Being a Journal Staff Member

grecoby Marc Greco, Class of 2018

Before arriving here, I had heard of law journals—or law reviews, as they are also known—but understood very little of how they really worked. I like to think I understand a thing or two now that I’ve served on the William & Mary Law Review for over six months.

W&M Law boasts five journals. Membership in any one begins with a write-on competition at the end of the first year. The competition has two parts: an editing portion and a writing portion. Students are selected for a given journal based on their performance in the competition and the order in which they rank their preferred journals.

Introductory matters aside, I’ve found my time on the Law Review equal parts rewarding and enriching. Staff members like myself have two duties: cite checking and writing an original note. Cite checking is essentially the process of editing the articles selected for publication. It requires the staff member to confirm the factual accuracy of the author’s statements, add authority to support the author’s assertions, and edit for proper grammar and citations. Though challenging, this process confers several benefits to the cite checker. I’ve worked on excellent legal scholarship, improved my research and writing skills, and learned of topics I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered.

library (69)Writing a note has been just as challenging and rewarding. A note is the law student’s version of an article that would appear in a journal (“note” is one of the many misnomers in the legal lexicon because the papers are typically over forty pages long). Staff members complete their notes over the course of the year, working closely with the journal’s Notes Editors to produce a work of publishable quality. I’m writing about the law of outer space as it pertains to asteroid mining. I’ve learned just how much research goes into journal pieces (spoiler alert: a whole mess) and the patience necessary to make it work.

Membership on a journal is a valuable component of the law school experience. The skills I have honed on the Law Review have translated usefully to other parts of my legal life. And no one in the profession can deny the purchase journal participation carries on a resume.

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Preparing for the 1L Job Search

zaleskiby James Zaleski, Class of 2019

We are officially two months into the second semester, and the summer job search for the 1L class is well underway! While the 1L class is still busy as ever with our classes and the moot court competition, we also must make a commitment each week towards our job search. A summer legal internship is an invaluable opportunity for students to gain real legal experience, improve their legal research and writing skills, and explore different practice areas.

The Office of Career Services (OCS) has been a tremendous help during this ongoing process. Towards the end of the first semester, all 1Ls had individual meetings with their OCS Dean to discuss career interests and develop individualized action plans for securing summer internships. The OCS Deans have been very accessible and helpful in preparing 1Ls for the application and interview process. I have sent cover letters to OCS for review, and each time I received prompt and invaluable edits and feedback which I have incorporated into my applications. OCS also hosts different job workshops for 1Ls throughout the year. Shortly after returning from winter break, OCS hosted an important 1L Interviewing Skills Workshop where they discussed interview strategies, analyzed common mistakes, and detailed what employers value in an interview. As a part of this workshop, we had the opportunity to develop strategies for answering those tough interview questions and practice with our fellow classmates.

Directory Page TitleIn late January, OCS hosted a mandatory mock interview program for all 1Ls. Every first-year student was paired with a William & Mary Law School alumnus or alumna who played the part of an employer interviewing candidates for a summer internship. Approximately twenty minutes of the appointment was for mock interviewing and approximately ten minutes was discussion time for feedback. Students were paired up with an alumnus/alumna who is working in one of their desired practice areas. I am interested in securing employment in the national security field, and I had the privilege of interviewing with Michael Dick, Class of ’06, who currently works for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs. I appreciated the opportunity to practice my interviewing skills, receive good feedback, and gain some more insight into the Department of Justice. This event highlights the strong community that exists here at William & Mary Law School and the dedication our alumni have to the school and to the continued success of our students. I am confident in my job search, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have the support of so many people here at William & Mary Law School.

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William & Mary Moot Court

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

After an exciting two weeks of intense competition, 23 students have been selected to join the William & Mary Moot Court Team! 1Ls and 2Ls participated in the annual Bushrod T. Washington Tournament to earn a place on the team. The tournament was named for Supreme Court Justice Bushrod Washington, who graduated from William & Mary and served on the Court with Chief Justice John Marshall at the turn of the nineteenth century.

The Moot Court Team practices appellate advocacy, using the format of oral arguments presented before the Supreme Court. Participants in the Moot Court Program learn to write appellate briefs addressing pertinent legal issues. They then argue their positions before panels of judges, who may interrupt to ask questions about the law. Advocates must be able to think on their feet and persuasively defend their positions.

In most cases, the Bushrod Tournament is the first exposure that students have to appellate argumentation. For the current team members, it’s a chance to channel our favorite Supreme Court Justices as we don black robes and question competitors about the law. For the competitors, it is a chance to show their argumentative prowess and zealously advocate for their party’s position. This year’s problem dealt with potential First Amendment concerns surrounding a classification of Gay Conversion Therapy called “Talk Therapy.” Students did an excellent job of navigating the complex constitutional issues and delivering convincing arguments.

Moot Court TeamThe top eight competitors in the Bushrod Tournament will move forward to compete for the coveted Edmund Randolph Silver Tongue Award. The William & Mary Institute of Bill of Rights Law also presents this award to a practicing appellate lawyer for outstanding achievement in their field. The award-winning attorney serves on an esteemed panel of William & Mary faculty, who select the ultimate winner of the Bushrod Tournament.

In the fall, the new members will take an Advanced Brief Writing course to help them master the written advocacy skills required to write a persuasive brief. They will then practice oral arguments in a fun and competitive intra-team tournament. From there, they will have the opportunity to compete in Moot Court tournaments across the country in a variety of legal disciplines. Based on the exceptional skill displayed during this year’s Bushrod Tournament, the Moot Court Team is thrilled to welcome our new members!

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A Match Made in Torts Class: Alex and Elspeth’s Story

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

In first-year Torts class, students learn about duty, breach, and causation through cases about spontaneously combusting haystacks, accidentally igniting fireworks, and collisions of every type of vehicle imaginable. In a happy accident, you could say that Alex and Elspeth’s worlds collided when they sat down beside each other the first day. And after hearing their story, any reasonable person would know that they were meant to be together.

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On that first day of Torts class, Elspeth sat on the end of the row, and Alex took the empty seat between her and a member of his Legal Practice Section. Elspeth remembers that day especially well, because when they introduced themselves, Alex asked her how to spell her name, and wrote it down. She was impressed by how determined Alex was to pronounce her unique name correctly; he was the first person to ever ask her how to spell it. During the semester, the two talked casually before and after class. One conversation revealed their shared interest in Celtic music, and Elspeth offered recommendations of songs for Alex to listen to.

Fall semester finals came and went, but when Spring semester started, they sadly didn’t have any classes together. After not seeing each other for several months, Alex got the surprise of his life: in his hanging folder, he found a CD of Celtic music that Elspeth had made for him.  Alex was thrilled to know that his sweet classmate from Torts class was still thinking of him. He didn’t have Elspeth’s phone number, so Alex decided to send her an email to thank her. Now it was Elspeth’s turn to be surprised! The two were so glad to get back in touch, and they spent their 1L summer getting to know each other by exchanging emails every couple days. When they came back in the fall, Alex and Elspeth were eager to see each other in person. The first time they met up, the pair got coffee and talked for six hours, not realizing until the end how much time had gone by. They discussed their mutual interests in Celtic music, genealogy, and history, and discovered their common faith as Christians. A few days later, they were officially a couple.

visser weddingAlex and Elspeth fell for each other quickly; they were both certain that they were meant for each other. So on April 6th, 2016, Elspeth’s birthday, Alex asked Elspeth for her hand in marriage. Neither one of them ever expected to get married in law school, but they were so happy to be together they couldn’t wait. The pair set the wedding date for December 17, and spent their 3L fall semester in a whirlwind of classes and cake tastings, cold calls and coordinating. They chose to get married in the historic Wren Chapel on main campus. It was a perfect fit: it encompassed the history that they both so loved, and it paid tribute to the place that brought them together.

On the special day, guests were welcomed to the chapel by the sound of bagpipes, played by the Law School’s own Raymond Bilter. Friends and family filled the chapel as the happy couple said their vows. Elspeth looked beautiful in her long-sleeved, lace gown, and Alex was dapper in his tails. A reception followed at the Alumni House, where the Bride and Groom made their grand entrance to the Star Wars Theme, played by a string quartet.

After a honeymoon in Scotland, Alex and Elspeth returned for their final semester of law school; this time as husband and wife. They are making sure to keep a good work-life balance. They do their readings and hold each other accountable, but they also take time to share meals and watch their favorite movies. They also make music together in their Celtic Band, the Highland Rogues. After graduation, the pair will move to North Carolina, where Elspeth plans to pursue opportunities in Elder Law or Mediation, and where Alex will work as a Prosecutor.

As Alex and Elspeth have found during their time in law school, it’s important to love what you’re learning. But it’s a special gift when you get to love someone you are learning with. As Alex so aptly put it: “William & Mary: It’s a great place to meet friends – or your future spouse!”

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2L Judicial Externship Experience

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

One of the most valuable things you can accomplish while being in law school, is to take the opportunity to extern at least once (but hopefully more). Like an internship, an externship will provide you with the opportunity to work with and learn from a practicing professional and to gain insight into a particular field of law.

courthouseThis semester, I will be working for a Virginia Circuit Court Judge in Newport News, Virginia. While it is still very early in the semester, the experience has already been invaluable. Though I have already been assigned important and interesting research projects, I have also been able to sit in court, observing preliminary hearings and motions, as well as to witness part of several trials. Additionally, I have been able to sit with the Judge and one of his clerks, in chambers, and discuss with them different legal issues, policies and procedures. While often the conversations seem casual, it has been an incredible experience to listen to two practicing attorneys of different levels and to hear their input on important issues. As the semester progresses, I am sure my time working for a Judge will continue to prove valuable, interesting and fun.

While this experience is awesome, it is certainly not unique for any one student at William & Mary Law School. Each semester, dozens of students partake in externships of different levels around Virginia. No matter what your interest, there is almost certainly an opportunity out there waiting for you to learn, and the faculty and Office of Career Services at the Law School are always looking to help.

For more information about externships at William & Mary Law School, click here.

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Whoa…We’re Halfway There! Reflections of a Second Semester 2L

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

There is no feeling quite like finishing your law school exams for the semester, but this time around the feeling is even sweeter: the close of this finals season marks the halfway point for the Class of 2018! We are halfway to being lawyers! (Notwithstanding the Bar Exam, of course, but we’ll worry about that later.)

It is incredible for me to reflect on how far our class has come, and how much we have learned over this past year and a half. This time last December, we had just conquered out first semester of Criminal Law, Civil Procedure, and Torts classes. Our professors taught us the ins-and-outs of the Socratic method by engaging us through cold-calls and open class discussions. In our Legal Practice Classes, we learned to conduct oral reports and client interviews, and we turned in our first Graded Legal Memo. Some of our classmates made the Alternate Dispute Resolution Team or National Trial Team, while others joined the Honor Council and Student Bar Association. Across the board, 1Ls got involved with numerous student organizations at the law school, and began to foster friendships within their Legal Practice Sections.

In the spring, the first-year class came back feeling a little more confident. With one semester under our belts, we had a better idea of how to tackle the new semester of Constitutional Law, Contracts, and Property. During the first few weeks back, some students traveled to West Virginia for the Student Bar Association’s Annual Ski Trip. Some students competed to join the Moot Court Team or the Transactional Team. Students began applying for summer jobs and interviewing with employers, while the Office of Career Services coached us along the way. After finals, the 1Ls stayed for one more week to participate in the Joint Journal Competition in order to be placed on one of the five legal journals. We worked hard to prepare a work product that would show the selection committee our strengths as legal writers, and our diligence was rewarded with positions on our respective journals.

They say that the fall semester of your 2L year is by far the busiest, and I have certainly found that to be true. The new responsibilities that come with being on a journal take a little getting used to, and many 2Ls extern and take on leadership positions within student organizations. Still, we are continuously learning to balance our commitments and budget our time to stay focused on our studies. I have personally enjoyed being able to choose classes that interest me, and to learn alongside 3Ls, as well as my fellow 2Ls.

It has been exciting for us to find our niche within the school, and to be able to pass on war stories and wisdom to the incoming 1L class. But although we’re halfway there, we’ve got a lot left to learn! After seeing how this first year and a half has prepared me and my classmates for our legal careers, I look forward to seeing what the next three semesters have in store for the Class of 2018!

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1L Fall and the Office of Career Services

zaleskiby James Zaleski, Class of 2019

Since arriving at law school, every 1L has been asking himself or herself the same questions: (1) what kind of law do I aspire to practice? and (2) how am I going to secure a 1L summer job? The Office of Career Services (OCS) is here to help. OCS purposefully leaves 1Ls alone in August and September so that we can focus on our classes and adjust to law school without worrying about careers and interviews. With two months under our belts, we are now prepared to take on the additional responsibility of beginning our job search. Over the past month, we have had several productive sessions with OCS. We met as a large group for our first session, and each of us received a career planning manual. The manual includes a plethora of career information such as tools for assessing your ideal practice area, networking tips, and strategies for writing a cover letter just to name a few. One of the most useful items is a timeline for the 1L summer job search with specific steps we should take each month.

My second meeting with OCS was a valuable session on resume building. I attended this workshop with my small legal writing section (13 students), and we learned how to build a legal resume. OCS has a wealth of experience with legal employers and knows what distinguishes great law school resumes. The session included a variety of information including what type of resume layout legal employers preferred as well as how to emphasize the legal skills that employers are looking for in our past experiences. I gathered several useful strategies that I am currently incorporating into my resume as I prepare to enter the 1L summer job hunt. In addition to these periodic OCS sessions, every 1L sits down with their career advisor in OCS to touch base and to develop strategies for the 1L job search. I have my meeting next week, and I look forward to speaking with my career services dean about my career interests and job search.

OCS also does a great job of inviting practicing attorneys to the law school to serve on alumni panels. The purpose of these panels is to expose students to different practice areas and provide insight into the life of a practicing attorney. Many 1Ls, myself included, came to law school with an idea of an area of law they want to practice but are still interested in exploring different specialties. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the career panel: Alumni Perspectives, Transactional Law Careers. The panelists included Bonnie Brown (W&M ’12), Ryan Kendrick (W&M ’09), and Kristen Welsh (W&M ’12). I enjoyed hearing their perspectives and learning about their work. Bonnie is a senior assistant city attorney for the city of Hampton, and it was fascinating to hear the work she does as a city attorney. I never realized the diversity of legal issues that arise in local government! Ryan is an associate at Williams Mullen in Norfolk, VA. I enjoyed listening to Ryan talk about his experience as a first-year associate and his insight into how the job changes as you acquire more experience and responsibility. Kristen is corporate counsel for CarMax in Richmond, VA. It was helpful to hear her compare her experiences as an associate at a large law firm with her new experiences as in-house counsel at a Fortune 500 company.

All three panelists were highly informative and approachable as they were all happy to answer individual questions after the panel. Transactional law is an unfamiliar practice area, but it is one I would like to research further as a possible career. As a 1L who is busy with writing assignments and case reading, it is always refreshing to hear from young attorneys who are practicing law and who were in law school just a few years ago. I look forward to working with OCS as I begin my summer job search and research legal practice areas.

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Opportunity to Attend the Local Government Attorney’s Conference

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

A major part of law school is networking, and William & Mary certainly provides its share of opportunities for students to meet practitioners and learn from their experiences. One recent example is the opportunity to attend the Virginia Local Government Attorney’s Conference, which was held here in Williamsburg at the end of October. The three-day conference was held at the Kingsmill Resort, just miles from the Law School, on Oct. 28-30. Each year, the conference provides a scholarship for law students who are interested in working for or with local governments in Virginia to attend – and this year, four William & Mary Law students had the privilege of attending. The conference took place over the course of three days, and had sessions which covered a variety of topics ranging from property and rezoning, foster care, new case law, employment law, conflicts of interest, legislative actions, negotiations and parliamentary procedure, bonds and pro bono work. Each session was conducted by practicing attorneys in Virginia, both those who work for the state and those who work in private practice. Attending the conference allows students the chance to hear from real lawyers who work in these areas every day, and to gather valuable information about what the practice of law is really like. The Law School has a great reputation for its commitment to public service, and this conference is a great way to learn more about public service as an avenue to practice law.

In addition to the educational sessions, the conference holds multiple social events, including happy hours, and a dinner reception. As a student attendee, these events are a great time to go and network with attorneys from across the state with whom a common interest may be shared. Further, many of these attorneys are alumni of William & Mary Law School and are always happy to meet and talk with current students. In addition, they love to hear about the current state of the law school and of Williamsburg. While the conference is not always held in Williamsburg, students do attend every year, and it’s a great opportunity to learn, meet attorneys and network, and to have fun.

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Federalist Society, American Constitutional Society Host Panel on Felons and the Right to Vote

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

2016 has been a year for elections. Not only is it a presidential election year, but there have also been numerous law suits surrounding election issues around the country. In April, Virginia made headlines as its governor signed an executive order re-instating the civil rights (namely the right to vote) of 206,000 convicted felons who had completed their sentences and supervised probation. The order was called unprecedented, challenged by members of the state legislature, and eventually stricken by the Supreme Court of Virginia. It also reinvigorated a national debate about the rights of those who have been convicted of crimes.

blakeOn November 2, the Federalist Society and American Constitution Society, two national groups with student branches at William & Mary Law School, hosted a debate on the issue of felon’s rights when it comes to voting. The debate was moderated by William & Mary professor, Rebecca Green, who teaches Election Law at the Law School, and also acts as a supervisor for the Election Law Society, another student group. The debate featured 2 prominent speakers in the election law field, Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, in Washington, D.C., and Hope Amezquita from the ACLU in Virginia. Over the course of the debate, the two speakers discussed the policies behind different arguments both for and against felon’s rights to vote, when they should be taken away, and how they should be returned. Additionally, the two speakers took questions from the audience, a packed room of students all eager to hear what the speakers had to say.

blake 2In addition to sharing their thoughts on a hotly debated legal issue, the two speakers also took time to share a bit about each of themselves, their paths to where they are today, and advice for students who are looking for opportunities to work at the nexus of law and elections – a growing field.

The talk is yet another example of the tremendous opportunities for students at William & Mary Law School to learn from experts and tonetwork with attorneys from around the country.

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Career Conversations: A Summer at the U.S. Attorney’s Office

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

During the lunch hour on Thursday, October 20, the Law School lobby was bustling with people, participating in the Office of Career Services’ Career Conversations Program. Second-year and third-year students stood wearing nametags and smiles, eager to share stories of their internships from the previous summer. The Office of Career Services (OCS) arranged for students from a variety of legal backgrounds to meet with 1Ls to get them thinking about their upcoming summer job search. The interns provided a range of perspectives, from summer associates at large law firms, to summer research assistants, to interns at non-profits, to summer law clerks for federal judges, among others.

Blog1During Career Conversations, I had the opportunity to talk to interested 1Ls about my summer as a law clerk at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York. I am originally from the Buffalo area, and I intend to return there to practice, so I was thrilled to gain experience within the legal market I hope to work in after graduation.

The U.S. Attorney and Assistant U.S. Attorneys serve as federal prosecutors, representing the United States in all federal cases that arise within the 17 counties of Western New York. The office is comprised of a Criminal Division, a Civil Division, and an Appellate Division. I was assigned to three supervising attorneys in the Criminal Division, who acted as mentors over the course of my internship. Each handled a unique caseload and specialized in specific types of crimes, so I learned a great deal about a broad range of cases.

Blog3My daily routine consisted of working in the law library with my fellow law clerks on legal research tasks from our respective supervising attorneys. I often accompanied my attorneys to District Court and observed court proceedings as well. On days when high profile defendants were appearing in court, the media would often stop my attorneys at the door and ask for their comments. It was incredible to have the “inside scoop” on the confidential details of these cases before they were made public!

One such case, handled by the Chief of the Criminal Division, dealt with a civil rights violation. The crime in question took place the week before I began my internship, so I had the chance to see the case evolve from the very beginning. I participated in witness interviews and meetings with opposing counsel and the FBI agents investigating the case. I also completed a legal memorandum that helped determine whether additional individuals should face charges.

Another of my supervising attorneys, who works within the Narcotics and Organized Crime Section, handled a well-known and highly publicized Buffalo narcotics case. I was able to sit in on court proceedings and contribute research to help build the case against the defendant. I also wrote a memorandum on the admissibility of hearsay evidence, which was then submitted to the District Court on my supervisor’s behalf.

Blog2Under my third supervising attorney, I learned a great deal about Human Trafficking prosecutions, an area for which I have a particular passionate. I participated in meetings of the Western District of New York Human Trafficking Task Force and Alliance, wherein representatives from numerous agencies meet to create a unified force against human trafficking in Western New York. I also wrote a memorandum that evaluated the probability of success in prosecuting a potential defendant for harboring and concealing a fugitive.

In addition to all the practical knowledge I gained by putting my writing and researching skills to use, my attorneys taught me how to be a successful professional in the legal field. My summer at the US Attorney’s Office confirmed my desire to become a prosecutor, and I was grateful to get to share my experience with my peers.

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Pumpkin Picking with the Women’s Law Society!

alsawafby Sami Alsawaf, Class of 2017

As someone from Florida, living in Virginia has opened up my eyes to a whole new world—mainly that seasons other than summer do, in fact, exist. Since arriving in Williamsburg three years ago, I have enjoyed every moment of the changing weather, but no season is more breathtaking than fall. The air is crisp, the leaves turn gorgeous shades of red and orange, and of course, everything is pumpkin flavored.

pumpkinsOn October 16th, the Women’s Law Society took a trip to College Run Farms to pick pumpkins! Having never actually picked a pumpkin in my life, I was unabashedly excited. On a joint social with the Christian Legal Society, we left from the Law School and headed on our way. To get to the farm, we rode on a ferry across the James River. We drove our cars onto the ferry, and once on board, we headed to the bow of the ship to take in the views and the fresh air.

Upon arrival on the other side of the river, we made our way to the farm. College Run had dozens and dozens of pumpkins to choose from, any shape any size—some fit in the size of your hand and some taller than a five-year-old. I personally chose a pumpkin with a blue hue, while one friend chose a perfectly shaped orange one and another picked one great for making pies. The farm also had a corn maze and freshly made pumpkin ice cream. The ice cream was like no other, and a perfect way to end our trip.

The farm was full of families having seasonal fun, and law students taking a break from studying for classes. Law school is busy and stressful, but it’s important to take a break every once in a while to remember there is life outside the four walls of this building, and more importantly, take time to be with your friends. Your friends will be with you throughout the entire three years of school, and it’s okay to take a lazy Sunday afternoon to enjoy some pumpkin ice cream (with four spoons).

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