Recommendations for Law School and for Life

fayeshealyby Faye Shealy, Associate Dean for Admission

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

Who to Ask? 

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

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

How to Ask? 

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

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

How to Help the Recommender Help You? 

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

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

To Waive or Not to Waive Access? 

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

To Follow-Up or Not To Follow-Up? 

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

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

What Next?

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

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

Reprinted from September 23, 2013.

What Makes an Application Stand Out?

yourphotoby Elizabeth Cavallari, Senior Assistant Dean for Admission

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

Oral Communication

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

Written Communication

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

Research

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

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

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

Reprinted from September 10, 2013.

Let’s Get Personal

fayeshealyby Faye Shealy, Associate Dean for Admission

This is the first post in a series about the admission process. Stay tuned to read more about the W&M Law admission office’s thoughts on different parts of the process.

Although applications are not available for most law schools until the fall, the extraordinarily-organized among you have likely begun to craft personal statements. Our office fields a multitude of inquiries pertaining to the personal statement, so I thought I’d take a moment to address some of the most commonly-asked questions.

What should I write about?

Personal StatementYou! You! You! We will read your GPA and LSAT scores on the LSAC report; the personal statement is your chance to attach a personality to those numbers. We are looking to enroll a dynamic class of people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Everyone has a story, and we want to hear yours. Find a way to tell us who you are and what you care about. Convince us that you have something to add to our community. There is no single “right” way of constructing the personal statement. We leave you with an enormous amount of liberty to show us who you are (but do remember that you’re applying to a professional school).

Keep in mind that your extra-curricular and community activities and recommendations will be important parts of your application materials. Your personal statement should supplement – rather than repeat – your credentials. If you want to change the world, tell us why and how. If you want to write about a past experience, explain to us how it affected you. If you want to write about an issue of national or international importance, show us why you are so intrigued. Read your statement aloud before submitting it. Ask yourself if it’s sincere. Ask yourself if it’s you.  We read personal statements submitted with all applications, and we can easily separate essays with a clear voice from essays that are clearly canned.

How heavily do you weigh the personal statement in relation to the rest of the application?

We conduct a comprehensive review of your application and every aspect of the application is important. William & Mary is a small school. When we mail acceptance letters, we are not merely building a class. We are building a community. We pride ourselves on producing Citizen Lawyers and keep that mission in mind as we select each class.

Can a strong personal statement compensate for low numbers?

Yes.  Again, we review your application as a whole. Although your academic record and LSAT score are very important factors, each applicant should invest the time and thought necessary to produce essays that impress us.  If your numbers aren’t stellar, the personal statement is your chance to blow us away.

What is the proper length for a personal statement?

As long as it needs to be…and no longer.  We read thousands of personal statements each admission cycle. Your personal statement should be gripping – especially if you choose to write a long piece.

What about the optional essays?

If you have a genuine and specific interest in one of our programs, tell us! We want people who want to come to William & Mary, and we want to know what’s attracting applicants. You can also use an optional essay to tell us about an event in your life of which you are especially proud and couldn’t include in your personal statement.

 Is content more important than style?

No. Both content and style are very important. Most lawyers spend most of their days writing. Above all, the personal statement is a writing sample. It demonstrates your critical thinking skills and your capacity for creativity. It demonstrates your ability to organize information cogently and convincingly. The statement demonstrates your attention to detail. Finally, it gives us a glimpse into your character. All these qualities are important to the successful and ethical practice of law.

Any other advice?

Think and then write.  Set it aside for a day or two.  Return for a review prior to submission.  Note that spell checks do not match the name of a law school with your application submission…though we often do enjoy reading why an applicant really wants to go to Yale Law School or has always wanted to study in Boston.

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

Reprinted from September 6, 2013.

Recent Grad Looks Back

lizrademacherby Liz Rademacher, Class of 2016

Liz Rademacher graduated from W&M Law School this May with the class of 2016. Prior to law school she attended American University completing majors in Law and Society and Psychology. This fall, she will be starting a position with Davis & Harman LLP in Washington, DC.

It’s official: I’m done with law school! As a graduate of the Class of 2016, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my time at William & Mary and what I’ve learned from it. Here are a few things that I wish I would’ve told myself three years ago before starting my journey here in Williamsburg:

lizgraduation1Just because you’re wrong doesn’t mean you don’t belong. Whether you answer a question wrong in class, perform less than perfectly on a midterm, or don’t make it to the last round of try-outs for the moot court team, don’t let it get you down. No one’s perfect, and neither are you. There will be days when you might doubt if you’ve really got what it takes to be a real lawyer. It can be overwhelming learning all the knowledge and skills that go into becoming an advocate, and sometimes it might seem like everyone around you knows more than you. Just remember that everyone around you feels the same way as you, even if they don’t show it, and don’t let it get you down. I once heard a professor at W&M say, “Just because you’re wrong doesn’t mean you don’t belong.” You will make some mistakes, and that’s okay. Real lawyers do too. If you maintain a positive attitude, things that seemed like obstacles at one point will become easier with time.

Take every opportunity you can get. Whether it’s an externship abroad or helping to do research for a professor, there will be multiple opportunities that will appear before you at a law school like this one. If you have a passion for a certain area of law, pursue it! Talk to your professors and older students, utilize the Office of Career Services, and figure out how to make your experience here meaningful, both inside and outside of the classroom. I’ve learned more from working in clinics and meeting with professors than I have in some classes, and it’s important to remember that.

lizgraduation2Find your people. I can honestly say that the best part about my law school experience wasn’t the things I learned or the classes I took (those were all good too though!). Instead, the best part was the people I met along the way. W&M’s community of students, faculty, and staff is so tight-knit and supportive, and it is that community that will sustain you and grow you. I’ve learned so much about the law and about life from my professors and friends here, and those connections will continue to help me in the future.

Give back. At W&M, we learn that no matter what you decide to do with your law degree, it’s important to find a way to be a public servant. Whether that means running a 5k for the Bone Marrow Drive or participating in one of the Law School’s many clinics, we learn while we’re here how important it is to be a citizen lawyer. As professionals, we will have a responsibility to help improve our communities, and I’m grateful to have learned this lesson while I’ve been here.

Remember to have fun! Law school isn’t just for boring, serious people. In the three years I’ve been in Williamsburg, I’ve been taken road trips to beaches and wineries, gone on all the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens, seen the Grand Illumination fireworks show in Colonial Williamsburg, and tasted the best Vietnamese food that Newport News has to offer. Ultimately, you have to balance work with fun, and there are ample opportunities to do that here.

lizgraduation3Liz was also a Student Admission Ambassador and student blogger. Read more about her William & Mary Law School experiences:

 

 

 

Graduation Slideshow

Graduation continues to be one of the happiest days each year. Spirits were high and smiles were everywhere. U.S. Senator Tim Kaine drew applause and laughter with advice he gave to the Class of 2016 during the graduation speech. He shared what his first clients as a lawyer taught him about empathy, insight and compassion in his address.

Graduation is an important passage in life and significant celebration should be associated – just as it was for our 2016 graduates and their families and friends!  View the slideshow below for a sense of the festive event!

Michael Collett J.D. ’16 Honored for Outstanding Service to the Law School Community

georgewythe475x265Congratulations to Michael Collett, one of our Student Admission Ambassadors, on this honor! View a blog post written by Michael here.

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

Michael Collett J.D. ’16 received the George Wythe Award at the Law School’s Diploma Ceremony on May 15. The award is named in honor of George Wythe (1726-1806), William & Mary’s first law professor and one of the most remarkable attorneys of his time, and is given each year to a graduating student in recognition of his or her outstanding and selfless service to the Law School community.

Collett graduated with merit from the U.S. Naval Academy and currently serves as an active-duty Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. He attended William & Mary under the U.S. Navy’s Law Education Program and will continue his service after graduation as an officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Among his endeavors while at William & Mary, Collett served as Chief Justice of the Honor Council, participated in the Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic, and competed as a member of the National Trial Team, where he won two regional trial competitions and a competition award for excellence in trial advocacy.

At the Awards Ceremony for the Class of 2016, held on the eve of graduation, he was inducted into the Order of Barristers, a national honor society that recognizes student advocates who have excelled in written and oral advocacy competitions and activities.

Dean Davison M. Douglas presented the award and read from two of the recommendations from Collett’s classmates.

One wrote: “Mike truly exemplifies the best qualities of the citizen lawyer. His integrity, commitment, and devotion to the greater good are unsurpassed in the Class of 2016.”

Another classmate contributed this observation: “All who know and encounter Michael at the Law School know that his character is steadfast and is complemented by his sense of humor, his kindness, and his spirit of giving.”

Douglas E. Brown ’71, J.D. ’74: Actively Engaged in Helping the Next Generation

Brown_475x265Blog post reproduced with permission of the Communications Office

A loyal and proud alumnus, Doug Brown spends significant time in retirement actively involved with the William & Mary community. Like many alums, Brown feels grateful and happy to give his time and resources to the alma mater that gave him so much.

A scroll through Brown’s LinkedIn profile reveals a successful career and an impressive list of volunteer appointments, most of which are with William & Mary.

“I owe a lot to William & Mary and I want to give back,” says Brown. “Having the College on my resumé made a huge difference in my career.”

Originally from Marion, Indiana, Brown received his bachelor’s degree in sociology from William & Mary in 1971.

“I grew up in the Midwest and I wanted to broaden my horizons,” he says. “William & Mary was the best choice. I liked the campus, the academic programs, and, of course, the basketball scholarship the College offered me.”

After Brown graduated, he immediately continued his studies at the Law School, where he also received a scholarship and was a member of the William & Mary Law Review and Phi Alpha Delta.

“I knew I wanted to be a lawyer and I was already in the academic routine,” says Brown. “I applied to another law school but I chose William & Mary Law and never regretted it.”

After graduation, he worked for Shanley & Fisher, a large insurance defense firm in New Jersey, where he handled medical malpractice and product liability insurance defense litigation. In 1977, Brown began his nearly 33-year career with the General Motors Legal Staff in Detroit.

“Being a corporate lawyer fit me quite nicely,” he says. “But if you had told me when I started at W&M Law about the wide variety of matters I would handle as a corporate lawyer, I would have had trouble believing it.”

During his GM career, Brown managed product litigation cases, certain regulatory matters, and also negotiated and drafted product responsibility agreements with several of GM’s international business partners. He also traveled world-wide, and spoke about U.S. product liability litigation to numerous GM business units, and also companies doing business with GM, in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and Sweden.

“I started my volunteer work before I retired because I wanted to stay busy,” he recalls. “William & Mary has meant so much to me that it was an obvious choice when I wanted to give back.”

Brown was recently elected Vice President of the Law School Foundation, following a term as Secretary/Treasurer. He chairs the Foundation’s Development Committee and is a member of the Law School’s Campaign Steering Committee. He also has been active in the Law School’s Alumni Ambassador and Co- Counsel Mentoring programs, and has co-chaired several of his Law School and undergraduate reunion gift committees. Brown served seven years on William & Mary’s Annual Giving Board of Directors, chaired the Board for two years, and is a Class Ambassador for his undergraduate class.

“I love being part of the William & Mary community and working as a liaison for William & Mary in Michigan,” says Brown, who has served as the College’s Alumni Admissions Network representative for southeastern Michigan. “Today’s students are exceptionally smart and well-qualified.”

Brown believes that having William & Mary on his resumé twice, for undergraduate and law degrees, has been enormously valuable in his career.

“There is tremendous name recognition and prestige that comes with the William & Mary name, especially in the Midwest,” he says. “I’m very thankful for the scholarships and other opportunities William & Mary gave me.”

A generous contributor to the College and Law School, Brown took his support to another level by establishing The Douglas E. and Escha J. Brown Law Scholarship Endowment.

“The scholarship is available to any student with financial need who maintains good academic standing,” says Brown. “I wanted to keep the requirements as flexible as possible.” The scholarship was fully funded in 2014.

“This past fall I had the pleasure of meeting Ethan Smith (’18), the first recipient of the scholarship,” he says. “Attending William & Mary on a scholarship changed my life and I look forward to doing the same for others.”

Making Things Happen, Getting Things Done — 4th Annual Leadership Conference

hopkinsby Kristin Hopkins, Class of 2018

This past March, William & Mary Law School hosted the 4th Annual Leadership Conference. This year’s theme was “Making Things Happen, Getting Things Done,” and over 40 of our most distinguished alumnae shared their stories and advice to law students and professors. As a student shadow, I had the opportunity to host an alumna throughout the day, attend different  sessions, and attend a lunch with all the presenters.

My favorite session, Closing A Big Deal, featured female lawyers from Washington, D.C., New York City, and Delaware. They spoke most what it meant to them to “close a big deal.” Their responses ranged anywhere from getting exactly what their client wanted to just finishing a case they had been working on for months! This was also my favorite session because, as corporate women, they also talked a lot about their family life and how you don’t have to choose between your career and raising your children. As a budding female attorney, this was very assuring as I plan to enter the legal field.

leadershipconference_03Throughout the day, I had the opportunity to speak with many alumnae who are working, or have worked, in the particular legal field I am interested in, and I even set up some meetings with them during the summer!

All in all, the Leadership Conference was an excellent day, not just for the networking opportunities, but to gain inspiration and advice from lawyers who were in my position not too long ago. I highly encourage all William & Mary Law students to take advantage of the conference next year!

Read the news story here.

Top Medieval Law Scholars Explore Magna Carta’s Legacy at BORJ Symposium

On Friday, March 18, the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal (BORJ) hosted “After Runnymede: Revising, Reissuing, and Reinterpreting Magna Carta in the Middle Ages.” The day-long symposium explored Magna Carta’s impact between its issuance in 1215 and resurgence in the seventeenth century.

Professor Thomas McSweeney, William & Mary Law School’s resident specialist in the early history of the common law, said that although 2015 represented the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the original document, King John’s death the following year led to important revisions that make 2016 an equally significant anniversary in its formation.

“2016, in a sense, kicks off the anniversary of the later development of Magna Carta, the process by which a failed peace treaty was transformed into a charter of liberties, which became part of both the English and American constitutional traditions,” McSweeney said.

Elaborating on those developments, the symposium offered four panels with world-renowned scholars in medieval legal history from the United Kingdom and North America.The first session, “Magna Carta’s Dissemination,” featured Janet Loengard (Moravian College), Richard Helmholz (University of Chicago), and Paul Brand (University of Oxford), and addressed Magna Carta’s influence upon such topics as the widow’s quarantine, the English Church, and the diffusion of texts in the thirteenth century.

The second panel featured Professor McSweeney and Karl Shoemaker (University of Wisconsin-Madison) delving into the religious dimension of Magna Carta.

The next panel explored the later history of the Charter of the Forest, featuring Ryan Rowberry (Georgia State) and Sarah Harlan-Haughey (University of Maine).

Prof. Tom McSweeney

Prof. Tom McSweeney

Charles Donahue (Harvard University), Anthony Musson (University of Exeter), and David Seipp (Boston University), rounded up the day with a discussion of Magna Carta in the later Middle Ages. Topics included an investigation of the transformation Magna Carta from law to symbol, and Magna Carta’s role in the “lawless” fifteenth century.

Students appreciated the opportunity the symposium held in providing a glimpse into a significant aspect of legal history.

“History not only helps us to understand why the law is what it is today, but it also forces us to think about what the law can be tomorrow and what role attorneys can play in shaping it,” said Alyssa D’Angelo J.D. ’18. “We learn that the law has never been—and will likely never be—divorced from people, economic systems, and governments.”

D’Angelo added that she is confident that “this lesson will serve us well in practice, where we will be forced to confront the law in context.”

D’Angelo’s classmate Breanna Jensen concurred. “Events like the Magna Carta symposium are important for law students because they provide that historical background that we don’t always have time to cover in class.”

The event was sponsored by William & Mary’s Bill of Rights Journal. Since 1992, the BORJ has published important scholarly works on constitutional law. Published four times per year, the journal is ranked the third most-cited student-edited constitutional law journal by Washington and Lee’s Law Journal Rankings Survey.

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.