See William & Mary on the Road!

by Elizabeth Cavallari

forum-bannerFall recruitment season is upon us, and the admission staff is ready to hit the road. Deans Shealy and Shabsin join me in our excitement to meet potential applicants all over the county.

LSAC Forums and Forum Workshops are great opportunities to gain a tremendous amount of information about the law school application process, the legal profession, and individual law schools. Find us at the following locations:

Dean Shealy in Miami                   September 2

Dean Shealy in Houston               October 12

Dean Shealy in New York             October 18 & 19

Dean Cavallari in Boston              October 21

Dean Cavallari in Los Angeles      October 26

Dean Shabsin in Atlanta                November 2

William & Mary will also be represented at many other Law Fairs and Graduate & Professional School Programs on college campuses throughout the country. We are looking forward to seeing you soon and talking with you about William & Mary Law School!

What Makes an Application Stand Out?

by Elizabeth Cavallari

“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.


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 

Let’s Get Personal

by Faye Shealy

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 most application deadlines are still months away, 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!

Welcome Class of 2016!

by Elizabeth Cavallari

William & Mary law students are completing their first week of classes today, and we are thrilled with the 1Ls among them. The 227 members of the Class of 2016 represent 40 states, DC, and citizenship in two other countries. A large proportion of our students are from Virginia, but we also have strong representation from New York, California, Pennsylvania, Florida, and others.

2016 Hats

Here are some interesting facts about members of the 1L class:

  • Three engaged in a great books curriculum during college.
  • Twenty-four have been honored with membership in Phi Beta Kappa.
  • Seventy-one have taken advantage of study abroad programs.
  • One is a Fulbright Scholar.
  • Eleven served in the military.
  • Over half the class has strong experience volunteering and engaging in community service.
  • One received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award Gold Level for logging 400+ hours of volunteering.
  • Others founded a military charity race, coached Girls on the Run, and volunteered with a homeless running program.
  • Nine are Eagle Scouts, and one achieved her Gold Award.
  • Thirty-eight participated in varsity sports.
  • One coordinated three TEDx series on his undergraduate campus.

For more information about the Class of 2016, click here. We are excited to have them in the William & Mary community!

Looking Back on “A Day in the Life of a William & Mary 1L”

Recent grad, Sarah Peisch JD ’13 spent much of her 1L year taking photos of her experiences. Her father-in-law composed music to go along with the pictures, and it resulted in a video we posted a little less than two years ago.

Now that Sarah and her classmates have graduated and are taking the bar exam next week, we want to revisit share the video again!


Another Great Year at W&M Law

We’re had another great year here on South Henry Street. Watch this short two minute video and see some of the year’s highlights at William & Mary Law School!

Summer Entertainment in Williamsburg

Williamsburg is a great vacation spot with lots to do in the summer! You can visit Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, and Water Country for a price, but there is also so much to do for free in Williamsburg.

Two of my favorite events are the Summer Movies on Prince George Street and the Summer Breeze Concert Series in Merchant Square.Movie Series

Just bring a lawn chair, some snacks, and enjoy a great evening outside of music or your favorite movies. Look above for the summer movie selection, and here are the bands in Williamsburg this summer for the Summer Breeze Series:

JUNE 19 Williamsburg Classic Jazz Orchestra
JUNE 26 Party Fins (Jimmy Buffet Tribute Band)
JULY 10 Butter
JULY 17 Kings of Swing
JULY 24 RareMixx (R&B)
JULY 31 Slapwater
AUGUST 14 Air Force Band (Rhythm and Blues)
AUGUST 21 Blue Aces

summer breeze lamp

Summer is a great time to be in Williamsburg!


Congrats to the Future Class of 2016!

We are excited to welcome the Class of 2016 to Williamsburg in August! Many of members of the incoming class graduated from college this past May, and we want to highlight some of them–those who sent in their graduation photos to the Admissions Blog!

Congratulations to members of future Class of 2016 on receiving their undergraduate degrees!

W  M mortar board UF sign

Hannah Needleman graduated from the University of Florida.

Kim Knipe - University of Maryland

Kimberly Knipe graduated from the University of Maryland.

sokoloff parents

Samatha Sokoloff graduated from Hamilton College. She is pictured above (center) with her parents.

middle -Abby Riley graduated summa cum laude from the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga this May.

Abby Riley (center) graduated from the University of Tennessee in  Chattanooga.

Pat Sebastian USC

Pat Sebastian graduated from the University of Southern California.

Rachel Ginzburg poses for a photo with her nephew at her graduation from Binghamton University in 2013

Rachel Ginzburg (pictured with her nephew) graduated from Binghamton University.

Penn State Ben Waschler

Ben Waschler (right) graduated from the Pennsylvania State University.

Erika Larsen- Magna Cum Laude as an Honors student with a BS in Political Science and International Affairs.  FL State

Erika Larsen graduated from Florida State University.

Georgia Maclean just graduated from NYU

Georgia MacLean graduated from New York University.


Are you interested in learning about law school and legal education?
Are you considering a career change?
Are you questioning how to finance a legal education?
Do you want information about preparing for the LSAT?
Do you want to meet and exchange information with law school admission officers?

If the answer is yes – you should attend a Law School Forum!

William & Mary admission deans will be traveling across the country to meet you.

Meet Dean Shabsin at the Bay Area Forum on June 29.


Meet Dean Shealy at the Chicago Forum on July 13.


Meet Dean Cavallari at the DC Forum on July 20.


Click here for more information and to register for a forum.

We invite you to visit us and want to see you in Williamsburg for a Law School tour, class visit and meeting with an admission dean.




Working as a GRF

by Anna Birkenheier, Class of 2013 and recent graduate

annaAnna is a member of the Class of 2013, from Chicago, Illinois and attended to Northwestern University for undergrad.  Here at William & Mary Law School, she is the Managing Editor of the Business Law Review, a member of the OCS Student Advisory Board, and of the Public Service Fund General Board.

The Graduate Research Fellows program at William & Mary offers a great change of pace from homework, and is a great way to learn more about our professors’ research specialties.  In the classroom, students usually only hear brief descriptions of the more in-depth work their professors do outside of the classroom, gleaned from comments they make about research they’re working on. But as Graduate Research Fellows, students have a unique opportunity to see this work first-hand. After working with one of the school’s administrative offices during their first year, for their second and third years Graduate Research Fellows are assigned to a professor, and work as a research assistant for that professor throughout the academic year.

During the first year, working in one of the school’s administrative departments helps students learn more about the school’s operations. I worked with the Office of Career Services during my first year here, and my time in OCS was a great way to learn how the job search works. Not only did I come away with a lot of useful knowledge on the subject, but I had the chance to get to know everyone in the office really well, and these relationships definitely add a lot to the overall law school experience.

As Graduate Research Fellows for specific professors, students’ assignments can range from locating cases that address particular questions, to more generally researching a particular topic relevant to a professor’s current work. Regardless of the details of the work, though, this work offers a great change of pace—in the midst of normal coursework, it’s nice to have a chance to really get familiar with a current, highly specific legal issue, especially since classes may not always give us the chance to really delve into every topic related to a particular field of law. But our professors specialize in that type of research, and the chance to watch them at work, and to gain familiarity with their specialties through the Graduate Research Fellow program, made the program a great addition to my legal education.

Experiences with Law Review

by Jenna Poligo, Class of 2014

jennaJenna Poligo is a 2L student who attended Ursinus College in Pennsylvania before heading south to William & Mary.  Jenna is a Lead Articles Editor on the William & Mary Law Review and an Associate Justice on the William & Mary Moot Court Team.  She is also a Graduate Research Fellow and a Student Admission Ambassador. 

When deciding what law school to attend, price weighed heavily in deliberations. William & Mary’s Graduate Research Fellowship, for me, was a great opportunity. The combination of in-state tuition and a yearly stipend was a huge selling point. I was also attracted to the opportunity to work closely with a professor as a research assistant. A year into law school, however, I realized I had a large number of other extracurricular interests. In particular, I really enjoyed working on the William & Mary Law Review. The Graduate Research Fellowship program gave me the chance to further pursue that interest.

Since the middle of February, I have been a GRF (as we are lovingly called here at W&M) for the William & Mary Law Review. Though my position as a GRF did not assist in my invitation to join the journal nor my appointment as a Lead Articles Editor, I can now count the hours I work for the Law Review towards the hours required of a GRF each week. The ability to transition from a research GRF to a journal GRF has enabled me commit myself to an extracurricular activity that I really enjoy. Because of the hours required by the Lead Articles Editor position, I might not have been able to take on that position without the ability to transition my GRF position.

The flexibility of the GRF program is a great asset. If researching for a professor is not something you desire to do, there are many other opportunities, as I have learned, to work as a GRF here at William & Mary. This allows students to pursue board level positions in student organizations while still retaining the benefits of the GRF program.