Michael Toner Talks Elections

lennonby Kate Lennon, Class of 2017

On March 2nd, law students interested in Election Law were able to enjoy a lunchtime talk with Michael Toner. Mr. Toner is a current partner at Wiley Rein and the former FEC Chairman. He was also the Chief Counsel to the Republican National Committee and General Counsel to the Bush-Cheney 2000 Presidential Campaign. The discussion began with Mr. Toner speaking about the changes in election law and finance in regards to recent Supreme Court cases, as well as what changes to Court’s make-up could mean for the future in Election Law. Mr. Toner discussed that this is a time of deregulation, but if some of the more conservative justices retire, we could see more increased regulation again in the next ten years.

Michael Toner

Michael Toner, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC)

As the discussion moved into a question format, the topic turned more towards the future of campaigns. Mr. Toner explained that we no longer live in a world where a successful presidential candidate can get by on a few million dollars in donations. With President Obama breaking records with donations in the $750 million range, Mr. Toner predicted a 2016 election campaign potentially breaking the billion-dollar mark. He found this to be particularly likely with candidates like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush potentially taking significant roles in the 2016 election.

It was clear from the start that Mr. Toner was personally fascinated with Election Law. He stated at one point that he chose his career path because he was able to combine his two interests in law and politics into one job. His enthusiasm about the topic spread through the room and really drew the attention of the professors and students. As a first year student, the novelty of having such interesting and accomplished speakers here at our school has not yet worn off. I am not sure that it even will at all. Every day at the law school is a new experience, and lunchtime speakers like this one are just one of the many avenues for these experiences.

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Moot Court: Bushrod Tournament Results and Wise Words from Tom Goldstein, Silver Tongue Award Recipient

wentworthby Christie Wentworth, Class of 2017

The William & Mary Law Moot Court team just added nineteen new members following this year’s Bushrod T. Washington Moot Court Tournament. The Moot Court program, whose participants compete in tournaments around the nation, gives students an opportunity to develop and refine oral advocacy and brief writing skills. Bushrod tournament participants receive a cumulative score for the tryout period, and the eight competitors with the highest scores compete in a single-elimination tournament. The final round is open to students, staff, faculty and the general public and includes the presentation of the Edmund Randolph Silver Tongue Award. This year’s award recipient was Tom Goldstein, one of the nation’s most experienced Supreme Court practitioners and founder of the SCOTUSblog. Before the start of the final round, Goldstein spoke about oral advocacy in general and then outlined three main differences between Moot Court and Supreme Court arguments.

Tom Goldstein, Partner at Goldstein & Russell, P.C. and co-founder and publisher of SCOTUSblog

Tom Goldstein, Partner at Goldstein & Russell, P.C. and co-founder and publisher of SCOTUSblog

Goldstein, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and American University’s Washington College of Law, began his speech by advising students to be prepared, to realize that judges’ questions are not meant to attack, and to be cognizant of who the audience is. Depending on the context of the case, the court, and who these judges are, attorneys must bring a unique set of skills and focus on different aspects of the case.

In comparing oral arguments made before the Supreme Court and those prepared for Moot Court, Goldstein emphasized three points: style, the art of the possible, and the principle of relative advantage. First, he noted that form and style tend to matter more for Moot Court than they do for the Supreme Court. While this may seem counterintuitive, he pointed out that the Supreme Court justices are seeking concise answers to questions; content matters more than presentation.

With regard to his second point, “the art of the possible,” Goldstein advised oral advocates to think about the audience and to appreciate what the judges or justices are capable of deciding. He pointed out that the Supreme Court justices will be very familiar with the case and will already have an idea of which party will win or lose. Because it is unlikely that any of the justices will completely change his or her mind, it is important to maintain modest ambitions. For example, he stated that a realistic goal might be to convince 1-2 judges to shift their viewpoints by 20-30% on 1-2 points. While this may seem discouraging, an attorney that argues before the Supreme Court has the opportunity to influence how a client wins or loses and has the chance to shape the rule that results from the case. On the contrary, Moot Court judges tend to be more open to persuasion, will not be as familiar with the case, and may still be trying to decide who will win or lose. Moot Courters, use this to your advantage!

Lastly, Goldstein explained what he calls the “principle of relative advantage.” Think about what you know and what the judges or justices know and tailor your argument so that you can add something new to their perspective. As he mentioned in his second point, Supreme Court justices will already be familiar with the facts of the case and the arguments in the briefs. During oral argument, link points in a different way that will allow the justices to change their opinion about the case. In Moot Court, judges will read the problem and think about it, but likely will not have prepared to the same extent. This gives the oral advocate the advantage of knowing the case better than the judge and the ability to demonstrate control of the material by making connections and by weaving relevant cases and facts into the argument.

After Goldstein’s speech, the two Bushrod finalists—Gordon Dobbs and Victoria Jensen—employed some of this advice in their own oral arguments in a case regarding First Amendment rights in schools. The competitors each demonstrated mastery of the material and made convincing arguments before a panel of esteemed judges including Professor Grove, Professor Hamilton, Professor Larsen, Tom Goldstein, and Moot Court Chief Justice Chris Kaltsas. These judges determined 1L Gordon Dobbs to be the champion of this year’s Bushrod Tournament. Perhaps you will be one of next year’s competitors!

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Supreme Court Preview Brings Together Students and Scholars

by Liz Rademacher, Class of 2016

I’ve always been interested in constitutional law, so one of the things that drew me to William & Mary Law was the law school’s Institute of Bill of Rights Law (IBRL). IBRL is devoted to educating the public about the Bill of Rights and constitutional law issues through various publications, programs, and events. One of IBRL’s biggest events is its annual Supreme Court Preview, which took place from September 27 -28 and which I attended for the first time this year.

Supreme Court PreviewThe Supreme Court Preview brings together a diverse group of renowned speakers and panelists to discuss the upcoming Supreme Court term, which begins the first Monday of October. This year’s event featured prominent attorneys, scholars, judges, journalists, and government officials from across the country, including the Solicitor General of New York, lecturers from Stanford, and Yale, and writers from SCOTUSblog, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

The Preview began on Friday afternoon in the law school’s McGlothlin Courtroom with the Moot Court. Traditionally, the Moot Court is an opportunity for experienced Supreme Court advocates to argue one of the upcoming term’s most controversial cases before a group of mock Supreme Court Justices. This year, Marci Hamilton of Cardozo Law School and Erwin Chemerinsky, the Dean of University of California Irvine School of Law, were the advocates in City of Greece v. Galloway, a case about the establishment clause of the First Amendment that the Supreme Court will hear this term. As a member of the audience, I was amazed by the advocates’ deftness and skill as the Justices peppered them with challenging legal questions. After an hour of heated debate, the Justices deliberated and returned a verdict in the case, followed by a discussion of the case with the audience.

Supreme Court PreviewOn Saturday, there were several large sessions on civil rights, business, crime, and reproductive rights, as well as smaller breakout sessions during lunch about the Defense of Marriage Act, the War on Terrorism, and the future of the Court. I attended the first breakout session. Over pizza and salad, I sat in on a panel about the future of same-sex marriage and the implications of the Court’s recent decision in United States v. Windsor, which overturned DOMA. Members of the audience (including myself!) were able to ask the panelists questions about the outcome of the case, and the group grappled with complex legal issues about federalism and equal protection together.

Overall, I thought the Supreme Court Preview was an incredible opportunity to hear from some of the most influential constitutional scholars and advocates in the country. As a 1L, I appreciate being exposed to such a rich discussion of the importance of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in everyday life. I learned a lot, met some amazing legal celebrities, and, most importantly, had a ton of fun doing it. The Preview reminded me of the reasons why I chose to attend William & Mary: the unique opportunities that it has given and will continue to give me during my legal education.

To learn more about the Supreme Court Preview, click here. For videos from the event, click here.

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First-ever Law Conference Hosted by the Equality Alliance

by Amelia Vance, Class of 2013

Panel discussing LGBT issues

On Saturday, October 20, the William & Mary Law School Equality Alliance hosted its first-ever law conference focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) legal issues. The conference, “Legal Issues for Lawyers Serving LGBT People and Their Families,” included speakers and workshop sessions on issues ranging from employee benefits, education law reform, employment discrimination, and adoption and custody matters for same-sex couples. More than 60 attorneys and students attended the event throughout the day, which was offered for CLE credit.

Speakers included Christine Sun, Deputy Legal Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Diane Schroer, plaintiff of the landmark Title VII caseSchroer v. Library of Congress, Joshua Block, Staff Attorney of the National ACLU LGBT Project, Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of ACLU-Virginia, Michele Zavos and Eva Junker of, Zavos Juncker Law Group, Marc Puritam of Hunton and Williams, and many others. In addition, Dean Dave Douglas moderated a panel on “Diversity in the Legal Profession.”

Supreme Court Preview 2012

by Anthony Glosson, Class of 2015

Anthony Glosson- Class of 2015 IBRL Fellow

Anthony Glosson- Class of 2015 IBRL Fellow

I had a great time working with the Institute for Bill of Rights Law on the 2012 Supreme Court Preview. The speakers are among the very best in their respective fields, and they come from a variety of perspectives, making panel discussions very interesting. I feel much better apprised of many of the recent and current issues before the Supreme Court.  See the speakers that attended the event.

I particularly enjoyed hearing from Walter Dellinger of O’Melveny & Myers on, among other things, judicial politics. One of the lunchtime breakout sessions involved an excellent panel discussion between participants with quite a bit of expertise, and Mr. Dellinger was no exception — as a former United States Solicitor General, and recently, the lead attorney prevailing on behalf of the defendant in United States v. Antoine Jones in a politically electrifying Supreme Court case involving the Fourth Amendment and GPS tracking technology, Mr. Dellinger has a keen sense of the intersection of law and politics. He brought that knowledge to the table during the panel discussion, adding a unique dynamic to the conversation.

The discussion during the Q&A session afterward provided a great opportunity to hear Mr. Dellinger, along with his co-panelists, game out several fascinating scenarios regarding the results of the 2012 presidential election and possible Supreme Court Justice retirements.”

The event provided me with some really good opportunities to begin to network with those in the legal field. It is exciting to meet people whose work I’ve followed, and to find them very approachable and willing to talk about their work with a 1L student!

I can speak from the perspective of both an IBRL organizer and an interested attendee when I say that the Supreme Court Preview was a fantastic experience — one I suspect just about anyone interested in law would greatly enjoy!

Come Learn about William & Mary Law!

by Rhianna Shabsin

Want to learn more about William & Mary Law School? Have questions about admissions or financial aid? Thinking about taking the LSAT but unsure where to start? Well, we have a program for you!

The W.C. Jefferson Chapter of the Black Law Students Association will host their 25th annual Law Day on Saturday, November 10, 2012. The event will feature a mock classroom interaction with a W&M Law professor, financial aid and admissions information sessions, a student life Q&A, and an LSAT preparation session.

The registration deadline is October 19, and you can register on the BLSA website. You won’t want to miss this great opportunity!

Students and guests gather at last year's law day.

Students and guests gather at last year’s law day.

Women in BigLaw Conference

by Laura Householder, Class of 2013

householderOn Friday, September 14, I had the privilege of meeting and hearing from several of our distinguished alumnae at the Women in BigLaw Conference. Knowing that I will be entering a large firm this fall, I thought it would be beneficial to at least see what a few of the speakers had to say. I was blown away, however, by not only the number of alumnae who returned but how candid and friendly they were.

As law students, we live in a small community of continuous learning and it can often be challenging to envision our lives in the “real world” apart from a few months each summer we spend in various internships. This past summer, I was fortunate enough to work in a large law firm and caught a glimpse of what my future in big law will look like. This conference, however, provided me with a new lens through which to view this future. It further demonstrated to me that there is no one way to achieve my goals.

Throughout the day, we listened to these alumnae speak on topics ranging from making partner to obtaining and retaining clients to having children. One theme that perhaps inadvertently but necessarily weaved its way through the day was the importance of surrounding yourself with a strong supporting network. In each panel, the women showed how finding mentors in the firm, keeping close those friends in and out of the law to provide you with guidance and assistance, and maintaining strong ties with your family were the fundamentals in helping us to realize our fullest potential.

No one woman had taken the same path. No one woman dominated the discussion. All day, I heard from women who love their jobs, love their families, and make it work for them everyday. It was without a doubt one of the most valuable experiences I have had at the law school and as a result gained a new level of insight into my career moving forward.

Laura Householder is a 2013 JD/MBA candidate. She graduated from Bucknell University in 2008 with a degree in Women’s Studies and French Literature. Prior to coming to William & Mary, she spent a year in Tours, France, teaching primary school English. This past summer she worked as a law clerk at Drinker Biddle & Reath in Philadelphia and plans to return as a first year associate next fall.

Exploring Property Rights in China, Part II

by Faye Shealy and Brian Wall

We previously posted about the Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference held in conjunction with Tsinghua University in Beijing in October, and are delighted to report that it was a smashing success.  Dean Davison Douglas remarks that the conference “laid the groundwork for many more years of collaboration and exchange of ideas.”  Professor Lynda Butler added, “This was the most exciting conference I have ever attended.”

We are pleased to share a short video about the conference as well as Chancellor Sandra Day O’Connor’s acceptance speech of the 2011 Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize.  William & Mary Law School is truly a remarkable place to study international law (as well as all other areas of the law, of course!), and we hope that you will be interested in applying to join us to participate in many more remarkable international exchanges.

William & Mary McGlothlin Leadership Forum

by Faye Shealy

We are excited to announce the inagural public Plenary session of the McGlothlin Leadership Forum, named in honor of James W. McGlothlin (’62, J.D. ’64, LL.D ’00).  This plenary session, which is open to the public, will feature open exchange, active debate, and analysis of the challenges of the global economy and the political and legal systems that comprise it.  The 2011 McGlothlin Leadership Fellows will be the featured speakers at the plenary session: David Boies, Chairman and Managing Partner of Boies, Schiller, and Flexner, LLP; The Honorable John Snow, 73rd Secretary of the U.S. Treasury and former CEO of CSX Corporation; and William C. Weldon, Chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson.  Admission is free and all are welcome; no RSVP required.  The plenary session will be held on Wednesday, November 2 from 2:00-3:30 at Miller Hall (Mason School of Business) on the main campus.

Exploring Property Rights in China

by Faye Shealy


Dean Douglas and several other faculty members are out of the office for a great reason today: the Eighth Annual Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference in Beijing, China!  The Law School typically hosts this conference in Williamsburg, but this year the Conference is being jointly sponsored with Tsinghua University School of law.  The treatment of property rights figures prominently in both Chinese and American economic and political systems, and the Conference will explore the relationship between property rights, economic prosperity, and individual freedom.  Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Chancellor of the College, was honored today at the conference as the 2011 recipient of the Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize.

Congratulations to Justice O’Connor, and best of luck to our faculty!  To our prospective students, remember that property is a required course, and coming to a law school with such a renowned conference is a great addition to your education!

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

by Brian Wall

You may have seen the exciting news that William & Mary will host its annual Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China this October.  While Williamsburg is certainly an idyllic location to study law, this conference merely exemplifies the strong international law tradition at William & Mary Law School.  Our graduates and current students work and intern all over the world.  For example, you can find William & Mary alumni and students:

  • Working for big law firms from London and Paris to Sydney and Phnom Penh,
  • Doing humanitarian work for International Bridges to Justice’s main office in Geneva, or going to field offices in Burundi, India, Vietnam, or Zimbabwe,
  • Competing in Moot Court competitions at The Hague,
  • Working at State Department and Consular Offices in Paris, Moscow, and East Timor,
  • Researching and teaching at clinics in Belize and Argentina, and
  • Earning doctoral degrees at Cambridge or studying in Madrid, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Auckland, Vienna, Luxembourg, Hong Kong…

Joining William & Mary Law will give you access to a worldwide legal community.  With top professors in all fields of international law and a strong alumni network with a wide range of international experiences, William & Mary can be your gateway to the world!