A Day in the Life of a 1L

by Liz Rademacher, Class of 2016

Now that I’ve finished the first half of my first year of law school at William & Mary, I feel like I’ve started to settle into a routine. My schedule’s a bit different each day, but here’s a glimpse into a random Thursday in the life of a 1L:

7:00 a.m. My alarm clock goes off. Time to wake up!

7:09 a.m. Okay, so I hit the snooze button just once. Waking up for real now! Time for me to shower, eat breakfast, and pack up my things for the day before I make the ten-minute commute to the law school for my first class this morning.

8:30 a.m. Time for Legal Practice! My Legal Practice class meets three times a week, twice with a legal writing professor and once with an adjunct professor who teaches my class other legal skills. Some weeks, we’ll have lectures with the law school librarians instead of meeting for class. Today my class is reviewing the basics of persuasive legal writing. I have class with my Legal Practice firm, which has only 13 other people in it.

10:00 a.m. Now I need to go to Contracts, my largest class. We’re learning about which kinds of promises are legally enforceable in a contract today (it’s more exciting than it sounds).

11:30 a.m. Time for Property, where we’re learning about adverse possession. Just a little over an hour until I’m done with all my classes for the day!

12:45 p.m. All finished with classes and now my favorite part of the day, lunch hour, is finally here. The law school purposefully doesn’t schedule classes during this time of the day to give students a chance to go to events or meetings and to eat lunch. Today, I’m going to a panel of guest speakers the Office of Career Services has organized to hear about legal careers within local, state, and federal government offices. Like most events that OCS plans during this time of day, there’s free pizza!

2:00 p.m. Time to hit the books. After the OCS event ends, I grab a snack from Greenberry’s, the law school café, and head to the law library with some of my friends. We grab a table in the sunny reading room on the first floor with a view out the window of some trees. I unpack my books, queue up my favorite study music playlist, and cozy into a reading for my Constitutional Law class.

4:30 p.m. After finishing up my reading and taking some notes, I head to a Public Service Fund meeting. I’m on the general board of PSF, so I help to plan events and fundraisers throughout the year. This meeting is about PSF’s annual fundraiser auction, which helps to raise money for students who work in unpaid public service internships over the summer. We meet for about an hour to talk about food, entertainment, and decorations for the big night.

5:30 p.m. I head home where my roommate and I like to unwind after a long day by eating dinner together. I warm up a bowl of soup as we chat about our days, and then we watch an episode of Scrubs before hitting the books again.

7:00 p.m. More reading.

9:00 p.m. I take a quick break and call my mom to say hi before I start to write a cover letter for a summer internship. Tomorrow I’ll bring it into OCS to ask one of the career services deans to review it for me—they give awesome feedback!

9:30 p.m. Done with work for the day. I surf the web for a bit and send a few emails before shutting down my laptop and curling up in bed with a good book.

11:00 p.m. Bedtime!

And there you have it—a day in the life of a 1L.

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Mock Interviews– Connecting 1Ls with Alumni

by Liz Berry, Class of 2016

It’s interview season for 1L’s and the pressure is on. For 1L’s straight out of undergrad (like yours truly) interviews with potential legal employers are a whole new world. And frankly, slightly daunting. I’m fairly certain in my first interview, I forgot my first name. I believe the interview went something like: You want to know my name and why I wanted to go to law school? Um, those are very good questions. Let me get back to you on that…

And what’s the best way to overcome interview jitters (and remember your name)? Practice, practice, practice. I’ve found that the more interviews I’ve done over the past month or so, the more confident I’ve become. The Office of Career Services had been so helpful in prepping for interviews. I’ve worked with my Dean about how to answer certain questions and, best of all, OCS set up an entire Mock Interview Day. W&M Law alumni from various legal fields were invited to campus on Friday morning, and any 1L who signed up had a “mock” but very real feeling interview with someone in a field they were interested in.

My interview was with an Assistant Attorney General of Virginia (which was perfect, since I’m interning with the Ohio Attorney General this summer. Good work matching us up, OCS).  And while this time I didn’t forget my first name, my interviewer asked some hard questions for which I was slightly unprepared. And honestly, I think that was the best thing that could have happened. I learned how to think on my toes, and the feedback I received after the interview ended gave me a better idea of ways to answer when I’m unprepared. My interviewer spent at least fifteen minutes giving me advice on how to give better answers, and how to better present myself in the future. (Sorry to the person who was interviewing after me…I was so caught up in chatting with my interviewer we may have blown past the 30 minute mark. But really, doesn’t that just show how much our alumni are willing to help? Love it.)

Overall, I think the practice interview was a very valuable experience. Interviews can only get easier from here on out…or at least I’ll be more comfortable with them. And that’s all I can ask for.

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Career Services Public Sector Employment Panel

by Jenn Watson, Class of 2016

On January 13th, the Office of Career Services had a panel discussion on Government and Public Sector Lawyering. It was a great opportunity to get an idea of the broad range of public sector jobs available, and the panel talked frankly about everything from grades and resumes to their personal experiences with the government shutdown.

Sharon E. Pandak BA '75, JD '78

Sharon E. Pandak, BA ’75, JD ’78

The panel moderator was Sharon Pandak, a W&M Law alumna who has served as a county attorney and is currently with Greehan, Taves, Pandak & Stoner, PLLC in Woodbridge, VA. On the panel were Robin Edwards, another W&M Law alumna who works as a patent attorney for NASA, Gilbert Earle Teal, a W&M Law alumnus who works for the Defense Contract Management Agency, Major Nora Rule and Captain Alan Serrano, U.S. Air Force Judge Advocates, and Lesa Yeatts, the Senior Deputy City Attorney of Hampton, Virginia.

All of the panel members were enthusiastic about public sector work, and spoke in particular about the wide range of opportunities available even within their individual fields. Robin Edwards noted that although her particular position required a technical background, and that she had been an engineering major as an undergrad, NASA has a variety of lawyers on staff who have different qualifications and work in various fields. Alan Serrano spoke about his experiences as a JAG on an air force base, and how he has been exposed to many different areas of law as they come up for the airmen serving on the base where he works. Nora Rule agreed, and even added that she had done research for cases in areas such as Environmental Law, which might seem unexpected. Lesa Yeatts added that her experiences as a city attorney were similar, and that municipal jobs generally involve a broad range of law. One of the positives she cited was the ability to actually affect law on the municipal level by drafting and proposing statutes and regulations.

The panel was also asked about the benefits and downsides to working for the government, particularly as regarded the recent government shutdown. The majority of the panel were federal employees, and hence had been directly affected. All of them had been without pay at the time, although they had subsequently received back pay. Robin Edwards added that she had also been affected by the shutdowns in 1995-1996. In general though, the panel was positive about their experiences working for the government and noted advantages like salary predictability, benefits, and job security as being compelling reasons to consider a career in the public sector.

As might be expected, the panel received many questions asking them what they consider from the perspective of recruiters and hirers for their respective industries. Although some of them mentioned basics, like well-formatted and carefully proofread resumes, others spoke about specific experiences with candidates and what made them stand out. Sharon Pandak told an anecdote about a time when her county wasn’t hiring, but a recent law school graduate was so enthusiastic about working there she volunteered her time, and when a position came up months later, she was hired because they knew that her work was outstanding and they were already comfortable working with her.

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Learn About the Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic

by Bridget Claycomb, Class of 2016

How many law students can say that they have represented real clients, in front of real Federal Circuit Court Judges, against seasoned attorneys? Students in William and Mary’s Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic can! The Public Service Admissions Ambassadors sat down and talked about this unique opportunity with Skyler Peacock, Brittany Sadler, and Andrew Steinberg –all third year law students—who are currently enrolled in the year-long clinic. Like most clinics, the students receive three credits each semester and learn valuable practical skills.

Tillman J. Breckenridge --Adjunct Professor of Law & Managing Attorney William & Mary's Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic

Tillman J. Breckenridge –
Adjunct Professor of Law & Managing Attorney William & Mary’s Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic

“It’s the best thing I’ve done in law school,” says Brittany. “I get to practice real legal skills. I’ve been able to present oral arguments to a panel of 6th Circuit judges and  represent a client who needed my help… and I am not even a [bar certified] lawyer yet.”

Skyler, Andrew, and Brittany all came to William and Mary Law School with a goal to give back to their communities. Skyler wanted to make a difference by becoming a prosecutor. Andrew’s focus was public interest, and he was fascinated by the role that public institutions played in American Society. Brittany gravitated toward constitutional law and immigration. Each student pointed to their scholarships and the supportive student community as reasons why they chose William and Mary Law School. In fact, both Brittany and Andrew said it was testimony from upper classmen that helped them decide to do the Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic.

The students also say that the clinic’s director—Professor Tillman Breckenridge—is a big reason why they chose to apply for the clinic.  Skyler says, “He’s a great person and attorney. He really shows us the art of appellate advocacy.”  Andrew agrees, “ Professor Breckenridge is excellent. I appreciate his practical insights.”

The clinic members we spoke to all said the Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic is a beneficial part of their law school experience. Clinics give law students a chance, as Andrew said, to advocate for more than just a grade, but for real people with real legal issues.

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Externship with the New Kent Commonwealth’s Attorney

jackbrockJack Brock is originally from Greenville, North Carolina. He earned a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with majors in Chemistry and Political Science. As a 3L, Jack worked at the New Kent Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office as an extern.

Law students who wish to try cases during their 3L year should definitely extern at a Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. Obtaining an externship at a Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office provides much more than courtroom experience. Other practical skills and experiences that are gained at the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office are 1) negotiating with defense counsel, 2) case preparation, 3) interviewing witnesses, and 4) drafting and filing legal documents.  This can be a fast paced job at times, and students can expect to receive a great deal of responsibility.

My own experience at New Kent was fantastic. My mentor split the docket into two; I was completely responsible for half of the criminal docket. I prepared my cases with little supervision, negotiated with defense attorneys, and made plea agreements. I tried around five or six cases in General District Court. During these trials, I made and successfully challenged objections.

An important part of this externship was learning how to think under pressure. There were times where the judge glared at me, or where my mentor stated that I could have performed better; however, I learned not to let this criticism affect me. When you are in court, it is essential to keep calm even if you made a glaring error, or if your witness freely admits a fact that is damaging to his/her credibility (and thus damaging to your case). For example, during cross examination, my witness stated that she had short term memory loss. I was appalled, and as I looked around the room, the other attorneys were laughing at me. How embarrassing, right? Wrong. I had a job to do, and I called a police officer who corroborated my witness’s testimony. We obtained a conviction.  Learning how to think quickly under pressure is one of the many reasons that this experience was valuable to me and will also be valuable to any other law student considering a career in litigation.

Externship Experience — Judicial Clerkship

by Peter Yagel, Class of 2014

peteryagelPeter Yagel is originally from Chesapeake, Virginia. He earned his B.A. in Philosophy from Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. He spent his 1L summer working for Federal District Judge Curtis Collier in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and split his 2L summer between William & Mary’s Summer in Spain program and working for the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia. After graduating, Peter will be working for Federal Magistrate Judge Tommy Miller in Norfolk, Virginia.

In law school, we spend most of our time reading old cases, analyzing abstract concepts, and distinguishing between the laws of different jurisdictions. In practice, lawyers spend most of their time reading controlling cases, applying concepts to concrete cases, and emphasizing the law of one jurisdiction. Classes are obviously the majority of our education in law school, but I am convinced that externships are also an essential ingredient. Externships bridge the gap between our education and our work.

One of the highlights of my time at William & Mary Law has been the opportunity to gain real-world experience through externing. I specifically enjoyed working for Federal Magistrate Judge David Novak, and know that my time there has better prepared me for my job after law school. Because I knew I wanted to clerk, working for Judge Novak was incredibly valuable for me——I learned more about the job I wanted to do, gained experience actually
doing that work, and built connections with professionals in the field.

I worked on Social Security R&R’s, attended settlement conferences, and learned about the mechanics of the judiciary. I observed court proceedings, discussed the strengths and weaknesses of attorneys, and analyzed briefs. Despite being incredibly busy, Judge Novak and his clerks took time to give me specific feedback on my work, explain they work that they were doing, and give advice regarding my own job search. Hearing instruction from a Federal Judge, and having your work edited by law clerks, is a unique opportunity, for which there is no
substitute. This combination of academic-like instruction and real-world work was exactly the kind of experience that will help me transition to working after law school.

Equal Justice Works Career Fair

by Bridget Claycomb, Class of 2016

Attending law school at William and Mary provides for a variety of public service and public interest opportunities, which makes exploring careers in public service convenient and enjoyable! Because Williamsburg is only two hours from Washington D.C, some of my fellow students and I were recently able to attend the Equal Justice Works Career Fair, just outside our nation’s capital, in Arlington, Virginia.

logoThe EJW Career Fair was held on a Friday and Saturday at the end of October. Over 100 employers from across the country were present and looking for folks who are passionate about public service/public interest. Needless to say, I met law students from all over the country who missed class, drove, bused or flew hundreds of miles just for the opportunity to attend the fair. Second and third year law students were abundant as they were able to apply for one-one interviews. 1Ls were fewer and far between as we were only allowed to attend the information sessions and the “table talks” which allow students looking for internships or jobs to connect with employers.

Attending the career fair on Friday was out of the question for me, since I had a Criminal Law class at 2pm on Friday and a luncheon with my scholarship donor before, but, because we live so close, the career fair did not have to be an “attend all or nothing” event. Saturday morning, my roommate and I got up around the normal time we wake up for school and headed up to the career fair. We arrived in plenty of time for the resume workshop and for the table talks

While I felt it didn’t make sense for me to attend two days at the fair, the few hours I spent allowed me to make connections with six different employers, ask questions about what they were looking for in prospective interns, and gain information on how to strengthen my summer internship applications. As a 1L, it was nice not to lose 48 hours of my week, but still be able to take advantage of a unique and beneficial career opportunity.

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May the Internships be Ever in Your Favor

by Liz Berry, Class of 2016

When I started thinking about everything happening this month, I found it a little fitting that Catching Fire (i.e. Hunger Games Part II for those of you who aren’t quite so Panem obsessed) and the 1L job application process both start around the same time. When I think of the job search, it seems like a fight to grab the best job/internship/clerkship. And honestly, it seems scary.

OCS Post

Luckily, OCS (Office of Career Services) is the Peeta of law school and is here to help. 1Ls across the country were allowed to speak to their career services departments at the end of October. At W&M Law, each 1L is assigned a personal counselor, and given a time to meet with him or her. At first, I was a little terrified of meeting with my advisor. Since I’m still not exactly sure of what I want to specialize in, I thought that I might just get some general advice about looking into different possibilities and being told to figure things out by myself.

Wrong. My career counselor was wonderful. My counselor was able to ask questions that really explored what I was interested in (even without me knowing I was interested in those areas) and provide great tips about looking for internships that match my goals. And on top of that, my counselor gave me networking advice to explore my interests and delve further into the question of “What do you really want to do?” From the alumni I’ve called and people I’ve talked to, the advice seems to be working. I’ve already scheduled a second appointment with my counselor to make sure I’m still headed in the right direction. OCS might not hand out jobs when you get a diploma, but they certainly make sure you can self-identify the areas you’re interested in, and how you can go about exploring those interests.

So maybe, just maybe, this internship search won’t quite be the Hunger Games of law school. Maybe, just maybe, this is all going to be quite all right. Thanks to OCS.

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Learning about Opportunities in Public Interest and Government Summer Jobs

by Jenn Watson, Class of 2016

Throughout the year, the Office of Career Services hosts different panels and events to let us know about various career options. I attended one about public interest and government summer jobs with a panel of 3Ls who had pursued relevant summer opportunities. It may seem early to start thinking about this now, especially for 1Ls, but many desirable and interesting summer positions require applications to be submitted in December and January. As it gets closer to the end of the semester for us, our time will obviously be more taken up with exam preparations, so it is a good idea to get started rather than put it off knowing we will be even busier in another month or two.

The student panel was great– all the panelists stressed that the skills you learn and practice while working at a public interest or government job are easily transferable to any other career, so even if you aren’t sure that your ultimate career goals lie in the public sector, you should consider taking advantages of the opportunities that a summer job there can provide.


We also got a general overview of the types of government and public interest jobs available. Federal jobs can vary widely in type and location, and many departments have offices in a variety of places outside Washington D.C. State jobs can be found both in state capitals and state-wide, and a number of W&M students return to their home states to pursue summer job opportunities. Although many people first think of federal and state government jobs, municipal jobs can also offer valuable experiences. Municipal jobs can end up being almost analogous to firm work, where a municipal attorney will handle a wide range of claims similar to those a small business would require.

Public interest jobs can include things like working for Legal Aid, as a Public Defender, or for a non-profit organization such as the ACLU. One thing to make sure of while looking at non-profit internships is that they are looking specifically for legal skills or law students, as some of these internships, although they may be rewarding, won’t teach legal skills that can help advance our careers.

The second half of the presentation focused on showing us how to take advantage of online resources to find out about possible government and public interest opportunities. Both OCS’s website and the Wolf Law Library website offer a lot of information on government and public interest jobs. I attended because I am interested in this type of work. It was a great opportunity for me to gain useful information that will help me in my internship and job searches. Having students who have already gone through the process was especially valuable!

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Lawyers in In-House Practice

by Lauren Bridenbaugh, Class of 2016

From September 19-20, I attended several sessions at the Lawyers in In-House Practice Conference hosted by the Law School. In-house counsel are lawyers who work in management and/or are employed directly by companies to do legal work. It is estimated that 8 to 10 percent of lawyers are “business lawyers.” The event featured 20 female William & Mary Law School alumnae discussing a variety of topics related to their work as in-house counsel.

Inhouse CounselThe first session I attended was on “What Issues Keep In-House Counsel Awake at Night?” where the panelists discussed privacy concerns, regulatory compliance and cyber-security as some of the key issues they are facing in their respective fields. Other sessions I attended talked about similarities and differences between in-house counsel and compliance professionals and the work they do as well as what in-house counsel expects from outside lawyers. These sessions were especially helpful in learning more about who does what in corporate legal work and the differences in the expectations and type of work done in different industries.

Inhouse CounselThe Conference was also interesting because I was able to see the varied fields female alumnae of William & Mary have found success, including energy, finance, healthcare, insurance and telecommunications among others. It is encouraging to see the success these William & Mary graduates have found across these varied industries throughout the country.

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Summer Work in DC

by Kevin Elliker, Class of 2014

ellikerKevin graduated from James Madison University with a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Social Science and History. He subsequently earned an M.A.T. in Secondary Education and taught high school government and history for two years before enrolling at William & Mary Law School. At JMU, he was a member of the Phi Alpha Theta Honor Society, a Student Ambassador, and a Residence Life Advisor. At William & Mary, he is a Lead Articles Editor for the William & Mary Law Review, a member of the Moot Court and Alternative Dispute Resolution Teams, a Teaching Assistant for Civil Procedure, and the former Secretary of the Student Bar Association. In summer of 2012, he was an intern with the Department of Justice in the Constitutional and Specialized Tort Litigation Section.  In summer of 2013, he was a summer associate at that law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Washington, DC.  After graduation, Kevin will clerk for the Honorable John A. Gibney, Jr., a district court judge in the Eastern District of Virginia.

For ten weeks, I worked as a summer associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Washington, DC. During that time, I worked on matters for the Firm’s clients including class actions, employment-related issues, antitrust disputes, criminal sentencing under the Federal Guidelines, and appeals before the Federal Circuit. While most of my work comprised of legal research and writing, I spent considerable time meeting with partners and associates to discuss projects and even attended a status conference for a large class action settlement. What struck me most about my experience were the depth and complexity of the legal issues the attorneys faced in every case. This meant we had to be thoughtful and creative in our projects, which made for a unique and fascinating workload.

My fellow summer associates and I worked hard throughout the summer, but the Firm also made time for fun social events like bowling, karaoke, a cooking class, and a retreat to the Wintergreen Resort outside of Charlottesville, Virginia.  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and look forward to returning to the Firm to work on litigation and appellate matters.