Summer Experience: IP Boutique in DC

kaseyby Kasey Koballa, Class of 2018

Kasey Koballa (Class of 2018) is originally from Wilmington, North Carolina.  She graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.  While attending NCSU, Kasey played on the varsity soccer team and worked as a research assistant in an engineering lab specializing in genetically-engineered microorganisms and biomass derivatives.  Prior to entering law school, she worked as a legal intern for a solo practitioner over the summer.  As a 2L, Kasey will be working on the staff of William & Mary Business Law Review and as a board member of the Student Intellectual Property Society.  Her interests include patent law, trademark law, trade secret law, and copyright law. 

With the help of William & Mary Law School’s Office of Career Services (OCS), after preparing various cover letters and resumes, connecting with alumni, and undergoing mock interviews, I was well prepared when December 1st approached, and I could start applying for 1L summer jobs.   I came into law school with a strong desire to study patent law.  Going into my first law school job search, I had high aspirations of working at a firm in Washington, DC to gain experience in intellectual property law.  Little did I know, OCS would help make this goal very attainable.

This summer, I have been working as a Summer Associate at Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck, an intellectual property boutique firm, in Washington, DC.  The firm specializes in various areas of intellectual property law, including patent prosecution and litigation and trademark, trade secret, and copyright law – all of which I have been able to gain experience in this summer.  Working in a boutique allowed me to interact with various associates and partners on a daily basis, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.  There was never anyone around the office that I didn’t recognize.  Further, the smaller environment allowed me to gain hands-on experience in various areas.  I was able to attend a Federal Circuit hearing, attend a deposition, draft responses to office actions, and various legal tasks which I did not expect to be assigned with only having one year of law school under my belt.  On top of enjoying the legal work, as a Summer Associate, I was able to experience the work-life balance that accompanies working in a law firm.

The firm paired each Summer Associate with a Partner Mentor and an Associate Buddy to ease the transition into the program and provide an outlet for any questions that may arise.  In addition to monitoring my workload and bearing great advice, my Associate Buddy scheduled lunches throughout the summer to give me an opportunity to see DC and get to know other attorneys at the firm.  Having spent no more than two days in the city before and coming from a small town, this was very helpful in transitioning into DC life.  Outside of the work environment, the firm hosted various social events during the twelve-week program allowing us Summer Associates to enjoy our time in the city even more.  These events consisted of going bowling and attending a National’s game, a few happy hours, and a wine tasting.

I have gained much more than I anticipated during my work this summer.  Not only have I sharpened my legal writing and analytical skills, but I have also made many connections with attorneys and law students who are passionate about intellectual property law.  The skills I have attained and strengthened this summer will be helpful as I enter my second year of law school, the 2L job search, and my fall externship at William & Mary’s Technology Transfer Office where I plan to further harness my passion for patent law.

Summer Work with DocuSign

Vignaliby Emma Vignali, Class of 2018

Emma Vignali is a rising 2L, originally from historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. She graduated from Auburn University (War Eagle!) with degrees in Finance and Psychology. While at Auburn, Emma developed an interest in finance and corporate governance. She spent time in Washington, D.C., interning for Senator Mark R. Warner, who serves on the Senate Committee on Finance. She then went on to intern in the office of the Chief Operating Officer for one of the largest law firms in the world. Now at William & Mary Law School, Emma serves as Secretary for the Women’s Law Society, and is a member of the William & Mary Law Review. She hopes to either practice corporate law or work in-house after graduation.

As the first semester of my 1L year quickly drew to a close, the thought of finding a summer internship weighed heavily on me. When I began law school, I hoped to eventually work in-house at a large company. However, my first semester of law school provided no substantial clarity on my future calling.  Criminal Law with Professor Combs surprisingly sparked an interest that I felt compelled to pursue. How could I be interested in two so drastically different practice areas? While confused about my future, I decided the best way to ease my mind was to spend my 1L summer immersed in one of these areas.

I began my summer internship search by implementing the first piece of advice given in law school: using my already established connections. The 1L internship search tends to be daunting, especially as students realize the number of law students across the country who are all vying for the same positions.  By reaching out to a close family friend, I solidified an interview with in-house counsel in Seattle. I was so excited to receive the position with DocuSign, Inc., as the opportunity to work in-house is a unique experience for a first year law student. I left for Seattle feeling confident that my summer would help me solidify my initial desire to work in-house.

docusignLife does not get much better than it does working in the legal department at DocuSign. On the first day, I was assigned a mentor to lead me through my ten-week journey at the company. My mentor consistently provided direct feedback on my work and became an amazing resource for career advice. It was incredible to have such close contact with a practicing attorney, especially one who truly cared about my progress throughout my internship.

I was also lucky enough to receive an abundance of interesting projects, spanning a number of practice areas and overseen by a range of attorneys. I was tasked with creating a teaching document for the company on open source licensing. Without a tech background, I found myself intimidated by the new terminology and vast amounts of information. However, receiving a project outside of my comfort zone turned into the ultimate learning experience, as I realized the research and writing skills I honed at William & Mary could lead me to be successful at anything I set my mind to. Yet, my favorite project at DocuSign was drafting a lead generation addendum to be attached to an already existing contract. The concepts taught by Professor Oman in my Contracts class became invaluable for my first contract drafting experience. Drafting an addendum from scratch was something I never imagined doing this summer, but resulted in a budding interest for transactional work.

I also found time to fit in a bit of fun in the beautiful state of Washington. DocuSign offers a bi-weekly happy hour for all employees, which became a great opportunity to get to know the attorneys outside of the office. The interns would also often take lunch breaks just a few feet away at the famous Pike Place Market. On weekends, I hiked the surrounding mountains, flew on sea planes, and even went whale watching!

As nervous as I was just a few months ago, I leave Seattle feeling sure of my goals for the future. The scenic landscape of Washington and the state’s wonderfully generous and friendly people have truly impacted me. I can now say with certainty that I plan to take the bar in Washington after graduation.  But even more relieving is the clarity I have gained on my future area of practice; I plan to pursue corporate transactional law after graduation. My internship at DocuSign allowed me to explore a field I had not previously considered, even if just briefly, and I am excited to potentially incorporate transactional work into my practice after graduation. However, that does not mean I have to dismiss my growing interest in criminal law. My hope is to eventually work at a firm where I can incorporate areas of criminal practice into my pro bono work. My summer experience in Seattle has been fun, enlightening, and completely invaluable. I am excited to return to William & Mary for my second year, where I can put the skills I learned this summer into practice.

Networking and Summer Work After 1L Year

robert jonesby Robbie Jones, Class of 2018

My name is Robbie Jones, and I am a rising 2L. I am from DeLand, Florida (just outside Orlando).  Before coming to William & Mary, I attended Stetson University in Florida where I received my B.A. in Political Science in 2014.  While an undergrad, I worked for my local Congressman and interned with a state circuit court judge. I came to William & Mary because I felt the strong sense of community when I visited the school.  At William & Mary, I am on Law Review and the Moot Court team.  I am also an Academic Success Program TA.  Some of my favorite non-law school activities are sports, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

The summer job search can be an exciting, yet daunting activity for a 1L.  After all, I had just barely figured out how to adequately prepare for classes, and it was time for me to start thinking about what I wanted to do during the summer.  Of course, the Office of Career Services (OCS) was giving us all the help and advice we needed, but it was still a big decision to think about.  I knew I wanted to try to work for a federal judge if possible, so I figured the best place to start would be looking for William & Mary alumni who were judges.  Fortunately, I found Judge Gregory Presnell, a United States District Judge, located in Orlando who is also an undergrad alum from William & Mary.   I reached out to the judge, interviewed during winter break and was hired before I headed back for school!

The lesson I learned through all of this is the importance of just reaching out to people already in the profession.  When I reached out to Judge Presnell, he agreed to meet with me without knowing my grades, involvement at school, or really anything.  I saw firsthand the greatness of the W&M alumni network.  As important as credentials are, I’ve learned that this is a profession where connections matter.  All it took was sending an email to a federal judge (and the W&M connection!) to realize my summer job goal.

Now that I’m working, I have learned so much.  Judge Presnell gives me hands-on experience and treats me just like one of his law clerks. I have written court orders, given my input on pending issues, and observed almost every type of court proceeding in existence.  Judge Presnell will definitely be a mentor of mine long after my internship is finished.   Having a first-year summer job in a place that allows you to see the practical side of the legal profession is a priceless experience. I am so thankful to William & Mary for providing me with such great opportunities thus far!

Recent Grad Looks Back

lizrademacherby Liz Rademacher, Class of 2016

Liz Rademacher graduated from W&M Law School this May with the class of 2016. Prior to law school she attended American University completing majors in Law and Society and Psychology. This fall, she will be starting a position with Davis & Harman LLP in Washington, DC.

It’s official: I’m done with law school! As a graduate of the Class of 2016, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my time at William & Mary and what I’ve learned from it. Here are a few things that I wish I would’ve told myself three years ago before starting my journey here in Williamsburg:

lizgraduation1Just because you’re wrong doesn’t mean you don’t belong. Whether you answer a question wrong in class, perform less than perfectly on a midterm, or don’t make it to the last round of try-outs for the moot court team, don’t let it get you down. No one’s perfect, and neither are you. There will be days when you might doubt if you’ve really got what it takes to be a real lawyer. It can be overwhelming learning all the knowledge and skills that go into becoming an advocate, and sometimes it might seem like everyone around you knows more than you. Just remember that everyone around you feels the same way as you, even if they don’t show it, and don’t let it get you down. I once heard a professor at W&M say, “Just because you’re wrong doesn’t mean you don’t belong.” You will make some mistakes, and that’s okay. Real lawyers do too. If you maintain a positive attitude, things that seemed like obstacles at one point will become easier with time.

Take every opportunity you can get. Whether it’s an externship abroad or helping to do research for a professor, there will be multiple opportunities that will appear before you at a law school like this one. If you have a passion for a certain area of law, pursue it! Talk to your professors and older students, utilize the Office of Career Services, and figure out how to make your experience here meaningful, both inside and outside of the classroom. I’ve learned more from working in clinics and meeting with professors than I have in some classes, and it’s important to remember that.

lizgraduation2Find your people. I can honestly say that the best part about my law school experience wasn’t the things I learned or the classes I took (those were all good too though!). Instead, the best part was the people I met along the way. W&M’s community of students, faculty, and staff is so tight-knit and supportive, and it is that community that will sustain you and grow you. I’ve learned so much about the law and about life from my professors and friends here, and those connections will continue to help me in the future.

Give back. At W&M, we learn that no matter what you decide to do with your law degree, it’s important to find a way to be a public servant. Whether that means running a 5k for the Bone Marrow Drive or participating in one of the Law School’s many clinics, we learn while we’re here how important it is to be a citizen lawyer. As professionals, we will have a responsibility to help improve our communities, and I’m grateful to have learned this lesson while I’ve been here.

Remember to have fun! Law school isn’t just for boring, serious people. In the three years I’ve been in Williamsburg, I’ve been taken road trips to beaches and wineries, gone on all the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens, seen the Grand Illumination fireworks show in Colonial Williamsburg, and tasted the best Vietnamese food that Newport News has to offer. Ultimately, you have to balance work with fun, and there are ample opportunities to do that here.

lizgraduation3Liz was also a Student Admission Ambassador and student blogger. Read more about her William & Mary Law School experiences:

 

 

 

1L Diversity Opportunities

pembertonby Shevarma Pemberton, Class of 2018

The word “diversity” is thrown around a lot. But during my 1L year,  I felt the word take on new meaning, and I grew to appreciate what it represents even more. To put things in context, I think the discourse has made me more attuned to its importance in the legal profession. For one, the profession does not look enough like the population it serves. People feel comfortable when they can communicate with others they relate to. Diversity is not limited to race or ethnicity; it includes women—who are still largely underrepresented in the legal profession—and the LGBT community. But honestly, my law school experience thus far leaves me hopeful. Based on my experience exploring employment and scholarship opportunities, the future of the profession looks promising and will only get brighter.

The combined effort of the Admission Office and the Office of Career Services (OCS) here have been instrumental in highlighting many diversity opportunities. Both offices continue to ensure that students can cast the widest net possible to increase their chances of benefitting from these opportunities. Admissions circulates an email with scholarship opportunities, which is great, because it reduces the time that busy law students have to expend finding these opportunities on their own. I am very impressed at the number of diversity scholarship opportunities that I have gleaned from those emails. I do not have any good news as yet on that front, but I do for my summer employment this year!

I discovered several diversity opportunities through OCS. OCS also assisted with resume and cover letter drafting, interview preparation, and guidelines on follow ups—they essentially covered every step of the process to assist me in securing the job. I have to stress the importance of taking initiative and being proactive. While OCS has been a great resource in helping me seal the deal, I learned of the job opportunity by keeping myself apprised of the American Bar Association (ABA) news. The ABA is one organization that has been very active in its goal to improve the diversity of the legal profession. I applied for a position through the ABA Judicial Internship Opportunity Program (JIOP). JIOP is run in conjunction with several like initiatives, all aimed at producing effective, diverse attorneys to leave their mark on the profession. I am proud to say that I will be interning for a judge over the summer, and while I do not know what the future holds, I do know that I am excited and optimistic because my view of the horizon is very promising.

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A Trip to the Fourth Circuit

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

In late March, members of the William & Mary Moot Court Team had the unique and exciting opportunity to attend oral arguments at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. Additionally, we had the chance to see the court sit en banc, meaning that all fifteen circuit judges were present, rather than the typical three judge panel.

The first case, US v. Aaron Graham, dealt with a Fourth Amendment question of surveillance as it relates to the use of cell phones. Appellant Graham claimed that the government violated his privacy interests when they gathered his location by analyzing where his cell phone registered on cell towers. In obtaining those records from the phone company, Graham argued, the government was essentially carrying out an unreasonable warrantless search. The Government claimed that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the use of a subpoena to obtain evidence about a person from a third party. Because it does not constitute obtaining evidence from a person, only about a person, Graham did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the cell tower records.

fourth circuitIn the second case, US v. Raymond Surratt, Jr., Appellant Surratt claimed he was sentenced erroneously to a mandatory minimum sentence of life without parole. The lower court’s ruling was based on circuit court precedent which was overturned after his conviction. The question arose of whether the habeas savings clause, which allows the court to grant relief for a select category of statutory-construction mistakes, could be applied in this situation. A highly technical case, additional arguments were made by a court-assigned advocate and a representative from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as both submitted amicus briefs.

It was amazing to watch the experienced appellate attorneys in action. For appellate-style argument, lawyers bring a basic outline of the points they want to address to the court. In addition, judges frequently interrupt the presentation to pose hypotheticals and ask questions about the case. Lawyers must be able to remain calm under pressure and think on their feet as they advocate for their clients. Some of the attorneys arguing that day included the United States Attorney for the State of Maryland, a Deputy Solicitor General, and several oral advocates who have argued before the Supreme Court.

For the newly selected 1L members, this was an amazing chance to see the best of the best in action, and to emulate the style of the arguments that we will learn in our Advanced Brief Writing Class next semester. For the 2Ls and 3Ls in attendance, it gave them inspiration for their upcoming tournaments, as many compete in the next several weeks.

After the morning’s arguments, the Moot Court Team went to a popular deli across the street from the courthouse. As we ate lunch, four of the judges came in and took a table right beside us! After watching these incredibly accomplished men and women rule from the bench, it was almost jarring to see them without their robes, eating sandwiches together like old friends. It was a gentle reminder that though these are respected legal scholars whose opinions we read for class, they too were once law students aspiring to greatness. After my experience at the Fourth Circuit, I am more excited than ever to be part of William and Mary’s Moot Court Team!

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Joint Journal Competition

borkby Emily Bork, Class of 2018

Spring is in full bloom here in Williamsburg! Coming from Buffalo, New York, I am not used to seeing flowers budding and the grass sprouting so early in the season, so it is wonderful to enjoy the sights and smells of an early Spring! With the last few weeks of the semester upon us, exam season is also in the air as my fellow classmates and I prepare for our final set of 1L exams. For most of the 1L class, our summer won’t officially kick off though until the following Friday after exams as we will be participating in the annual Joint Journal Competition (JJC).

JJC is a week-long competition program for 1L students who wish to join one of William & Mary’s five academic journals by serving as a staff member during their 2L and 3L years. As part of the competition, students are required to submit both a short written paper, or Comment, of a legal issue and also complete an editing exercise. The competition is designed to evaluate students’ strengths in both their written work as well as their abilities to properly review writings for citation and grammar checks.

journalsWilliam & Mary’s five academic journals are:

  • William & Mary Law Review
  • William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal
  • William & Mary Environmental Policy Review
  • William & Mary Journal of Women & the Law
  • William & Mary Business Law Review

Students who are selected to work on journals as a staff member are responsible for writing a paper called a Student Note during their 2L year. The Student Note not only satisfies William & Mary’s writing requirement for 2L students, but also has the added bonus of possible publication! Students who serve on journals also complete citation and other editing checks of scholarly articles that are submitted to the respective journal for publication. Credit hours are additionally available to students working on their Note and students who serve on an editorial board for their respective journals during their 3L year.

Although this year’s JJC will no doubt present some challenges, I am looking forward to this annual rite-of-passage as I hope to serve on a journal for the rest of my time here at William & Mary. I look forward to this year’s JJC and the opportunity to be a part of the fellowship, teamwork, and collaboration of our journals!

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Admitted Students Weekend: Making the Right Choice

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

Deciding on which law school you will attend can seem like a stressful choice, but as hard as it may sound, you should try to make it fun. It’s an exciting time in your life, and you should enjoy it as much as possible. While there are certainly many things that you will be considering, one of the most important steps that you can take in making your decision is visiting the schools that you are seriously considering. This will allow you to not only see the school, and its surrounding area, but it will also give you a chance to interact with the students, faculty, and community (and your potential classmates).

This month, William & Mary Law School hosted its annual Admitted Students Weekend. Over the course of the weekend, 174 admitted students and 115 guests visited the Law School, took tours, sat in on panel discussions with faculty and current students, met with admissions staff, learned about student organizations, and learned about the law school experience in Williamsburg.

12525189_1045653408833040_3964775838962883318_oWhile this can seem like a lot (and it is), it’s also an important experience in making your decision. It will undoubtedly give you a genuine feel as to what the law school is like. It’s also a lot of fun. Over the course of the weekend, the Law School is buzzing with activity between all of the visitors, student volunteers, and student activity groups. Admitted Students also have the opportunity to experience the Williamsburg community life on their own or with a host student on Friday night. This year, nearly 40 admitted students took advantage of this program, choosing to spend their Friday night exploring Williamsburg with a current law student.

Ultimately visiting the law school will help you to decide whether or not is the right fit for you, which is the most important part. If you would like to visit William & Mary but cannot visit on Admitted Students Weekend, there are plenty of other, smaller Admitted Students events that will take place on weekends throughout the spring. For more information please feel free to visit the Admissions Website.

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Oral Arguments- Legal Practice

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

A few days ago, I found myself in William & Mary’s Courtroom arguing before a practicing attorney against a Motion to Dismiss for improper 1332 Subject Matter Jurisdiction. After arguing for 20 minutes, while constantly being interrupted for questions, the opposing counsel and I were dismissed, allowing the judges to deliberate their holding.

As part of William & Mary’s Legal Practice program, students are required to give oral arguments in front of practicing attorneys, who serve as judges during the fake trial. We are each graded on our argument’s presentation, including the ability to pivot our speech to satisfy each judge’s needs and questions. Although I am not allowed to disclose the actual facts of the fake legal dispute (in case they use the same fact pattern in the future), I can talk about the argument and about preparing to speak in the Courtroom.

A week ago, my adjunct professor held practice oral arguments at her law firm’s Williamsburg office. During the argument, she brought in a guest, who is an actual state judge in Virginia. After the 20-minute argument, we received feedback and advice for how to improve our presentation’s logical flow and effectiveness. The judge told me that I did a great job presenting the material; however, she had great constructive criticism. This advice is something you simply don’t learn from a book but rather through experience. After the practice oral argument, our class had a week to prepare for our graded oral arguments. In the practice argument I argued for the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, but during the graded argument, I tried to persuade the judge to deny the defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.

The real oral argument occurred on campus inside the Courtroom. Our adjunct professor played the role of judge. Although many people don’t know this, when you are presenting an argument in court before a judge, you will be interrupted with questions. In fact, the judge may ask you to fast forward to a certain portion of your argument. Therefore, you should not simply memorize the material, but rather have the ability to flexibly adjust the argument to fit the judge’s needs. Additionally, the judge may pose very detailed questions about the fact pattern, or even regarding cases used as evidence.

An actual argument is composed of three parts: (1) The movant’s argument; (2) the non-movant’s argument; (3) the movant’s rebuttal. In this case, I was the non-movant because I was trying to defeat the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Therefore, my friend Josh, whom I was arguing against, gave his argument first. I tried to simply rebut his argument, so much of my argument depended on what Josh mentioned in his presentation. In addition to being flexible, you also have to prepare for every possible scenario, because you simply don’t know what the other party will say.

When it was my turn to speak, I felt prepared, but before I began the judge wanted me to address a very specific issue within the case. I had planned using that point at the end of my argument, so within the first minute, my argument had been turned on its head. However, I quickly recovered and simply interwove the other arguments behind the judge’s question. Additionally, during the argument, you want to highlight a “theory of the case” or a theme regarding your client’s actions. During the presentation, I was constantly emphasizing the legal theme and trying to create sympathy for my client.

After my argument ended, the rebuttal was given. Then, the judges dismissed us and heard the next set of oral arguments. Although I don’t know what my grade is, or even the winner of the argument, I do feel confident that this experience will help me in the future.

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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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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.