Michael Collett J.D. ’16 Honored for Outstanding Service to the Law School Community

georgewythe475x265Congratulations to Michael Collett, one of our Student Admission Ambassadors, on this honor! View a blog post written by Michael here.

by Jaime Welch-Donahue, Blog post reproduced with permission of the Communications Office.

Michael Collett J.D. ’16 received the George Wythe Award at the Law School’s Diploma Ceremony on May 15. The award is named in honor of George Wythe (1726-1806), William & Mary’s first law professor and one of the most remarkable attorneys of his time, and is given each year to a graduating student in recognition of his or her outstanding and selfless service to the Law School community.

Collett graduated with merit from the U.S. Naval Academy and currently serves as an active-duty Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. He attended William & Mary under the U.S. Navy’s Law Education Program and will continue his service after graduation as an officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Among his endeavors while at William & Mary, Collett served as Chief Justice of the Honor Council, participated in the Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic, and competed as a member of the National Trial Team, where he won two regional trial competitions and a competition award for excellence in trial advocacy.

At the Awards Ceremony for the Class of 2016, held on the eve of graduation, he was inducted into the Order of Barristers, a national honor society that recognizes student advocates who have excelled in written and oral advocacy competitions and activities.

Dean Davison M. Douglas presented the award and read from two of the recommendations from Collett’s classmates.

One wrote: “Mike truly exemplifies the best qualities of the citizen lawyer. His integrity, commitment, and devotion to the greater good are unsurpassed in the Class of 2016.”

Another classmate contributed this observation: “All who know and encounter Michael at the Law School know that his character is steadfast and is complemented by his sense of humor, his kindness, and his spirit of giving.”

Law Students Help Plant Change in Southeast Community of Newport News

lubranoBlog post reproduced with permission of the Communications Office.

by Jonathon Lubrano, Class of 2018 , Virginia Coastal Policy Center Graduate Research Fellow

On April 23, Arbor Day, William & Mary law students from the Virginia Coastal Policy Center (VCPC), Student Environmental and Animal Law Society, and Black Law Students Association joined the Southeast CARE Coalition for a second year to “Plant the Change” in the Southeast Community of Newport News, Va.

“This event is part of our ongoing commitment to the environmental future and health of the city of Newport News,” says Elizabeth Andrews, co-director of the VCPC. The Southeast Community is considered vulnerable to recurrent flooding and sea level rise because of its location and socioeconomic composition.

The Arbor Day celebration began with a tree planting ceremony at John Marshall Elementary School, followed by a gathering at Newsome House, an African-American cultural and history museum where attendees learned about the rich culture and history of the Southeast Community.

arbordaylargeimageDuring the ceremony, three trees were planted in honor of those who have helped the Southeast Community. The first tree was dedicated to Erica Holloman, leader of the Southeast CARE Coalition and the first African-American woman to earn her doctorate degree from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The second tree was dedicated to George Gaynor, who sponsored an addition to John Marshall Elementary. The third tree was for William & Mary and its various organizations that have worked to improve the lives of Southeast Community residents.

The trees will complement the newly planted garden at John Marshall Elementary. They symbolize a collaborative effort to rejuvenate the Southeast Community of Newport News.

“When students of William & Mary share their time, knowledge, and heart with the residents of the Southeast Community, a community facing serious socio-economic and environmental challenges, they live the rule of citizen lawyering,” says Roy Hoagland, co-director of the VCPC. “With leadership from former and current students like Joe Carroll and Emily Gabor, student investment in this event reflects the best of the Law School.”

Advocacy through Legal Writing

alankoby Nicole Alanko, Class of 2018

My name is Nicole Alanko and I am a 1L from Atlanta, Georgia and Staunton, Virginia. I attended The George Washington University with a major in International Affairs and a minor in Spanish. Throughout my entire undergraduate career, I’ve focused on advocating for equal access to education- from fundraising in honor of Malala to writing my thesis on education for Syrian refugees. Education is the centerpiece to gender equality and equal opportunity, and I hope that my career in law and public service will be a reflection of these higher goals.

At some point in every student’s legal career, they come across a moment that reminds them why they started. My moment came very early in my time at William & Mary.

I went to high school in Staunton, Virginia, a small town west of Charlottesville. I attended the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program at the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School, a half-day program for my junior and senior years where I could take advanced classes that my local high school could not offer. Though I had no intention of entering the STEM fields, this training early on taught me how to think through a problem logically and how to research (two skills critical to the legal profession). This background set me up for success, both in undergrad and now at William and Mary. I always thought that the best way to thank my teachers was to use the skills they gave me to serve others.

Recently, a budget amendment was introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates that would substantially decrease the funding to half-day Governor’s Schools across the state like mine. The amendment favors the four full-day programs across the state by giving them 30% more funding per student, and leaving the fifteen half-day programs to divide up the remaining funds. When I heard about this amendment, I wanted to do something. I spoke with the director of my school and asked how I could help. She was encouraging parents, students, and alumni to write to our local delegates, and had intentions to travel to Richmond to lobby our delegates. I sprang into action. With the help of my Legal Writing professor, I wrote an op-ed that appeared in the local paper, explaining the policy and its effect on our community. I also had the opportunity to visit with our delegates in Richmond to talk with them about the effects of this amendment on our community, as well as the state as a whole. The amendment we opposed was defeated! We didn’t get the exact outcome we wanted, but our lobbying efforts succeeded in defeating the amendment.

Though I haven’t been here long, what I have already learned at William & Mary profoundly influenced how I approached advocating for my school. I wasn’t able to just look at the text of the amendment, but to dig deeper to its wider policy implications. I have learned how to write persuasively: organizing my piece so that even the readers who are in greatest opposition can see my side by the end. In just a little over one semester, I have already seen the profound impact that my legal education has had on my ability to be a better advocate and to stand up for causes near to my heart. Over the course of the next two years, I can’t wait to see how far my education can take me.

License to …. Bid

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

Law School can be a lot, but its important to remember to take a break, and that’s just what several hundred students did on Saturday night at The Public Service Fund (PSF) Annual Auction.

Each Spring, the Law School’s PSF, a student run organization dedicated to community service, and raising money to help fund students interning over the summer, holds its largest fundraising event: the PSF Auction.

bondThis year, the theme was one that everyone recognized. 007. On Saturday evening, hundreds of Law School Students showed up in their best outfits, to get behind a great cause, and have some fun.

The auction consists of a silent and live auction with items of all varieties, including: art, spa packages, baked goods, meals with professors, golf rounds, gift-cards, mini-vacations, premium parking spots, and many, many more. Every item was donated by students, faculty and the local Williamsburg community.

The night also included food, drinks, and live performances by a number of different individual students and student groups – really bringing together the community.

In all, the evening raises thousands of dollars which go towards funding students working in public service jobs for the summer. While the total is not yet in for this year, last year’s total funds were over $40,000 – all which were donated back to students.

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Mark Epley- General Counsel to Paul Ryan

newtonby Dakota Newton, Class of 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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Martin Luther King Jr., and Civil Disobedience: A Talk by Dean Douglas

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

On Tuesday, January 19th, students and staff had the privilege of hearing Dean Davison Douglas, Dean of the Law School, speak on the legal implications of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Dean Douglas has an extensive background in Constitutional History and Civil Rights Law, especially concerning race in America. Knowing of Dean Douglas’ expertise in this area, I was grateful to have the opportunity to attend the event and learn about the legal implications of King’s nonviolent forms of protest.

Dean Douglas set the scene by explaining that in the spring of 1963, Birmingham, Alabama was the site of the Birmingham Campaign, one of the most influential movements of the Civil Rights Era. In continuation of the peaceful marches and sit-ins that were occurring, King sought a parade permit to lawfully march down the city streets. Birmingham enjoined the demonstration by issuing an injunction. King was warned that if he disobeyed the court order, he would forfeit his right to dispute the merits of the injunction. Still, King and a formidable crowd of protestors walked along the sidewalks. They did not wave signs, and they did not chant. They simply walked, and when police arrived to stop the protest, the crowds were viciously attacked with fire hoses and police dogs. King was arrested at two o’clock on that Good Friday, as a Christ-like figure being punished for taking a stand.

MLK1While in his dark, desolate cell, King found out about a letter that eight white clergymen wrote attacking him. In response, King penned his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Dean Douglas explained that the theme of the piece was “Why we can’t wait,” wherein King described that for the oppressed African American population, “wait” really meant “never.” African Americans would never get the rights they deserved if they continued to passively wait for them. For this reason, King had developed his practices of nonviolent civil disobedience.

As Dean Douglas conveyed, Dr. King believed that there were specific criteria to be adhered to for civil disobedience to be effective. First, one who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, so as to make a bold statement. Second, a person must break that law lovingly. Following Gandhi’s nonviolent system of civil disobedience, King believed the cause was best furthered when the protestors showed respect to their oppressors. Third, when one breaks an unjust law, they must be willing to accept the consequences. This aspect shows dignity, and it binds together the three criteria into one powerful message.

MLK2Dean Douglas translated King’s philosophy of civil disobedience to modern day examples. He discussed the armed ranchers in Oregon, who are still in the midst of a standoff over rights to grazing lands. He also discussed the actions of Edward Snowden, the government intelligence employee who disclosed classified government information to the public. In both instances, Dean Douglas explained that the examples fell short of King’s standard by not satisfying all three requirements. The armed ranchers have not been practicing loving peaceful protests, and Snowden has fled the country and refused to accept the consequences of his actions.

Dr. King’s appeal of the injunction went all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was decided against him in a 5-4 decision. Even so, King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and his courageous efforts of civil disobedience ultimately led to victory for many of the goals of the Civil Rights Movement. Dean Douglas’s talk was a compelling tribute to Dr. King and his fight for just laws through peaceful protest.

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PSF’s Halloween Party

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

On the night of October 31, the halls of William and Mary Law School were filled with ghosts and goblins celebrating All Hallows Eve at the Public Service Fund (PSF) Halloween Party! The annual event raises money to provide stipends for students who take unpaid summer jobs. Not only did law students get to help a worthy cause, but they had a frightfully good time in the process!

Members of PSF transformed the Law School lobby into an inviting party space that was both elegant and eerie. Costumed volunteers served Halloween-themed, while other volunteers tended to the DJ table and made sure the event was a “Thriller.” Twinkling orange lights and cobwebs were draped along the walls, and skeletons dangled from the chandeliers. Even George Wythe and John Marshall got in the spirit, as the faces of their busts were adorned with festive Halloween masks.

Shrieks of delight echoed through the building as students saw their friends dressed in all fashions of ghastly garb. For instance, the characters of the board game “Clue” attended, but even in a building full of law students, no one could figure out “whodunit.” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg made an appearance, wearing her signature gown, bun, and glasses. The Queen of Hearts and Alice and Wonderland were there too, but thankfully, no one lost their head that night. Other attendees included the Avengers, Ghostbusters, Harry Potter, Russel from Up, Dr. Who, and Wonder Woman, among many others. People even showed off their legal humor, with a “Wild Tort” and The Bluebook making appearances as well.

One of the highlights of the night was the “Walk-Off” performed by the group dressed as characters from the movie Zoolander. The two characters strutted their stuff on the dance floor, performing the exact choreography as in the movie, and the audience erupted into uproarious applause. Their moves and costumes earned them the title of “Best Group Costume” in the costume competition. The “Best Individual Costume” award went to the student who dressed as Wolf Law Library’s beloved librarian, Steve. A ghoulishly good time was had by all. It showed that in the end, law school is not all that “scary” after all!

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Public Service Fund: A Fun Way to Get Involved

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

Law school can be a stressful time, especially in the first few weeks. You get a lot of information thrown at you, on top of trying to read for classes and get involved. Not everything about it has to be stressful, however. The Public Service Fund (PSF) is a great way to get involved at the law school and have fun at the same time.

PSF is a student-run organization which gives funds to students who are working in public interest and public service internships during the summers. While these internships are all great experiences for students to learn and provide valuable experience in a variety of different subject areas, including state and local governments, and legal services to the underprivileged, which are often unpaid. Students working in these areas are encouraged to apply to PSF for aid in order to help them to participate in their summer programs.

PSF holds events throughout the year to raise money which it then donates at the end of each year to students working in these areas over the summers. These events are a great way to have fun during law school and meet other students, and faculty. Some of the events that PSF holds include: a trivia night, chili cook-off and cornhole tournament, softball tournament, Halloween party, singer/songwriter competition, and auction. The events are run by student (and faculty) volunteers, and span throughout the year.

There are a number of different ways to get involved with PSF, all of which are important. Like every organization, it is run by a board of students; however, the majority of the organization is comprised of general members and volunteers who participate in the panning and running of the events.

To date, the biggest two events have been the trivia night and cornhole tournament, but the biggest event every year is the Auction, which takes place in the spring. Both events were very well attended and everyone at W&M is looking forward to the next events: the softball tournament and the Halloween party.

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Interview with Amy Greer ’89, Public Service Fund Co-Founder

wentworthby Christie Wentworth, Class of 2017

Amy is a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

Q: What sparked your interest in public service and pro bono work?

A: I have always been outwardly focused.  This may have been more an accident of birth than anything else, as I was an oldest child with responsibilities for my younger siblings, but for whatever reason, my biggest strengths have always been problem solving and personal interaction, which seem to be perfect qualities for this work.  I did not come from a family with lawyers in it, but I wanted to be a lawyer from a very early age, because they had the power to help others.  As far as I was concerned, public service and pro bono work were what lawyers did.

greer1Q: What inspired you to found the Public Service Fund?

A: Like so much of life, it was a happy accident.  Kathy Hessler ’88, a like-minded person, told me that other schools were doing programs like what became our Public Service Fund (PSF).  W&M had nothing available to support public interest work for students.  We identified a need and we filled it.  Together, and with the help of others, we considered what we thought we could accomplish, both in the short term and what PSF could be in the future and, acting with the support of the faculty and the administration, including Professors John Levy, Rob Kaplan, Jayne Barnard and then-Dean Sullivan, we got it off the ground.

Kathy Hessler ’88 and Amy Greer ’89, PSF Co-Founders

Kathy Hessler ’88 and Amy Greer ’89, PSF Co-Founders

Q: How did your time at W&M shape or encourage your commitment to public service?

A: Nothing succeeds like success, I guess.  The fact that PSF was so well received was very energizing for me — and the fact that the work being done was so inspiring to others and so meaningful to those being helped.

Q: What have you found to be the most meaningful way to stay involved in the community as a lawyer?

A: Legal work is very demanding of your time.  I have had periods of very significant community involvement and others when I have been less so, depending on my career demands.  However, I think the key is to commit to issues and organizations that you genuinely care about – that always makes it much easier to make the time.  And, though it may seem counterintuitive, given my last statement, I also try to find other ways to stay involved based solely on time commitment – like quick clinics, with real person-to-person interaction: helpful to clients, meaningful to me, and not a lot of time commitment.

Q: Do you have any advice for current law students or recent graduates who would like to continue to serve others?

A: Just do it.  And don’t feel bad about yourself when your life gets in the way.  Keep trying.

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See the original post here.

And They’re Off! (PSF Auction 2015)

wentworthby Christie Wentworth, Class of 2017

During the summer of 2014 alone, William & Mary Law School awarded $335,275 to 109 students for public service fellowships. These fellowships allow students to pursue otherwise unpaid summer internships with qualifying nonprofit organizations, legal aid offices, prosecutors, public defenders, government agencies, courts, and judges. While the majority of these fellowships are funded by law school endowments and alumni, the Public Service Fund contributes tens of thousands of dollars every year.

For over 20 years, the Public Service Fund has been devoted to raising money for summer stipends. The organization hosts fundraising events year-round, but it traditionally raises the most money from the PSF Auction held every spring. The best part of Auction—in addition to raising money to support a worthy cause—is the excitement of the event itself. Student and faculty emcees engage the audience in lively bidding wars, anxious bidders stake out at the silent auction to make sure they go home with their chosen package, student bands perform, poor students avoid the bidding entirely and hover by the food tables, and the guests that get all dolled up for the event take advantage of the photo station.

10487233_1597126917188064_2410761709733705492_nWith the Auction’s Kentucky Derby theme this year, big hats, bow ties, and a fast-paced atmosphere predominated. Nine student bands performed, with a lively rendition of “Uptown Funk” rejuvenating the crowd after a long night of bidding, and PSF raised over $20,000 for summer stipends. Donations for this event came not only from local and national businesses, but from alumni, students, and faculty as well. Over 30 faculty members donated Faculty Experiences, which ranged from sport clay shooting with Professors Alces and Stern, to a Middle Eastern dinner with Professors Combs, Kades, and Criddle, to lunch with Dean Douglas. Some of the student offers included sailing lessons, a private aerial tour, a Hogwarts dinner party, and Indian cooking classes.


330 students, faculty, staff, family, and friends attended this year’s auction, but those who were not able to make it are still in luck! Because PSF secured over 270 packages this year, the items that did not sell in the first round will be auctioned off in an online “fire-sale” after Spring Break. If you want to take a look at the items that are still looking for a good home, check out the event website!

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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.