsky spoke about several topics including his recent book “The Case Against the Supreme Court,” where he suggests that the Supreme Court has failed to fulfill its obligation to the country. He uses the Dred Scott v. Sanford and Korematsu v. United States as examples where the Supreme Court failed to protect the Constitutional Rights of minority populations. Mr. Chemerinsky suggests that the court should take an active role in promoting social justice, especially to promote equality amongst the population. Additionally, he suggests several changes to the Supreme Court including an 18-year term limit and live television broadcasts of oral arguments. Mr. Chemerinisky asserts that these changes would minimize political interests in the court, and help promote social change through their decisions.

In addition to his book, Mr. Chemerinisky also spoke about his involvement with Civil Rights litigation, including the representation of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner who is still being detained. He urged William & Mary students to become civil rights advocates by accepting pro bono work and becoming members of local organizations such as the ACLU. Although his opinions are considered controversial, the main point of this blog post is not the lecture’s substance, but rather his presence on campus.

Being the oldest and one of the most prestigious law schools in the nation, William & Mary has the ability to attract famous speakers to campus. Moreover, William & Mary’s modest size allows students to actively engage with the speaker by asking in-depth questions regarding the law. In the lecture, students were able to raise their hand and ask Mr. Chemerinisky about alternative theories to his legal opinions, which he subsequently addressed. This level of engagement is rare.

To further prove my point, I also attended another guest lecture given in a small classroom, which featured prominent attorney Kathleen Sullivan talking about her involvement with gay rights litigation. Ms. Sullivan, regarded as one of the most sought after lawyers in the nation, is the former Dean of Stanford Law School and is currently a major partner at Quinn, Emanuel, Urquart, & Sullivan. She was once considered a favorite for being appointed to the Supreme Court by Barak Obama. Throughout her legal career she has fought for Gay Rights, and played a critical role in overturning several discriminatory laws.

While experience may be telling you that Ms. Sullivan likely gave a hour long lecture and then left the room to applause, you would be wrong. Her discussion resembled a conversation that included dozens of questions from the audience. I even asked her for advice about tailoring a winning argument for a Supreme Court case. Although this was before Justice Scalia’s recent passing, Ms. Sullivan said the key to winning a case was persuading the proverbial “swing vote” of the court. Today, this vote would be Justice Kennedy.

Although you can likely go on YouTube and look for lectures given by Kathleen Sullivan, nothing trumps an in-person discussion where you can interact with her opinions. This experience is common at William & Mary, and I highly encourage future students to take advantage of these opportunities.

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