Fellowship with Veterans Benefits Clinic

by Laura Manchester JD ’17 and Katlyn Moseley JD ’17

manchestermoseleyLaura Manchester (left) is a IL student originally from New Jersey.   Laura graduated from the University of Baltimore in 2013 with highest honors with a degree in Jurisprudence, and spent last year working and traveling before coming to William & Mary.  She is a member of the inaugural Leadership Institute and is a graduate research fellow at the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic. 

Katlyn Moseley (right) is also first-year student. Katlyn is originally from North Carolina and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014 with a degree in history and political science. She is a member of William & Mary’s National Trial Team and a fellow in the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic.

The Lewis B. Puller, Jr., Veterans Benefits Clinic Fellowship initially attracted us to William and Mary Law School because it offered first year law students the opportunity to impact the lives of the community, something that many law schools reserve for second and third year students.  The Puller Clinic provides free legal services to veterans who need help filing and appealing disability claims.  Working as a fellow in the clinic has been a rewarding and educational experience that any law student would be lucky to have.

Fellows have a diverse range of responsibilities, ranging from legal research for supervising attorneys, to performing administrative tasks to help the operation run smoothly.  This past semester, we had the opportunity to sit in on veterans’ interviews and in-reach programs with supervising attorneys, help launch and contribute to the veterans benefits blog, conduct outreach efforts, and network with veterans clinics at other law schools and organizations to help improve the lives of veterans and their families.   Some unanticipated benefits of working at the Puller Clinic are the connections we have made with the supervising attorneys and other clinic students. These individuals have proven to be an exceptional resource for both of us, sharing their knowledge on everything from veterans law, navigating your first year of law school, and effectively conducting research. The students and faculty that comprise the Puller Clinic community have made this fellowship a truly amazing experience.

We encourage anyone who has an interest in the mission of the Puller Clinic, or any of William and Mary Law School’s many other clinics, to apply for a fellowship and gain the numerous benefits that come with this wonderful opportunity.

This blog post is part of a series featuring student experiences in William & Mary Law School’s nine clinics. To view more clinic posts, click here.

Working as a GRF

by Anna Birkenheier, Class of 2013 and recent graduate

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

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

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

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

Experiences with Law Review

by Jenna Poligo, Class of 2014

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

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

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

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

Experiences and Opportunities in Election Law

shanaShanna Reulbach is a 3L from Rochester, New York.  She double majored in political science and history at the State University of New York at Geneseo, graduating in 2010.  Shanna is a Graduate Research Fellow and the senior articles editor of the Law Review.

I am a 3L at William & Mary, and I have had the wonderful experience of being a Graduate Research Fellow (GRF) for all three years.  As a college student, I majored in political science and history and ran an organization dedicated to campaign finance reform.  I was interested in elections, and William & Mary stood out to me during the law school application process because it sponsored election law fellows through its GRF program.  I applied for the Election Law Fellowship and had the great fortune of becoming one of two GRFs to the Election Law Program.

The Election Law GRF position afforded me incredible research opportunities in the field I was passionate about starting on my first day as a 1L.  Professor Rebecca Green, co-director of the Election Law Program, had me maintain a blog page on campaign finance on the Election Law Society’s website, assist in researching one of her academic articles, and participate in the planning of election-related moot court events that gained national attention.  All of these projects were very interesting and enjoyable, and they helped me develop research and writing skills early on in my law school career.  Furthermore, the skills and subject-matter expertise I developed have helped prepare me for job interviews and summer internships.

Another great benefit of GRFing is that it enables students to form a relationship with a professor outside of the classroom.  Professor Green has been a fantastic mentor during my three years and provided invaluable help in securing both of my summer internships—at the Brennan Center for Justice and the Virginia State Board of Elections.  Being familiar with my personality and work product, she was able to make phone calls and write recommendation letters for these positions and for clerkships.  And when opportunities for extracurricular projects have come up, Professor Green has generously offered to allow me to participate.  Through her efforts, I am currently researching and drafting a report on election delays for the American Bar Association and providing research support to the recently created Presidential Commission on Election Administration.  These are tasks I never dreamed law students would be tackling when I came to William & Mary, but I am so grateful that the GRF program is in place to enable students to learn beyond the classroom.

GRF was a big part of why I decided to come to William & Mary, and now I also view it as one of my most rewarding law school experiences.  The tuition reduction and living stipend made law school more affordable, and I do not think I could have gotten such in-depth familiarity with the field of election law at any other institution.  I have enjoyed my time as a GRF and believe that what I have learned, and the relationships I have established with the GRF community, will continue to be of value years beyond graduation.

Research in Administrative Law

by Laura Vlieg, Class of 2014

lauraLaura Vlieg is a 2L student at W&M Law interested in pursuing a career in aviation law. She is involved in a number of student groups on campus including Constitutional Conversations, the American Constitution Society, and Law Cappella. Prior to law school, she attended Loyola University Chicago completing majors in Political Science and International Studies, and then worked for a year with an aviation law firm in Washington, DC. 

When I decided to join the William & Mary Law School community, a major factor influencing my decision was the opportunity to work as a Graduate Fellow.  The in-state tuition and stipend were certainly incentive enough for me to accept, and I was intrigued about the added benefit of gaining some research experience along the way. I remember when I first arrived at William & Mary, I met an administrator who recognized my name and exclaimed “Oh, you’re one of our GRFs!” (pronounced “Grrrrf”), and I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.  I quickly realized that GRF is the friendly, albeit bizarre, nickname given to Graduate Fellows here at the law school.

The enthusiasm I was met with that very first day has not died down, and I have been fortunate in my GRF assignments to meet and work for some wonderful people.  My 1L year I was assigned to both the Admissions Office and the Technical Services division in the law library.

As a 2L I am now working as a research assistant to Professor Larsen, one of W&M’s rock star professors focusing in Administrative and Constitutional law. The projects that I have worked on with Prof. Larsen have been interesting; some of those projects have included editing papers, finding scholarly authorities on specific topics within Administrative and Constitutional law, and compiling facts and data on specified topics within those fields.  I definitely feel that the position has helped me fine-tune my research skills.

In retrospect, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to advise my past self to accept the GRF position—weird nickname and all.

Laura reflected on her first semester at W&M for the Admissions Blog.  Click here to read more.

Research in Family Law

by Liz Smith, Class of 2014

liz smith

Liz Smith is from South Florida and earned a degree in Psychology at the University of Florida before moving to Virginia to begin law school at William & Mary. She is a Graduate Research Fellow and a member of the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal.

When I was considering the move from sunny South Florida to Virginia, where I did not know anyone, the atmosphere I experienced at William and Mary during Admitted Students Weekend made the decision easy. The second most convincing reason for choosing William and Mary for law school was the offer of a Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF). While some may view a research fellowship as a trade off, I see it as a win-win. Not only do I get a break on tuition and a monetary stipend, but I have the opportunity to work directly with faculty, staff, and professors.

Once Graduate Research Fellows have a chance to develop an interest in a specific type of law, they are matched up with a professor with experience in that field. I have developed an interest in family law and was consequently lucky enough to work with Professor James Dwyer for almost a year now. Professor Dwyer has a significant amount of experience in family law, domestic violence, and youth law. I have been afforded the opportunity to work on a variety of research assignments for him, each of which is more interesting than the last. Some of the topics that I have researched include the current mail-order bride laws in the Philippines, the various requirements states have for distribution of unique marital property such as law degrees, and a wide range of domestic violence issues and specific local domestic violence cases.

During every job interview that I have had, I have been asked about my Graduate Research Fellowship. Employers were impressed with the honor, as well as interested in the research skills and professional relationships I was able to develop through the work. I honestly believe that my graduate research fellowship contributed to the success of my 2L summer job search.

My Graduate Research Fellowship has also been a great networking opportunity. Through research, I was able to locate and reach out to a William and Mary alum that was a GRF for Professor Dwyer as well. Partly because of our common experience, this alum was more than willing to meet with me and give great career advice as well as discuss her experiences during and after law school. Accepting my Graduate Research Fellowship has already contributed to the advancement of my career and the formation of professional relationships, and I still have another year!

Research Opportunities During Law School

by Laura Doore, Class of 2013

laura doore class of 2013Laura is a 3L at William & Mary Law School.  She has an A.B. in French and anthropology from Bowdoin College in Maine.  Laura worked as a paralegal at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine before coming to law school.  After graduating in May, Laura plans to work in Washington, D.C.

I am a 3L at William and Mary and I have been a Graduate Research Fellow, or a GRF, since my 1L year.  The opportunity to be a GRF was one of the reasons I chose William & Mary, and it has turned out to be a great experience.  My 1L year I worked at the library and in the Admissions Office.  At the library, I helped to add content to the scholarship repository.  With the Admissions Office, I helped organize applications, gave tours to prospective students, and helped out at Admitted Students’ Weekend.  I very much enjoyed working with the Admissions and library staff and appreciated the opportunity to get to know many members of the law school community.

I started working for Professor Solomon as a research assistant my 2L year and continue to work for him this year.  Professor Solomon’s research focuses on the theory and practice of civil justice, and he also researches and writes on issues related to legal education.  During the past year and a half, I have helped edit several papers that went on to be published in law journals, researched issues for forthcoming papers, and compiled data on law schools around the country and on legal education in general.  The work has been challenging and rewarding.

Learning more about Professor Solomon’s research has been a valuable addition to my legal education.  One of the best parts about working for Professor Solomon is that he has great advice about law school and the job market and has been a helpful and enthusiastic adviser.

The GRF program is just one aspect of the William & Mary experience that brings together members of the law school community and reinforces a collaborative atmosphere.   I have very much enjoyed my experience, and feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a GRF.

Being a Graduate Research Fellow

by Erin Barrett, Class of 2014

erin barrettErin Barrett is a second-year student at William & Mary Law. Erin grew up in Connecticut and went to the College of the Holy Cross for her undergraduate degree. After college, Erin worked for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and volunteered in Baltimore, MD for a year. At William & Mary, Erin is a member of Law Review and the Moot Court Team. She is also a Writing & Practice Fellow in the Legal Practice Program and a Graduate Research Fellow.

There is no denying that one of the most attractive features of William & Mary is the price. Frankly, it is hard to find a school that is a better deal: you get all the prestige of a top-ranked school without all of the corresponding debt. In deciding where I was going to go to law school price was a major factor, and it was what ultimately led me to choose W&M over more highly ranked, but also much more expensive, schools.

Part of my financial aid package was a Graduate Research Fellowship. This Fellowship, affectionately given the nickname GRF, is a work-study type program in which a non-Virginia resident student works around eight hours a week for the school in exchange for in-state tuition and a monetary stipend. The work given to a GRF varies, but for most first-year students, one’s work is split evenly between working in the library and in an administrative capacity for a school department like Admissions or Alumni Affairs. In my case, my first year I worked in the library and the Office in Career Services (OCS), and this year I am a Writing & Practice Fellow (teaching assistant) for W&M’s Legal Practice program.

As someone who has now been a GRF for a year and a half, I can easily say that the benefits of the position outweigh any inconveniences. For starters, receiving in-state tuition and the stipend go a long way in decreasing the amount of loans you have to take out. The increased financial stability I have received from the GRF allowed me much more flexibility in my summer internship searches because I was less money motivated and more concerned with finding jobs that interested me.

My GRF also gave me an extra leg up in the job search in two other ways. First, being a GRF is listed as an honor on one’s resume, which is always an attractive thing to employers. Also the work I have done as a GRF, especially in my time as a Writing & Practice Fellow, has given me great legal writing experience that I can refer to in job interviews. Second, the connections I made working in OCS allowed me to form great relationships with all the OCS Assistant Deans. Those relationships have come in handy throughout my time at W&M in that I always feel even morecomfortable seeking out the Assistant Deans to solicit career advice.

Aside from the perks in the job search, my time as a GRF has afforded me a great chance to meet fellow students, administrators, and alumni. For instance, when I worked with OCS on the Mock Interview Program I was able to meet W&M alumni from around the country and hear about their experiences out in the real world. Also, as a Fellow, I am assigned a “firm” of 13 first-year students whom I get to mentor and teach, but also get to know more so than if I were not a GRF.

My advice to prospective students who have been offered Graduate Fellowships is to really consider accepting those offers. I have found my time as a GRF a great way to make connections with administrators at W&M, meet other students whom are fellow GRFs, and save money. Plus getting to work in the library means you will be one of the few students in the school who can actually find books with relative ease. Talk about impressing future employers!

My Experiences with Public Service

By Janet Sully, Class of 2014

930769127Janet is a 2L at William & Mary Law School. She has a B.A. in Education from St. Olaf College in Minnesota, and has previously worked as an educator with Reaching Our Goals, Upward Bound, and Covenant House. After law school, Janet hopes to provide legal representation for youth in foster care.

As an educator, when searching for the right law school, I hoped to find a place where I could develop the ability to use my current skills and knowledge in a legal capacity to better serve my clients. Although I expected my classes and volunteer work to provide me with appropriate experiences, I have been pleasantly surprised by the unique opportunities provided through my Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) at William & Mary Law School.

One of the most exciting research projects in which I have participated through my GRF involved the design of teleconferencing rooms for remote Social Security Administration (SSA) hearings. Throughout the project, I worked with classmates whose backgrounds included everything from statistics to filmmaking, and teleconferencing to room design. My background as a teacher allowed me to effectively contribute to the research project by focusing on the disability accommodations required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as teleconferencing logistics that can impact various aspects of communication between the appellant and the administrative law judge at SSA hearings.

Through my work on this research project, I also had the opportunity to work closely with faculty, benefitting from their knowledge and guidance in completing the research and in writing up the final proposal. In fact, one professor with whom I worked on the project has continued to act as a mentor throughout my law school experience, and I have recently begun a separate research project in collaboration with him regarding accessible language and the legal code of Virginia.

Although I enjoyed the larger process of completing my GRF research on teleconferencing, the project truly came full circle for me during the summer of my 1L year during my internship at Bay Area Legal Aid. There, I spent part of my summer successfully representing one of my clients at an SSA appellate hearing. When the administrative law judge issued a bench decision in favor of my client, the client grabbed my hand and began to cry. As a summer law clerk, I was incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work successfully with such an amazing client. As a Graduate Research Fellow at William & Mary, I was similarly fortunate to have had the chance to participate in the conversation to make SSA hearings like this more accessible to individuals all over the country.