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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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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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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Mark Epley- General Counsel to Paul Ryan

newtonby Dakota Newton, Class of 2018

Williamsburg may be a small town, but William & Mary Law has no difficulty attracting excellent guest speakers. This is one of my favorite aspects of law school and on Thursday, January 28th, we had the privilege of hearing from Mr. Mark Epley.

Mr. Epley currently works on the Hill as the General Counsel to Mr. Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House. He handles a wide variety of tasks for the Speaker and his daily agenda includes tasks such as briefing the Speaker on current legal issues, organizing strategy meetings, and negotiating with the staff of other Representatives to build support for proposed legislation. A busy schedule to be sure, but an immensely rewarding one as Mr. Epley gets to experience the political process at the highest level. As you can imagine, Mr. Epley worked very hard during his career to get to where he is now and he was kind enough to share some advice on achieving success. I would like to pass along two pieces of that advice.

Mark-EpleyThe first piece of advice was to stay properly oriented. Lawyers often lead a privileged lifestyle, but we exist to serve the needs of our clients. When Mr. Epley was being sworn in as a new lawyer after passing the bar exam a Justice from the Virginia Supreme Court told him that the law was a unique profession because lawyers carry the burdens of their clients. Our job is to help in times of need. So long as you can remember to orient yourself towards the client then you will develop relationships of trust and achieve true success as a lawyer.

The second piece of advice was to always remain a student. We spend three years in law school, but it takes a lifetime to obtain a legal education. It will be tempting to turn off after graduation and focus on just gaining practical experience in our chosen practice field, but that is a waste of an opportunity. Mr. Epley related a story about one of his first jobs in private practice where he had a supervising partner who was an expert in legal ethics. Even though the cases they worked together did not deal with legal ethics, Mr. Epley took the opportunity to learn what he could about that subject. That knowledge came in handy later when he found a very desirable job with a federal agency that listed knowledge of legal ethics as a requirement. If Mr. Epley had not remained a student after law school then he would never had gotten that job and would not be in the job he is in today. So always remain a student, you never know when the knowledge you pick up will come in handy.

So stay oriented and never stop learning. Success is there for the taking so long as you are willing to do the necessary work!

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1L Mock Interview Program

borkby Emily Bork, Class of 2018

After a few weeks of settling in to the Spring semester, it seems like there’s one thing on all 1L minds…summer jobs and internships. The 1L summer job hunt is officially upon us! With the job search comes a lot of preparation of resumes, cover letters, and writing samples, but there’s another critical aspect to the application process, and that is the ever-so-important interview. I, like many of my classmates, find the thought of interviewing pretty intimidating and nerve-wracking. For example, there’s the fear of not giving the type of answer the employer is looking for or not being able to answer the questions in a professional, yet approachable way. However, William & Mary’s Office of Career Services (OCS) provides a wonderful opportunity to all 1Ls during this time of year—the annual Mock Interview Program.

OCS invites William & Mary alumni to come to campus one Friday every year in January to sit with 1Ls one-on-one and conduct mock job interviews. Students are paired up with alumni based on our career and practice area preferences, and the program allows each and every member of the 1L class to practice their interview skills with William & Mary graduates. Not only is this an amazing chance to brush up on any weak areas of interviewing, but it also gives students an opportunity to meet practicing attorneys in our areas of interest and to continue networking and building professional relationships.

The alumni also provide us with live feedback right after the interview as we discuss both the strengths and possible areas for improvement. This advice is truly invaluable as it allows us truly perfect our skills so that we will nail a real job interview and be prepared to tackle any tough questions that might come our way.

Due to my interest in public service employers, I was paired up with an alum who works with the Virginia Legal Aid Society. Although I was pretty nervous ahead of time, I quickly felt at ease at the beginning of the mock interview as we both spoke about our experiences at William & Mary. My interviewer provided me with some really helpful feedback. Here are some of the main highlights to remember for your future interviews:

  • The interview, while formal, is really just a conversation. Don’t be afraid to keep a professional, yet approachable and conversational tone.
  • Make sure to emphasize the employer’s mission statement or goals and integrate them in to your responses. Show the employer that you are passionate about the work they do.
  • Always send a thank you e-mail or handwritten note after the interview. The employer will remember you by this positive, appreciative follow-up.

After participating in the mock interview program this past Friday, I was reminded of not only how dedicated OCS is to our success, but also of the dedication of our alumni. The fact that so many alumni took time out of their busy schedules to come to the law school in order to speak and meet with us individually speaks for itself. I couldn’t be prouder to be a William & Mary student, and I look forward to the day when I too will be among the amazing William & Mary alumni community.

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Taking the MPRE

sniderby Abby Snider, Class of 2016

One of the requirements for any state’s Bar Exam is the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam – more commonly known as the MPRE. The MPRE is an exam based on the Rules of Professional Conduct. It basically covers different ethical situations lawyers are faced with, like the rules of conflicts, the rules of confidentiality, and how to handle client’s funds.

The MPRE is a two-hour long exam that you can take throughout the year. It is 60 multiple choice questions, easy peasy after the LSAT and law school exams. Many students take the MPRE during their second year since some states require law students to get a special practice certificate to appear in court during their externships or summer internships. This requires that students pass the MPRE and take Evidence (in California, where I’m planning on taking the Bar, you only need to take Evidence). To graduate from William & Mary, you have to take the corresponding course, Professional Responsibility, which teaches the Rules and provides colorful examples of different ethical situations. I am in Professional Responsibility now, so I doubled up studying for the MPRE with finals studying!

The test ensures that lawyers uphold the moral responsibility of being a lawyer. Lawyers are tasked with representing incredibly important things in clients’ lives, from financial interests, to ensuring they get custody of their children, to keeping them out of jail. The things you learn in Professional Responsibility, and while studying for the MPRE, ensure that you don’t take advantage of clients because of the important and trusting position lawyers are placed in. The class has really helped me think about the boundaries of what my relationship with clients will be, how to manage my clients and my time, and most importantly helped me learn the scope of my responsibilities to clients and the courts.

So, early in November, I drove down to a nearby university and took the MPRE with a couple of my friends. Hopefully I passed!

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Co-Counsel Program: Law Alumni Serving as Guides for Current Students

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

No matter where you go to school and no matter what you want to do, there is likely someone who as already been there, already done that, and likely has learned a lot along the way. One of the benefits of coming along later is the ability to learn from the experiences of others, applying their knowledge to assist yourself in reaching your goals.

That is what the Co-Counsel program at William & Mary Law School attempts to do, by giving law students the opportunity to connect with alumni from around the country (and globe). These alumni willingly serve as resources for current law students to talk about school, job searching and life. These alumni often feel a connection to William & Mary and want to share their experiences with students.

As a 1L student, you will have to opportunity to sign up for this program during the first few weeks of school. You will also be given a list of alumni participants accompanied by their practice area of law, their geographic location, and a description of what they do, to better advice you on which lawyers may be a better fit for you. After that, you and your senior co-counsel will have an opportunity to connect and begin building a relationship.

There are few things that may be more valuable this early on than speaking with a lawyer who is currently practicing in that are, particularly as a student interested in a certain type of law and seeking more information about the practice area. Alumni will be able to give you insight on the pros and cons of the particular type of practice, maybe the geographic area where they practice, and even potential steps you can take to prepare yourself to be ready for a summer internship or externship in that field. They may also have advice for how to approach certain classes in school or different situations that you may encounter throughout your law school experience. All of this is useful information and can help better enable you to succeed in school and after.

No matter what your experience has been before law school and what you want to do in the future, you should absolutely sign up for this incredible (and unique) program here at W&M.

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Office of Career Services Workshops

borkby Emily Bork, Class of 2018

As the leaves continue to change, fall is in full swing here in Williamsburg, which means…it’s time to start thinking about the 1L summer job search!

While this may cause a panic in some students’ minds, our Office of Career Services (OCS) has worked tirelessly to calm our fears and guide us on the path to what will be a summer full of legal experience and excitement. OCS provides a weekly e-mail newsletter to students regarding upcoming employment fairs, seminars, and helpful reminders and application deadlines.

OCS has also created a number of workshops exclusively for 1Ls to teach us the basics of how to explore different legal practice areas and careers. We’ve attended sessions that have taught us how to craft a well-tailored legal resume and the ever-so-important networking skills. OCS has additionally provided each 1L student with our own Career Planning Manual, which provides a detailed roadmap on how to conduct our job search at every step along the way—from assessing our basic interests to exploring careers within our target areas to finally launching our 1L summer job applications after we return from winter break.

OCS provides a series of mini-workshops that highlight the important public and private sector employment online databases. These 15-minute mini-seminars are great sources of useful information on how to successfully navigate the plethora of online resources available to students.

We will begin our individual advising sessions with our OCS Deans during the upcoming weeks. I am looking forward to discussing both my short-term goals for this summer as well as my long-term aspirations after graduation and receiving one-on-one advice from my OCS Dean.

W&M OCS is just another reason why I have no doubt that W&M was the perfect choice for me. OCS is very pro-active in providing 1Ls with guidance, direction, and advice as we take the very first steps in our legal career. I can’t wait to see what my 1L summer has in store!

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A Focus on Firms: My 2L Summer Job Search

satiraby John Satira, Class of 2017

Law school certainly is fast-paced, and that characteristic rings true for the job search process as well. After wrapping up a great 1L summer internship, the time had come to start the application process for 2L summer associate positions, as interviewing started in August! Despite the quick turn around, William & Mary Law School’s Office of Career Services (OCS) did its best to keep things running smoothly and comfortably.

Looking back, I realized that the 2L summer job search process began during the spring semester of my 1L year. OCS had a variety of programs to help to get students thinking about what type of position we wanted to pursue after our 2L year. These included panels with 2L students that have secured summer positions as well as with employers that will be doing summer hiring.

I learned that, as someone interested in working for a large to mid-size law firm, the application process starts in July, with interviews beginning in August. But the OCS programs explained the timelines for different opportunities, and some of my friends who are more interested in government, nonprofit, or small firm work did not have to worry about starting their application processes until a bit later.

Knowing that my application deadlines would be on the early side, I regularly updated and revised my resume and created some cover letter templates throughout the summer. My application materials were put to good use in July, as law firms began accepting applications. Specifically, OCS runs a website called Symplicity where I uploaded my resumes, cover letters, and writing samples. There were two major outlets for interviews that I had applied to: regional interview programs and on-campus interview (OCI) programs.

William & Mary Law School offered four different regional interview programs that allowed students to interview with a variety of employers based in different geographic locations. The offered areas were Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and Texas. Personally, I applied for and attended the Greater Washington D.C. Interview Program (GWDCIP). GWDCIP took place in early August. Since my internship was in Arlington, Virginia, I was able to extend my summer lease a few days to stay for the interview program, but many students drove into town for the day. My classmates and I interviewed with a variety of law firms and other legal employers, and the day was busy but very worthwhile. It was great to have the opportunity to interview with a variety of firms from a convenient location.

Once I arrived back in Williamsburg in preparation for my 2L year, I was also able to take part in the on-campus interviewing (OCI) process. A variety of law firms and other legal employers from across the country rent out rooms in the law school and interview students for summer positions. While OCIs are not condensed into one day like the regional interview programs are, the process is still very convenient and students are able to meet with a variety of employers.

The final step of the process involved being selected for callback interviews after the screening interviews at the regional interview programs or from OCIs. The callback process involves a law firm setting up interviews with a variety of individuals at the firm, which can last a few hours but is a great opportunity to learn more about the firm. After the callback interviews, all that is left to do is wait and see if the firm is willing to extend an offer or not. While I am currently awaiting to hear some final results from my own 2L summer job search, I am thankful to have had so many opportunities available to me thanks to the guidance of OCS. While the 2L job hunt seems like an arduous process, I am glad that it is knocked out so early in the year!

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Virginia Attorney General Mike Herring Pays W&M Law a Visit!

lennonby Kate Lennon, Class of 2017

On March 24, W&M Law had the privilege of hosting yet another prominent figure in the legal community. In the afternoon of that day, Virginia Attorney General Herring came to the law school for a lecture and Q&A session. This event was open to students and the public, which provided for a great atmosphere and a variety of questions. The Attorney General began his lecture by speaking of the roles of an attorney general: fighting for constituents, fighting for equality and opportunity for all Virginians, and keeping neighborhoods and community safe. He then went into talking about these roles individually.

When speaking of his role to fight for constituents, the Attorney General spoke of the Affordable Care Act. He explained that in his view, the issue of the Affordable Care Act literally means the difference between a modest family of four being able to afford health insurance and not being able to afford it at all. He then spoke about his role in fighting for equality and opportunity in both the areas of marriage equality and domiciliary status for children of immigrants. As most know, Attorney General Herring is known for his refusal to defend Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. Hearing his view in regards to this topic was truly fascinating, revolving around his goal of Virginia not being on the wrong side of history with these marriage issues.

herringAttorney General Herring then turned to discussions revolving around keeping neighborhoods and the community safe. He explained that since he used to be a county supervisor, issues of safety are of great importance to him. He reflected on a public safety tour he did to find out the issues and move toward helping these issues like drugs and sexual assault. The Attorney General then ended his lecture listing issues he hopes to address moving forward such as consumer protection, equality, hate crimes, and the criminal justice system.

After this lecture, the event moved in Q&A. The Q&A was incredibly interesting as it varied from public questions on local issues to student questions involving the law and professor questions regarding the Attorney General’s authority in defending state laws. When the questions portion ended, the event moved into a reception where attendees could talk with each other and with the Attorney General one on one. These opportunities to hear from and speak with such a prominent figure in the making of history are another reason law school is such a unique experience. I think taking advantage of the opportunities that interest you in law school are what can round out the law school experience and make the most of legal education.

Click here to read the news story.

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Helping Ex-Felons Reclaim Their Right to Vote

woodsby Lance Woods, Class of 2015

My name is Lance A. Woods, and I am a third year law student from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am a U.S. Army veteran and have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I attended the University of Pittsburgh for undergrad, where I earned a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in History. After graduating, I moved to New Haven, Connecticut where I helped supervise a juvenile correction facility. This past year, I served as a legal extern with the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Restoration of Rights office (ROR), which helps ex-felons reclaim their right to vote.

Given that this is my last year of law school, I wanted to earn class credit while also using the skills I acquired over the past two years, to better the lives of marginalized populations. Each day in the ROR office, I worked closely with probation officers and court clerks from all over Virginia to ensure that applicants completed the necessary steps to reclaim their voting rights. Additionally my supervisor, Carlos Hopkins, Counselor to the Governor, provided me with a number of interesting research projects concerning felon disenfranchisement. I also had the privilege of working along side the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Levar Stoney, who helped Governor McAullife set a new record by restoring the voting rights of 5,113 Virginians in 2014.

My most memorable externship experience occurred when I informed an applicant that his voting rights had been restored. The man, who was in his seventies, became overwhelmed with emotion and cried genuine tears of joy. Virginia’s 2014 general election marked the very first time this applicant had ever voted. Knowing that I contributed to this unforgettable event, serves as the most fulfilling part of my law school experience.

Although great progress has been made, there is still a lot of work to be done. Virginia is one of four states where convicted felons can permanently lose their right to vote.  According to the Sentencing Project, it is estimated that Virginia is home to over 450,000 disenfranchised felons. The ROR office is always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help alleviate the effects of this archaic policy. I would highly encourage everyone to take advantage of this extremely fulfilling opportunity.