JD/MBA Information Session

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

On January 30, I attended an information session regarding William & Mary’s JD/MBA joint degree program. In this program, a student can earn both a Juris Doctor and Masters in Business Administration in four years. Usually it takes three years for a JD, and two years for a MBA. Therefore, you shorten the total time, and tuition, required to earn both degrees.

At the information sessions were representatives from both William & Mary’s Law School and the Mason School of Business. For current law students interested in the program, the curriculum is designed so that you take classes for the first two years at the law school, the third year at the business school, and the fourth year, a combination of courses from both schools.

There are many reasons why a student may pursue a joint degree. Some students attend law school to receive analytical training, but intend to work for a business after graduation. For these types of students, a JD/MBA program would strengthen a student’s job profile by giving him the business training necessary to succeed at a high level corporate position. It’s important to have strong reasons for getting a dual degree as there can be a downside to the joint degree for law students wanting to enter law practice. Our Office of Career Services staff is available to counsel students who are considering also pursuing a MBA.

Although this program would be a tremendous opportunity, this would mean being in school an extra year, which should be viewed as a large commitment. I am currently undecided about the program, but I have a year to decided whether to apply. Regardless of my decision, law students are allowed to take certain courses in the business school and apply those course credits towards obtaining a JD. These cross-listings encourage law students to take classes offered within various William & Mary graduate schools. This interdisciplinary approach would likely be beneficial for a student simply to observe how other graduate schools operate on a daily basis.

Over the next few weeks I will probably talk to current students within the JD/MBA program to seek their advice. Moreover, the Dean of Admissions for the MBA program offered to let me observe a class lecture. I will likely take advantage of this offer. If you have any additional questions about this program you can either email me, or look up information online regarding the JD/MBA dual degree program.

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Wolf Law Library

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

If you can imagine this, I spend most of my time in the library. The building was renovated a few years ago, so even though William & Mary may be the oldest law school in the country, the library is very modern. The library consists of 3 main sections: (1) the hang out/leisure area, (2) the study tables, and (3) the study carrels.

The hand out/leisure area consists main of chairs and small tables to eat food or drink coffee. Many people come here simply to read emails or relax when they have free time, but not enough to start studying. The library also provides newspapers and magazines for those who simply want to get away from a computer screen.

4619414744_4a972dc265_mAdditionally, the library has a separate section with several long tables that are used for studying. These tables, like in other libraries, are in an open room with outlets and lamps throughout the table. For those who like studying with people, this is your place. This section of the library is in a room with panoramic windows that allow you to look outside at the scenery. Plus, these rooms have a ton of natural light, which is always preferable when studying.

Finally, the library also offers dozens of library carrels. While you might think that carrels are standard to all libraries, trust me these are not. Each carrel is big enough to hold two people, and their stuff. Plus they have two outlets and an upper portion to store books or school materials. I spend a majority of my time in this section because I like the “closed feeling” that a carrel provides, as opposed to the open concept at the study tables.

4619413954_00becf28ed_mWhile these are the three main sections of the library, there are also additional features worth highlighting. At night, I really like using a white board to memorize material/simply write it down to understand it. So I usually reserve a group study room. Each student has access to a website that allows you to reserve a separate group study room in increments of four hours per day. These rooms hold anywhere from 6-10 people, and are typically used by TAs during office hours. Although the rooms are technically for group studying, many individuals, including myself, reserve them just for solo studying. These rooms give me a change of scenery after spending all day sitting at a carrel.

In addition to these academically related features, the library also has a student lounge with a ping-pong table and pool table available 24/7. Although many people think that law school academics are competitive, they haven’t played ping-pong with a group of law students. My friends get really competitive with playing, but ultimately, the games are all in good fun because they give us a chance to relax and take a break from school. With finals upon us, this room not only helps us unwind, but also allows us to be more efficient studiers by allowing us to recharge ourselves during the final leg of this law school grind.

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Looking Back on the First Semester’s Finals

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

Wow, just like that December, and finals are already here and flying by. Its crazy to think that only a few short months ago, I was sitting in my first law school class, not totally sure of what I had gotten myself into, and now finals are done, and its certainly true what they say… Law school will change you.

Even within the first few months of being in law school, its clear that most students undergo a change. The environment that law school places students into provides a new lens to view the world through, and new tools to understand what they are looking at. The way you think has changed, the way you speak, read, argue and analyze have all changed and will continue to do so over the rest of your time in law school and afterwards (or so they say).

While its true that law school comes with a lot of stress, and even more work, its also true that it comes with a lot of fun as well. Being at a school like William & Mary offers a unique opportunity to really experience a lot. Its unique location offers easy access to a number of cities, such as Richmond and Washington, DC; its alumni network is second to none with alumni coming back what seems like every week to speak at an event, help with job searching, or teach a class; and its student community is a close-nit group, with a diverse background – every day, you will be challenged by them – and ultimately you will benefit from it, especially come finals time.

statuesBefore coming to law school, and before actually taking a law school final, I (like most, I think) had heard the horror stories of what they were like – long hypotheticals that don’t seem to have any sort of definite answer and writing until the very last second. While this is true in part, finals are not as bad as the stories make them seem. While they are certainly long, and can put your brain through a mental gauntlet, they are no more than what you have been prepared for all semester. The truth of the matter, at least at William & Mary, is that your professors WANT you to do well. They want to challenge you, but they also want to see you succeed.

Yes, law school exams are stressful, you will inevitably spend hours creating an outline, reviewing it, and using it to take old practice exams, preparing. But don’t stress too much—its important to remember that over stressing and over studying for a final are not good ways to prepare. Having some faith in your abilities as a student, and in the preparation that you have received throughout the semester will go a long way in helping to keep you sane, and in helping you to prepare effectively. Ultimately, every student had their own way of preparing for finals, and you will have to find out what works best for you; but no matter what that is – remember (like the rest of the semester) its important to keep some balance – take time for your self and relax. By the end of your first semester, you’ll see how much you’ve already accomplished.

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The Inevitability of Exams

newtonby Dakota Newton, Class of 2018

Thanksgiving is over, and finals, once so comfortably distant, are now just a week away. Hopefully, you put the time over the break to good use and have returned to W&M both mentally rested and feeling ready for finals.

Just before the break, the J. Reuben Clark Law Society hosted an exam-prep boot camp for 1L students. 2L and 3L students shared their tips and tricks for outlining and studying for exams. I would like to pass on two of the tips for what to do once your outline is complete.

First, look at your outline and pull out the big ideas. Identify the handful of key legal concepts that have continued to pop up over and over again throughout the semester. Write them down in bullet-point form on note cards. Then find a willing listener with no legal experience.* Teach them the key concept using simple language and as few words as possible. This will help you to understand the essence of the concept by forcing you to rephrase it into normal English. You will also save time during the exam because you will already know what you want to say.

Second, think long and hard about what judges your professors are really fond of. Every professor has one or two judges whose opinions they consider the gold standard of legal analysis. Once you have identified the judges, re-read the cases that they wrote the opinion for and break down their method of analysis. File these methods away in your legal toolbox for reference when you feel like there is something you might not quite be getting during the exam.

Hopefully these tips will be of some use as you prepare for exams over the next two weeks. Good luck!

*Parents are good options. They appreciate time on the phone with you, and you get to study. It’s a win-win situation.

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Hearing from an Alum in Criminal Law

newtonby Dakota Newton, Class of 2018

One of my favorite things about law school is listening to stories from the practicing attorneys and other speakers that professors and the school invite to campus. All of these people have good stories to tell, but I especially enjoy stories from the people who work in criminal justice. Nothing beats a good murder case, especially when the murderer was never caught.

On October 29, Professor Marcus invited Eddie Nickel, an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney from Richmond and 2007 graduate of the Law School, to talk with a group of 1Ls from his Criminal Law class. Eddie talked about his work as a prosecutor generally, the sort of cases he generally deals with, and how he manages to work through the seventy-plus cases that land on his desk each week (good judgment and long hours, if you are curious). He also discussed the full extent of his involvement as a prosecutor, which extends far beyond what I had ever thought.

Eddie’s job begins with talking to the police officers who are on patrol, so he can understand what challenges they are facing with previous offenders. On top of that, Eddia has a massive caseload, daily court appearances, data collection, recidivism analysis, and policy recommendation. So, if you are an excellent juggler and want to bear the responsibility of keeping the Virginia criminal justice system effective and equitable, then this may be the job for you.

Eddie Nickel

Eddie Nickel

After impressing us with his wide range of skills and prodigious work rate, Eddie settled into the stories, specifically a story of a suspected murderer in Richmond who has successfully evaded multiple convictions over the past quarter century but could be sentenced shortly if Eddie’s office is successful next month.

Overall, it was an excellent experience and a tantalizing glimpse of the careers that are just a few short years away.

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See Eddie’s W&M Valentine’s post from 2011 here.


Professional Skills in the Legal Practice Program

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

One criticism of law schools are that much of the information and subject material learned simply doesn’t translate into the professional arena. Put simply, law school gives you the foundation to become a successful attorney but doesn’t actually provide you with the training necessary to be a practicing attorney.

At William & Mary, the Law School places extraordinary emphasis behind the Legal Practice Program. The program includes legal writing, legal research, and professional skills taught by a practicing attorney. Many attorneys have said that these courses are the most important classes at the school. While I could dedicate 10 blog posts to this program, today I will highlight the professional skills portion of the Legal Research & Writing Program.

The professional skills portion of the program is taught by a practicing attorney and is usually held one night per week. In this course we learn the practical aspects of being an attorney: how to interview clients, how to deliver oral reports to senior attorneys, and how to counsel a client on a legal matters. Although this sounds daunting, personally I think these classes are fun. For the interviews and counseling sessions, we even get to go to our professor’s law office to conduct the interview/report. While many people become nervous before these assignments, most are ungraded, and the professor gives you great feedback, so you can improve for the graded sessions at the end of the semester.

While I am not allowed to reveal the plot lines for any of the interviews (Just in case they are reused next year) I can say that the plots are all fun and informative. My Legal Practice class is actually one of my favorites because I am learning valuable skills from an expert attorney that are applicable in the professional world. Learning how to deal with a client, even if they are trying to push you off topic, is a skill that simply cannot be learned from a book but rather through hours of practice.

Yesterday, I had my last ungraded client counseling session and tomorrow is my graded client interview. Even though it is a graded assignment, based upon the feedback I’ve received in previous sessions, I am confident that I will do great!

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Keeping Perspective

swinkby Austin Swink, Class of 2017

As final exams are on the horizon, many law students begin to feel more stress. This does not go unnoticed by professors. A professor of mine recently opened class with a conversation about keeping perspective. The professor challenged all of us students to keep the full view of life when engaging in our professional work. As a side note, this professor styles his course around the phrase, “not losing the forest for the trees.” No doubt this motto extends to more than just the subject covered in the coursework. In life it is important to find things outside your profession  to value and pursue. This is a lesson that can be learned in law school, and I encourage prospective students to practice it from the first day of their legal education.

My professor’s comments reminded me of the best advice I heard about law school years ago. A lawyer told me to be sure to maintain mind, body, and soul while in law school. This can mean different things to different people, but there is a kernel of wisdom there that is universal. For me, taking time away from the library and my studies is crucial. If I have the opportunity to take an entire day off from studies, I do. If it’s just an afternoon away, I still take it. Believe me, it will be tempting to rack up the hours in pursuit of that almighty “A” on the final exam, but you will find more success in giving your mind space to think about things unrelated to law school.

With regards to maintaining one’s body, I run. Running may not be everyone’s favorite thing to do, but the general objective should be to get outside and be on your feet. Williamsburg is great for that. There are many trails and parks that are ripe for an afternoon picnic or a morning walk with your favorite coffee or tea.

With respect to maintaining one’s soul, I recommend being involved in the community. While spending time with law school friends is great, dare to find friends who are “locals.” For me, that community is at my church. Regardless of your faith, becoming involved in a local organization can broaden your perspective on your new residence and lead to experiences (meals, volunteering, sightseeing, etc.) that will greatly enrich your law school experience.

William & Mary is a great law school. But one of its most overlooked advantages, is its location. It’s a great place to not “lose the forest for the trees” and to maintain mind, body, and soul while pursing the most rigorous and rewarding academic experience of your life.

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1L Review Sessions

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

Welcome to my first 1L blog post! I will be talking about how review sessions work to help combat the number one fear in law school: final exams.

There is no denying the proverbial “elephant in the room;” all doctrinal classes are based on one four-hour exam at the end of the semester. With fast-paced classes and complicated readings, many law students (especially me) are virtually always thinking about the final exam. While many entering students are more nervous about “cold-calling” in class; in reality, the final exam is the overwhelming determinate of your final course grade.

Ok, I know that this doesn’t seem to be a pleasant topic, especially for my first blog post, but this month, I discovered a game-changing resource that W&M offers to 1L students: review sessions conducted by TAs. Every few weeks, TAs will conduct evening review sessions that highlight important course material and hypothetical problems, “hypos,” that mirror exam questions.

These sessions are extremely helpful! The sessions allow you to review material and ask lingering questions about specific legal issues. A few weeks ago, I attended a review session for Criminal Law, and the TA not only reviewed course material, but also shared her techniques for approaching exam questions. I was impressed since TAs must first finish among the top students in the class, and I trusted the advice she gave my classmates and me. These sessions are designed to eliminate some of the uncertainty that plagues first-semester law students.

In that week’s review session, my TA covered a hypothetical fact pattern containing several crimes including murder, accomplice liability, negligence, and their respective defenses. While this might seem overwhelming, the criminals in the fact pattern were actually Disney characters, which added much appreciated humor to the problem. Our TA wrote a step-by-step answer on the board by attributing crimes to each Disney character within the hypo.

I believe these sessions will be immensely helpful when I begin to prepare for final exams. I will be more prepared when studying, and more confident when taking the actual exam. Although I’ve barely scratched the surface of exam prep, these review session have clearly set me in the right direction for being successful. If you attend William & Mary, I would highly recommend attending these sessions.

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The First Month of Law School and the 2015-2016 Supreme Court Preview

borkby Emily Bork, Class of 2018

These past initial weeks as a 1L have been filled with all things new: a new city, new faces, new classmates, new subjects, new terminology, and most importantly, a new way of learning. Having only about five weeks of law school under my belt, I’ve grown more accustomed to tackling the course work and readings, but still face some uncertainty as to how it will all come together by the end of the semester, and even by the end of my 1L year. While I’ve been initiated into the highly anticipated cold-calling of the Socratic Method (and survived!), there are still some aspects of my 1L year that seem slightly nerve-wracking, especially outlining and prepping for exams.

All that being said, I come to find myself loving the law and my legal studies more and more each day. Maybe that’s totally nerdy for me to say, but it’s true! My passion for the law was re-affirmed when I attended William & Mary’s incredible 2015-2016 Supreme Court Preview this past weekend. Being able to listen to expert panels give their commentary and predictions regarding the cases that the Supreme Court will hear this term was truly an amazing experience. I also watched a moot court oral argument of a case that the Supreme Court will decide on this term concerning possible 1st Amendment issues of the subsidization of political speech in relation to public unions. An impressive and intellectually robust panel discussion followed afterwards regarding trends in the Supreme Court including the balance between interpretation of federal statutes and the need for judicial restraint. Even though I will admit that some of the topics were pretty complex, I found myself trying to dissect and analyze each of the speaker’s arguments. Halfway through my mental analysis of the panel’s discussion of Equal Protection and Due Process, I realized that I really am beginning to think in a different and exciting way.

Listening to the panels of scholars during the Supreme Court Preview inspired me to continue asking questions, analyzing, and trying to search for the answers. I know this semester will have its twists and turns along the way, but one thing’s for sure—I can’t wait to see where this journey will take me!

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Welcome to the Legal Profession

by Patty RobertsClinical Professor of Law and Director, Clinical Programs, and Director, Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic

Early in my teaching career I had the honor of welcoming our first-year students throughout a one-week orientation, and on the last morning, I was directed to “inspire them.” It was a task that proved as daunting to me as it was rewarding, and in preparing for the start of another academic year, it serves as the inspiration for my post today.

To the new law students and those of us privileged to guide their journey, I offer these thoughts as a welcome to the legal profession. First and foremost, remember that being a lawyer is an immense responsibility.  Never forget that people trust you with their lives and their livelihoods when they choose you as their lawyer.  They deserve the best that you can give them – as a lawyer and as a person.  How you treat your clients has a rippling effect on the people they know, their communities, and the judicial system.

Who do you want to be as a lawyer? . . . That is the most critical question as you embark on this career. As you consider that question, I want to share with you a story about a lawyer who graduated from William & Mary, one who laughed that he was an important part of the law school because he was part of the foundation holding up the top three-fourths of his class. Despite his less than stellar GPA, he went on to develop a very successful law practice, using his amazing legal mind.  More important than that, though, was the effect he had on clients’ lives, not just their cases.

For instance, a client of his wrote, “He was a special person.  He seemed concerned about his client’s health and well-being, along with their legal cases.” Another client wrote, “He had a tremendous heart and always had the time for us whenever we needed it, despite his busy schedule.” A third client noted that “He guided me through many complex legal issues over the past four years – he was a great attorney and an occasional sushi lunch buddy.” Clients spoke of him being a “truly a kind and caring man.”

Through kindness and respect for others and the profession, he was well regarded by other attorneys too. One wrote, “I have had cases against him over the past few years and have always thoroughly enjoyed his company.  The legal community has lost a hard worker and a kind gentleman.” Another wrote, “He was a great, honest and good man.  He was kind to others, and compassionate in how he approached the practice of law.  In short, he was a gentleman.” Another opponent noted that he “always enjoyed having cases against him.  He was well respected, a hard worker and a joy to be around.  He will be missed in the legal community.” One attorney noted that he “never knew him, but the lawyers here in our office who had cases with him always volunteered that he was one of the good guys.”

Lastly, a William & Mary faculty member and fellow member of the Bar explained that she “frequently receives inquiries from people who need an attorney, but have no money to pay one.  In such circumstances, I have again, and again, and again, contacted him and asked him to help.  He has never said “no.”  When people ask me what kind of law he practices, I say “free law” because he is so generous with his services.”

A young student who externed with him noted, “I look to him as my role model.  He is not only the type of lawyer I want to be, he is the type of person I want to be.  If I achieve that, in my mind I will be successful.”[1]

It starts now, as you begin law school – what kind of lawyer do you want to be?

As you embark on this profession, you will be entrusted with the keys to the judiciary. With that privilege, you are making a commitment to the highest standards of professional behavior, behavior that includes self-enforcement and required competence. Once you make this commitment to higher standards of behavior – the likelihood of getting caught when you break the rules is 100%, because you will always know if your actions violate the tenets of our profession. Life as a lawyer breaching these standards will be empty and unrewarding. Law is an honorable profession, one that you should be grateful to become a part of and proud to maintain as honorable.

Challenge yourself to make this career about more than a quest for things material; such a quest will prove empty and unrewarding.  Entering this profession brings with it the responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves through the complexity of the judicial system. Our country is filled with an overwhelming number of people who need your skills and your passion just to preserve the life, liberty and happiness that the rest of us often take for granted. There is a devastating need for legal services in this country; I hope you will not leave the cry for justice from the most vulnerable among us unanswered.

Don’t forget why you came to law school.  Write down those reasons today as you embark on this journey, and look to them often during law school.   If you remember those reasons each morning, this will be a career that sustains your spirit.  Welcome to this honorable profession; we need you.

[1] The lawyer was Ken Roberts, William & Mary Class of 1990, my late husband, who died suddenly after turning 41.  He was the kindest, most compassionate and generous lawyer I have ever known.  He inspired me during his life, and he continues to do so today, as an attorney who regularly made a difference in the lives of others.

Reposted with permission from Clinical Law Prof Blog.

Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Program

satiraby John Satira, Class of 2017

Individuals engaging in the study of law could certainly be described as a curiosity-driven and knowledge-seeking bunch. The William & Mary Law School community supports the intellectual curiosities of its students, faculty, and staff by hosting a wide variety of speakers to discuss various topics related to law. In fact, one of my many New Year resolutions for 2015 has been to attend more of the school’s speaker events. Thankfully, I was able to make strides toward accomplishing my resolution early, as educational speaker opportunities began as soon as winter break ended.

One especially interesting event I attended was a program to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. For those that need a quick history refresher, the Magna Carta was a charter signed by England’s unpopular King John in 1215 that asserted certain rights the monarchy could not remove from its subjects. The legacy of the Magna Carta has had a profound impact on “rule of law” legal theory, including an influence on the legal framework of early United States law.

After an introduction by Dean Douglas, three very distinguished speakers took turns discussing the Magna Carta from a variety of perspectives. The first was William & Mary’s own Professor Tom McSweeney. As one of the nation’s leading experts on the Magna Carta, Professor McSweeney spoke about how the Magna Carta’s impact was not limited to the 1215 document. In fact, McSweeney argued that the lesser-known later amendments to the Magna Carta defined the charter’s legacy more profoundly than the terms of the original document. Following Professor McSweeney, Professor A.E. Dick Howard of the University of Virginia Law School discussed the impact that the Magna Carta had on American constitutional theory, a topic that was particularly relevant to my constitutional law class this semester. Lastly, Sir Robert Worcester, chair of the United Kingdom’s Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, spoke about his own legal experience abroad and how the Magna Carta has maintained a global influence.

I thoroughly enjoyed attending the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary program, and I know I was not the only one. Many of my fellow students attended as well, and I was able to recognize a variety of professors and librarians also in attendance. It was great to see such an enlightening event get so much attention from the law school community, and I am very much looking forward to the next presentation I attend.

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