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!

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

 

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.

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

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!

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

 

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.

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

 

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!

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

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!

Learn more about our Student Bloggers here.

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.

Learn more about our Student Bloggers here.

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.

Externship Experience: Judicial Extern

wongby Debbie Wong, Class of 2015

Debbie Wong is originally from Needham, Massachusetts. She earned her B.S. in Commerce from the University of Virginia. She spent her1L summer working at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Hearings and Appeals, and her 2L summer at K&L Gates LLP in Washington, D.C. After graduation, she will be clerking for Federal Chief Judge Glen Conrad in Roanoke, Virginia for a year before returning to K&L Gates LLP as an associate. She is the Communications Editor for the William & Mary Law Review and a teaching assistant for Torts.

When I accepted my post-grad federal clerkship in January of 2L year, I knew that externing for a judge during my final year of law school would be a great way to learn about clerking. I vaguely knew what a clerk did after researching for my clerkship interview and talking to current and former clerks, but I really wanted to experience the work firsthand. Each judge runs his or her chambers differently, but my externship with Judge Mark Davis, a federal judge at the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk, helped me understand the general day-to-day life of a clerk and allowed me to work on challenging, but extremely interesting, cases.

I spent about fourteen weeks externing for Judge Davis in the fall of my third year. During my first and second weeks with Judge Davis, I was fortunate to sit in on a criminal jury trial and observe direct examination, cross examination, and closing arguments. During my last week of the externship, I also got to observe voir dire for a different case. I was taking Trial Advocacy at the time, a class at the Law School about the fundamental steps of a trial, and it was so interesting to see the concepts I learned in the classroom play out in the real world. Also, I really enjoyed observing criminal sentencing hearings where the judge discussed and considered both mitigating and aggravating circumstances of the case in order to reach an appropriate sentence for the defendant.

One really cool aspect of externing for a judge is that you are free to observe not only your judge’s proceedings, but also the proceedings before other judges in the courthouse. I observed initial appearances, detention hearings, and other motion hearings in criminal cases before the magistrate judges. I saw attorneys with very strong oral advocacy skills as well as those with unpersuasive techniques.

Outside of the courtroom, I researched controlling and persuasive case law, drafted memorandum opinions, and discussed cases with Judge Davis and his clerks. The issues that I handled during my externship include: modification of a restitution order, petition for writ of habeas corpus, attorneys’ fees, motion for default judgment, and interpleader action. Judge Davis and his clerks took the time out of their incredibly busy schedules to meet with me whenever I had questions and also gave me specific, valuable feedback on my work. Most importantly, I was welcomed into chambers and immediately treated like part of the team by Judge Davis, his clerks, his assistant, Becky, and the other staff members at the courthouse.

There is truly no substitute for the experience I received in Judge Davis’s chambers and I highly recommend judicial externships as a way to gain universal skills for every area of the law.

Global Flight Relief Externship

rileyby Abby Riley, Class of 2016

Abby is a 2L from Adams, Tennessee. She went to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where she received a B.A. in English and a B.S. in Political Science: International and Comparative Studies. At William & Mary, Abby is a member of the Environmental Law & Policy Review and is secretary of the International Law Society. 

My externship at Global Flight Relief, the non-profit humanitarian arm of a private aviation corporation, was valuable to my legal career in surprising ways. What I expected was a semester during which I would build on the legal skills I had developed during my first year at William & Mary and at my legal internship over the summer. I thought I would hone my skillset in an area that interested me (non-profit work in developing countries). I figured I would learn something about planes. It only took a few hours the first day of work to know that I was going to get much more than I originally anticipated.

An externship allows students the opportunity to work in legal settings for academic credit during the fall or spring semester. For me, this meant that once a week I would lift my nose from my textbooks, trade classroom casual for business casual, and head into the real world instead of Evidence class. The first day this happened, I honestly was a little terrified. Rightfully so, as it turns out – within my first few hours I had a crash course in business associations, non-profit law, and tax law, none of which I had ever taken in school before. People had always told me that law school doesn’t teach you all aspects of the law, but rather how to think like a lawyer. You learn how to analyze and work through problems because you won’t always know the answers right off the bat. It’s almost like getting tossed in a pool, and in sink or swim situations like my first day of work at Global Flight Relief, I was infinitely grateful that my William & Mary professors had prepared me to swim.

Over the next few months, my way of thinking about non-profit organizations entirely changed. I began to understand the extent that the Internal Revenue Code dictates a non-profit organization’s formation and activities. Beyond the fundamentals, I encountered very practical issues that humanitarian actors working in foreign countries face constantly. How does an aviation non-profit carry on its humanitarian missions when there is an outbreak of Ebola? What legal and healthcare structures must it interact with? What laws will affect payment requirements in an airline hangar contract with Tanzania?

The things that surprised me the most, however, were the things I learned about myself (a visit from a delegation from Turkey was a close second). I learned that I absolutely love contract drafting. I learned that I can effectively research business structures, even though I am not at all business-savvy. I also learned what I’m not so great at – I can report well in writing, but verbally summarizing my findings to my supervisor was something that was more difficult for me. Fortunately, I now have a year and a half to improve before I’m tossed into the job market.

In sum, the externship was a great variety of learning experiences. While not all law students choose to extern, I found it to be a formative part of my legal education. I not only learned about the law, but about myself as a future lawyer as well.

And yes, I did learn a little about planes in the process.

1L Interviewing, Part 2: GPIIP

brownby Cathy Brown, Class of 2017

As I mentioned in my last blog post, this is the time of year when interviewing is at the forefront of 1Ls’ minds.  The summer internship search is in full swing, and my peers and I are becoming seasoned interviewees with a variety of potential summer employers.  My classmates have engaged in on-campus interviews and Skype interviews; some have even packed their business suits in their carry-on luggage to interview with organizations closer to their hometowns over spring break.  However, the largest-scale interview opportunity by far was the Government & Public Interest Interview Program, or GPIIP.

The University of Richmond Law School hosted the 13th Annual GPIIP this year.  This program is a collaboration between William & Mary Law School, University of Richmond School of Law, and Washington & Lee School of Law and was available for students at all three institutions.  At the beginning of the spring semester, students received a large list of government and public interest employers who are looking to hire legal interns for the summer.  Each of these organizations sent a representative to GPIIP to sit at a booth for the day and interview candidates for their summer positions.  Students could apply electronically for the opportunity to interview with as many organizations as we’d like.  Each interview slot lasted twenty minutes.

Therefore, this program is efficient for both employers and students; employers could see many interested internship candidates throughout the day, and students could conveniently interview with a wide variety of organizations that piqued our interest without needing to travel across the state to these groups’ offices.

Twenty minutes is not a long time to convince someone that (1) you’re interested in working for them, (2) you’d be a good fit for their organization, and (3) you’re the best candidate for the job.  However, I put my interviewing experience and tips from William & Mary’s Office of Career Services to good use and had a very informative and memorable conversation with a representative from a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. that really interested me.  I had done my research ahead of time, so I knew all about the organization’s goals and past achievements and who would be interviewing me.  This helped a lot, since it meant that my interviewer didn’t have to waste precious time going over this basic information with me.  I had also reflected on my past work experience and my reasons for being interested in this employer so I would be prepared for potential questions.  Finally, of course, I prepared some questions of my own for the employer to show that I was genuinely interested in their organization.  This preparation paid off, since the organization contacted me about having a second interview just a couple of weeks after the GPIIP event.

GPIIP was an efficient and helpful way part of my summer internship search, and I felt very prepared for the interview thanks to the Office of Career Services and Legal Practice Program’s efforts earlier in the semester.

Learn more about our Student Bloggers here.