1L Perspective- The First Month

zaleskiby James Zaleski, Class of 2019

Just like that the first month of law school has come to an end! It has been a month filled with stress, late nights, and exhaustion but I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Now is a good time to reflect back on the first month of this crazy transformative experience we call law school.

Classes have consumed the majority of my time this first month. All 1Ls take the same classes during the first year. The classes I am taking this semester include: (1) Criminal Law, (2) Civil Procedure, (3) Torts, (4) Legal Writing, and (5) Lawyering Skills. One of the rumors about law school that I quickly found to be true is the copious amount of reading! Law school professors assign multiple cases for each class. The readings are complex and often the main point of the case is not particularly clear. I frequently find myself reading the cases multiple times. However, after just one month of practice, I know my classmates and I are increasing our proficiency and are on our way to becoming savvy case readers.

The professors are some of the most brilliant and accomplished instructors I have had in my academic career. As a former high school teacher, I have an appreciation for excellent teachers. All of my professors are experts in their field; they have a passion for teaching their material and challenging students to think critically about the law. One way professors cultivate this atmosphere of learning is through the Socratic Method. I received a personal introduction to the practice during the first week of classes. My classmates and I have found that the rumors regarding the Socratic Method to be overblown. The Socratic Method ensures everyone comes to class prepared. It keeps the class engaged and challenges students to arrive at key insights. While everyone was nervous the first week, I feel most people have become accustomed to the method and enjoy the rigorous discussion it provides.

I also spent a lot of time this past week preparing for my first law school exam. While most law school classes only have final exams, several professors offer midterms. These midterms help relieve some of the anxiety over final exams because they serve as a good introduction to the law school exam format. In preparation, I reviewed my class notes and I completed my first outline. The professor also provided a hypothetical that I used to practice responses. The most challenging aspect of the exam was the time crunch! My classmates and I are anxiously awaiting the results.

student orgsOutside of class, I have found myself busy attending interest meetings for many student groups. I have attended meetings for the Immigration and Law Service Society, the Military and Veterans Law Society, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mock Trial, and the Latino Law Student Association. These meetings are great opportunities to learn about the organization, to meet new people with similar interests, and to learn how to become involved as a 1L. A nice perk is all of them provided lunch!

The first month of law school has been a demanding experience. However, after just one month, I can already tell I am receiving a valuable education, and I am on my way to becoming an excellent attorney.

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Hixon Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership

To be completed in the spring of 2017, the James A. and Robin L. Hixon Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership building will provide an additional 12,000-square-feet to the Law School.

The Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership will serve as headquarters for our clinics and practicum, which give students opportunities to
represent real clients in actual cases. It will also be home to our highly regarded Legal Practice Program. For three semesters,
students gain the writing, oral communication, and professional skills they’ll need to be great lawyers.

Students, faculty, and staff signed their names and left messages of good will for the new wing on the last piece of steel, and this piece of steel was installed on August 18.

building 1

building 2










Visit the construction website to see the latest pictures.

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.”

W&M Honor Council and Exams

borkby Emily Bork, Class of 2018

It’s hard to believe that my first year of law school is quickly coming to an end! Although I can’t deny that I’m feeling the stress of the looming exam period, I have taken comfort in the supportive W&M community of my peers and professors. Throughout my exam preparation, I have realized that everyone here genuinely wants their fellow classmates and students to do well on their exams. Our community is rooted in a deep desire to provide students with an opportunity to do their best and be given a fair chance to succeed.

The W&M Honor Code embodies this sense of fairness and justice among the law school community and works to uphold the dignity of W&M’s mission of educating Citizen Lawyers. The Honor Code is rooted in instilling a sense of moral responsibility in all W&M students as we are called to refrain from lying, stealing, and cheating both within our interactions at the law school and also outside the law school as aspiring attorneys.

The Honor Council is made up of student justices from among each of the three classes who work to enforce the Honor Code and educate students as to the Honor Code’s application in various aspects of law school life, especially final exams. I was fortunate to attend an Honor Council info session on how the Honor Code relates to exam-taking policies.

Many students have open book exams and are allowed to use their own class notes and outlines during exams. Additionally, students often have self-scheduled exams in which they can take the exam at home at their own convenience. If an exam is not self-scheduled but rather must be taken during a specific time period at the law school, professors often leave the room during the duration of the exam. Questions are typically raised concerning what can and cannot be used during exams. Fortunately, the Honor Council is more than willing to provide students with an overview of some of the default rules regarding exam-taking.

For example, if an exam is open-book, the default rule is that a student is allowed to use any outline he or she has prepared for that class as long as the student has had a substantial hand in making the outline. Although professors can change the default rule for their particular classes, the Honor Council info session was a good way to start thinking about these policies. We are all encouraged to think about how the Honor Code relates not only to this semester’s final exams, but also to our goal of becoming Citizen Lawyers.

At W&M, we are called to be honest with our exam taking so as to ensure the integrity of both the exams themselves as well as the integrity of our school. One of the things that I love most about W&M is our dedication to each other as a community, and the Honor Code is just another example of how we are called to uphold and preserve this community of trust.

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Citizen Lawyer 2.0 Seminar

newtonby Dakota Newton, Class of 2018

Law school is mostly about books. There are books of cases, books of regulations, books of statutes, and books that you should have finished reading already. But being a lawyer is about more than just knowing what is in those books. It is about building relationships of trust with colleagues and clients and having the professional skills to cultivate those relationships. Fortunately, William & Mary Law recognizes this and strives to help law students develop the professional skills necessary to become the best lawyers possible.

On February 27th, I had the chance to attend W&M Law’s Citizen Lawyer 2.0 Seminar. Subtitled “the professional success initiative”, the purpose of the seminar was to help law students be better lawyers through enhanced communication skills, a growth mindset, and adaptability to evolving industry conditions. To that end, the school invited several high-end speakers from New York and Washington, D.C. firms to come and teach us the secrets to succeeding in the legal industry. I would like to share some highlights from my two favorite presentations.

Jay Sullivan, the managing partner of professional communications firm Exec|Comm, shared a number of ways in which law students can improve their communication skills. The first tip is to always focus on the client. There is a fine balance between being the legal hero who solves the client’s needs and being the person that they can trust and share those needs with. Remembering to orient yourself properly with a “what can I do to help you?” attitude enables lawyers to maintain that balance. When we focus on the client, rather than our own expertise, the ego stays under control and our clients feel heard and important. The next tip is to know your strengths and weaknesses as a communicator. Recognizing what you naturally excel at and what needs work creates a platform from which you can set goals and make plans to put yourself into situations which will improve your weaknesses. You will never be able to learn the things that “you don’t know you don’t know”, so start now, be honest, and put yourself in situations which stretch your capabilities.

Milana Hogan from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP taught us about the importance of grit and a growth mindset. We have all heard about the power of positive thinking before, but this was fresh. Instead of simply telling us that attitude is altitude, Milana presented evidence from research that she has conducted which found a statistically significant correlation between leadership capacity and the belief that a person can improve their intelligence and talent over time. In fact, belief in the ability to grow mentally is the most reliable indicator of success for lawyers. Not LSAT scores, not GPA, and not internships. So the next time you see a poster telling you to believe in yourself, take it seriously! It just might be what gets you into your dream job one day.

To sum it up, remember to put the client first, and never stop stretching yourself or believing that you can achieve the professional success that you dream of.

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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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Moot Court: A 2L Team Member’s Perspective

satiraby John Satira, Class of 2017

Last year, I made the decision to try out for the William & Mary Moot Court Team, and I ended up making the cut! This past week, I have been helping to judge and select new members for the Moot Court Team, and the experience has had me recollect on my experience with Moot Court over the past year. So far, as a second-year member on the Moot Court Team, I have been able to participate in a few different experiences thanks to Moot Court.

The first has been being involved with the Bushrod T. Washington Tournament. Each year, the Moot Court Team holds the intra-school Bushrod Tournament as a tryout competition for new members to join the Team. The tournament releases a problem over winter break about either a First Amendment, Second Amendment, or Fourth Amendment issue. The problem consists of a fact pattern and two mock court opinions that lay out a particular legal issue with two very compelling arguments on either side. Competitors are then tasked with formulating a 15-minute oral argument for each party in the case, and then the competitors present their arguments to justices (current team members) who interrupt them with questions—just like a real appellate argument. After presenting, the justices judge the competitors’ oral arguments, and after two or three weeks of competition, the top twenty competitors or so make the team as first-year members. I have had a blast being a justice for the tournament, because I have been able to help grade competitor’s arguments and presentation style while still being able to give them feedback to encourage improvement. Plus, it has been great to see so much interest in joining the Moot Court Team!

Moot Court

After making the team, each Moot Court member is required to take the Advanced Brief Writing class during the Fall semester following their selection to the Moot Court Team. Advanced Brief Writing helps to prepare oral argument and appellate writing skills, and the class is currently taught by Professor Benjamin Hatch, who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court. Needless to say, Professor Hatch is well aware as to what makes an appellate argument persuasive. During my time in the class, we wrote briefs and gave oral arguments on the case Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which the Supreme Court actually heard arguments on while I was in the class. While I knew absolutely nothing about election law going into the class, I feel like I learned a lot of substantive material on election law along with improving my general knowledge of appellate practice.

Right now, in the early part of the Spring semester, I am preparing for my assigned tournament for the year. Each team member is required to compete in at least one inter-school tournament a year. My teammates have traveled pretty far to compete in places such as Chicago, Louisiana, and New York, or if they are do not want to travel that much, there are a variety of other tournaments in Virginia and Washington, D.C. My upcoming tournament is at West Virginia University and focuses on law that implicates energy, environmental, and sustainability issues. While writing the brief has been challenging, as I know very little about that topic, I am looking forward to traveling to Morgantown, West Virginia, with my teammate and experiencing my first inter-school tournament. Wish us luck!

The Moot Court Team does a variety of other events as well, such as hosting its own inter-school William B. Spong Tournament, which is now in its 45th year. The tournament is student-run, so as a team member, I have been required to help out with the tournament in some capacity since I joined the team. Also, we have an annual banquet to celebrate the successes of the team at the end of the Spring semester. While being involved with Moot Court takes up a lot of time and is quite a bit of work, I do feel as though I have learned a lot from the experience. I am excited to welcome the new team members soon!

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Law Students Take a Break from Studying to Hit the Slopes

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

In mid-January, students from the Law School at William & Mary took a break from studying, got together for a weekend of fun, and took a trip to Snowshoe, West Virginia. During the first weekend of the semester, over 150 students from William & Mary Law School made the trek to the quiet mountains of West Virginia to enjoy the winter festivities.

Each year, SBA organizes the trip, where students are able to rent cabins at the mountain, for a fun weekend with skiing, snowboarding, snow-tubing, relaxing and socializing. Students are able to acquire one and three-day lift passes and ski/snowboard rentals at a reduced rate through the trip with the school.

So why make the trip? “The Student Bar Association’s annual Ski Trip provides a fantastic chance for students to leave the law library behind. Without carrels to hide in and cases to brief, students have an opportunity to learn more about their fellow aspiring citizen-lawyers and see how they handle the slopes,” says Steve Mikulic, an SBA Board Member, who helped to organize the trip.

ski tripThe trip provides a unique opportunity for students to see their classmates in a more relaxed setting, to meet other students, and to enjoy some time relaxing – a fairly unique opportunity for law students.

“Planning and executing a ski vacation for more than a hundred and fifty students can be a bit of a logistical nightmare. It’s all hands on deck for the SBA. But as soon as you set your eyes on the mountainside, you know it was all worth it,” says Mikulic.

While most took advantage of the opportunity to get out and ski or snowboard, many took the trip just for the weekend get-away with friends, opting to take advantage of the shops, restaurants and relaxation.

This is but one of the many unique opportunities that students at William & Mary are offered, and that many take advantage of every year.

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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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Lunch Options

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

Let’s talk about something extremely important: lunch at the Law School’s café. The café is called Zime (I don’t know the story behind the name), and they serve breakfast, lunch, and coffee. Lots of coffee.

Originally, I came into law school thinking that I was simply going to bring lunch everyday and eat while I studied, but after I discovered the BBQ chicken salad at Zime, I changed my mind! I now buy lunch virtually everyday. While many students do bring their lunch, the café’s food is great and relatively inexpensive. For lunch, the café also serves custom sandwiches, sushi, and other types of salads. Additionally, they have pastries and deserts available all day.

While I am a loyal lunch customer, their breakfast is even better. They have various breakfast sandwiches including my favorite: an egg white bagel with cheese and sausage.

zimeIn addition to the food menu, the café also serves various drinks including hot coffee, iced coffee, and tea. For the coffee, they have a wide variety of flavors and never run out. Although many people buy cups at the school, I bring my own coffee cup and refill it for a little more than a dollar. For refills, it is the same price regardless of the mug’s size. Also, ask for a punch card at the cash register, and with every 10 coffees you purchase, you get one free.

Although the food at the café is great, if you prefer to bring your own meals into schools, that’s perfectly fine too. Adjacent to the café is a room with two giant refrigerators and five microwaves. Before I started buying my lunch, I would leave my meals in the refrigerator all day, in an unlabeled container, and nobody would touch it. This just shows that if you do want to bring your own food, you don’t have to worry about another student possibly snatching your lunch.

Additionally, for those who stay late at night and still need caffeine, the Law School has vending machines near the refrigerators that offer Starbucks iced coffee, Gatorade, and other energy drinks. All of these options cost around one dollar, and if you don’t have money in your wallet, you can use your Dining Dollars of the Law School’s ATM located within the café.

While I understand that this post seems a little silly, in reality, the café is a major part of my day. Having a convenient place where I can buy food and drinks without leaving the building allows me to be more efficient as a law student. Although I hope everyone does choose to attend William & Mary, no matter what law school you attend, please ask current students about their dining options within the law building. I promise that it will make a difference in daily law experience.

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