BLSA’s Food Drive Extrava –CAN—za!

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

On the night of Wednesday, November 18th, 1L students stayed late after class to get work done. Now, this is nothing new; but unlike most nights, the students weren’t working in the library. Instead, they congregated in the Law School lobby to construct their canned food masterpieces for the Black Law Students Association’s Annual Thanksgiving Baskets Food Drive. Every year, sections of first-year students compete against other sections to collect canned goods and fashion them into the most creative, original, and impressive structures they can.

thanksgivingbasket4This year, the 1L class came out in full force to make sculptures that would blow the judges away. Teams drew inspiration from around the world, with one recreating the Berlin Wall, and another constructing the Eiffel Tower in a beautiful tribute to Paris. Others represented holidays: one team made a turkey of color-coordinating cans and another crafted a large cornucopia to celebrate Thanksgiving. Another team created a Christmas display, complete with Christmas lights, a tree, and a festive fireplace. Another team created nearly life-sized replicas of Darth Vader, Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda in a Star Wars-themed exhibit titled “May the Torts be Wythe You.” Students and professors alike were amused by the way this section incorporated their professors as all of the different characters.

During the lunch hour on Thursday, judges walked around and looked over all of the structures, judging based on content (variety of foods, size and volume of the items, etc.) and creativity. They had three awards to bestow, with the grand prize winners receiving a pizza party and the ever-important bragging rights.

The “Most Creative” award went to “Can-dy Land,” a beautifully crafted recreation of the beloved childhood board game. Featuring whimsical locales such as the Chocolate Swamp, Ice Cream Sea, Sundae Summit and CAN-berry Castle, the bright colors and striking design made the display a sweet treat to behold. Not to mention the fact that the team brought in a cotton candy machine to serve cotton candy and create a fully immersive experience.


The grand prize winner, winning awards for both “Best Content” and “Judge’s Choice” was “We Americ-CAN End Hunger.” The impressive sculpture featured a map of the United States constructed of cans and food boxes, complete with a Mississippi River made from the blue tops of mayonnaise jars. On the left of the map stood a five-foot tall replica of the Golden Gate Bridge made of color-coordinating cereal boxes. On the right side was a creative rendition of the Capitol Building. Up against the wall was an American flag made from pasta boxes and red and white soup cans. Boxes of macaroni and cheese spelled out USA as the final touch to give this amazing creation its winning look.


Not only was the competition fun for all involved, but BLSA ultimately collected over 4,600 canned and boxed foods for those in need in the Williamsburg area. In this season of Thanksgiving, it is events like these that make students especially thankful to be a part of the William and Mary Law School family.

My section- "May the Torts be Wythe You"

My section- “May the Torts be Wythe You”

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To see the Law School news story, click here.

Hearing from an Alum in Criminal Law

newtonby Dakota Newton, Class of 2018

One of my favorite things about law school is listening to stories from the practicing attorneys and other speakers that professors and the school invite to campus. All of these people have good stories to tell, but I especially enjoy stories from the people who work in criminal justice. Nothing beats a good murder case, especially when the murderer was never caught.

On October 29, Professor Marcus invited Eddie Nickel, an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney from Richmond and 2007 graduate of the Law School, to talk with a group of 1Ls from his Criminal Law class. Eddie talked about his work as a prosecutor generally, the sort of cases he generally deals with, and how he manages to work through the seventy-plus cases that land on his desk each week (good judgment and long hours, if you are curious). He also discussed the full extent of his involvement as a prosecutor, which extends far beyond what I had ever thought.

Eddie’s job begins with talking to the police officers who are on patrol, so he can understand what challenges they are facing with previous offenders. On top of that, Eddia has a massive caseload, daily court appearances, data collection, recidivism analysis, and policy recommendation. So, if you are an excellent juggler and want to bear the responsibility of keeping the Virginia criminal justice system effective and equitable, then this may be the job for you.

Eddie Nickel

Eddie Nickel

After impressing us with his wide range of skills and prodigious work rate, Eddie settled into the stories, specifically a story of a suspected murderer in Richmond who has successfully evaded multiple convictions over the past quarter century but could be sentenced shortly if Eddie’s office is successful next month.

Overall, it was an excellent experience and a tantalizing glimpse of the careers that are just a few short years away.

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See Eddie’s W&M Valentine’s post from 2011 here.


Professional Skills in the Legal Practice Program

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

One criticism of law schools are that much of the information and subject material learned simply doesn’t translate into the professional arena. Put simply, law school gives you the foundation to become a successful attorney but doesn’t actually provide you with the training necessary to be a practicing attorney.

At William & Mary, the Law School places extraordinary emphasis behind the Legal Practice Program. The program includes legal writing, legal research, and professional skills taught by a practicing attorney. Many attorneys have said that these courses are the most important classes at the school. While I could dedicate 10 blog posts to this program, today I will highlight the professional skills portion of the Legal Research & Writing Program.

The professional skills portion of the program is taught by a practicing attorney and is usually held one night per week. In this course we learn the practical aspects of being an attorney: how to interview clients, how to deliver oral reports to senior attorneys, and how to counsel a client on a legal matters. Although this sounds daunting, personally I think these classes are fun. For the interviews and counseling sessions, we even get to go to our professor’s law office to conduct the interview/report. While many people become nervous before these assignments, most are ungraded, and the professor gives you great feedback, so you can improve for the graded sessions at the end of the semester.

While I am not allowed to reveal the plot lines for any of the interviews (Just in case they are reused next year) I can say that the plots are all fun and informative. My Legal Practice class is actually one of my favorites because I am learning valuable skills from an expert attorney that are applicable in the professional world. Learning how to deal with a client, even if they are trying to push you off topic, is a skill that simply cannot be learned from a book but rather through hours of practice.

Yesterday, I had my last ungraded client counseling session and tomorrow is my graded client interview. Even though it is a graded assignment, based upon the feedback I’ve received in previous sessions, I am confident that I will do great!

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Keeping Perspective

swinkby Austin Swink, Class of 2017

As final exams are on the horizon, many law students begin to feel more stress. This does not go unnoticed by professors. A professor of mine recently opened class with a conversation about keeping perspective. The professor challenged all of us students to keep the full view of life when engaging in our professional work. As a side note, this professor styles his course around the phrase, “not losing the forest for the trees.” No doubt this motto extends to more than just the subject covered in the coursework. In life it is important to find things outside your profession  to value and pursue. This is a lesson that can be learned in law school, and I encourage prospective students to practice it from the first day of their legal education.

My professor’s comments reminded me of the best advice I heard about law school years ago. A lawyer told me to be sure to maintain mind, body, and soul while in law school. This can mean different things to different people, but there is a kernel of wisdom there that is universal. For me, taking time away from the library and my studies is crucial. If I have the opportunity to take an entire day off from studies, I do. If it’s just an afternoon away, I still take it. Believe me, it will be tempting to rack up the hours in pursuit of that almighty “A” on the final exam, but you will find more success in giving your mind space to think about things unrelated to law school.

With regards to maintaining one’s body, I run. Running may not be everyone’s favorite thing to do, but the general objective should be to get outside and be on your feet. Williamsburg is great for that. There are many trails and parks that are ripe for an afternoon picnic or a morning walk with your favorite coffee or tea.

With respect to maintaining one’s soul, I recommend being involved in the community. While spending time with law school friends is great, dare to find friends who are “locals.” For me, that community is at my church. Regardless of your faith, becoming involved in a local organization can broaden your perspective on your new residence and lead to experiences (meals, volunteering, sightseeing, etc.) that will greatly enrich your law school experience.

William & Mary is a great law school. But one of its most overlooked advantages, is its location. It’s a great place to not “lose the forest for the trees” and to maintain mind, body, and soul while pursing the most rigorous and rewarding academic experience of your life.

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A Tribute to Our Past: The George Wythe Room in the Wolf Law Library

satiraby John Satira, Class of 2017

After a summer away, I returned to William & Mary Law School this semester and was welcomed by a brand new edition to the Wolf Law Library: The George Wythe Room. To learn more about the George Wythe Room, I sat down and spoke with Ms. Linda K. Tesar, Head of Technical Services and Special Collections, and I got some more information about the newest edition to William & Mary Law School. As a fan of history, museums, and libraries, I appreciated having the opportunity to learn about the Room.

George Wythe Room

George Wythe Room

In 2007, the Wolf Law Library began gathering books for the George Wythe Collection. The special collection was meant to contain books and other documents that are important the legacy of George Wythe. The idea to create a room dedicated to displaying the collection blossomed in 2010, and the Room was completed and opened in August 2015. Why the focus on George Wythe? Not only is he the partial namesake of our law school with its official title as the Marshall-Wythe School of Law, but George Wythe was the first ever professor of law in the United States while he taught as the Professor of Law and Police at William & Mary in the  late 1700s. Wythe is so important, in fact, that along with having his own room, the Wolf Law Library also runs an academic wiki called the Wythepedia that is an online database of all things George Wythe-related.

The George Wythe Room has been modeled off of the Thomas Jefferson Collection in the Library of Congress, which makes the room seem like a modern replication of the type of library Wythe himself would have had. Currently, the Room contains nearly 330 titles and over 650 volumes. You can even check out a digital recreation of the Room here. Due to some of the books being many, many years old, the displays are protected by ultraviolet (UV) glass, special lighting, and a climate control system that keeps the temperature and humidity consistent. The precautions are important for preservation of the historical documents, or as Ms. Tesar puts it, “That’s what rare books like.”

Room 2Aside from books and related documents, other features of the Room have historical significance as well. In particular, the Room contains three notable paintings. The first is one of George Wythe himself, which is displayed prominently in the Room for obvious reasons. There are also two lithograph paintings in the George Wythe Room: one of Thomas Jefferson and one of John Marshall. These two men are among the most notable and nationally prominent of Wythe’s legal students, with Jefferson serving as the third President of the United States and Marshall serving as the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

One of the reasons I chose to attend William & Mary Law School is due to its well-regarded status as a starting point of American legal education. Walking past the George Wythe Room each day helps to remind me of the important legacy William & Mary has, as well as a legacy that I am now a part of.

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1L Review Sessions

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

Welcome to my first 1L blog post! I will be talking about how review sessions work to help combat the number one fear in law school: final exams.

There is no denying the proverbial “elephant in the room;” all doctrinal classes are based on one four-hour exam at the end of the semester. With fast-paced classes and complicated readings, many law students (especially me) are virtually always thinking about the final exam. While many entering students are more nervous about “cold-calling” in class; in reality, the final exam is the overwhelming determinate of your final course grade.

Ok, I know that this doesn’t seem to be a pleasant topic, especially for my first blog post, but this month, I discovered a game-changing resource that W&M offers to 1L students: review sessions conducted by TAs. Every few weeks, TAs will conduct evening review sessions that highlight important course material and hypothetical problems, “hypos,” that mirror exam questions.

These sessions are extremely helpful! The sessions allow you to review material and ask lingering questions about specific legal issues. A few weeks ago, I attended a review session for Criminal Law, and the TA not only reviewed course material, but also shared her techniques for approaching exam questions. I was impressed since TAs must first finish among the top students in the class, and I trusted the advice she gave my classmates and me. These sessions are designed to eliminate some of the uncertainty that plagues first-semester law students.

In that week’s review session, my TA covered a hypothetical fact pattern containing several crimes including murder, accomplice liability, negligence, and their respective defenses. While this might seem overwhelming, the criminals in the fact pattern were actually Disney characters, which added much appreciated humor to the problem. Our TA wrote a step-by-step answer on the board by attributing crimes to each Disney character within the hypo.

I believe these sessions will be immensely helpful when I begin to prepare for final exams. I will be more prepared when studying, and more confident when taking the actual exam. Although I’ve barely scratched the surface of exam prep, these review session have clearly set me in the right direction for being successful. If you attend William & Mary, I would highly recommend attending these sessions.

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Summer at the Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic

swinkby Austin Swink, Class of 2017

This past summer, I worked at The Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at William & Mary Law School. This clinic specializes in providing pro bono legal aid to veterans. The Puller Clinic primarily focuses on the practice areas of disability compensation with the Department of Veterans Affairs and discharge upgrades with the armed services. The clinic’s reputation has grown throughout the legal community and the nation. This is well earned. The clinicians and students at the clinic work very hard to help these deserving veterans.

One of the most exciting developments at the Puller Clinic this summer was the kickoff of Military Mondays. Military Mondays is a partnership with Starbucks in which the Puller Clinic staff hold legal consultation meetings with veterans at a local Starbucks location. The veterans at these meeting make appointments to receive free legal advice regarding their disability compensation claims. More information on Military Mondays can be found here.

I have found the work at the Puller Clinic to be both personally and professionally rewarding. The veterans we work with are not new to the VA claims process. They have often endured rejection, frustration, and confusion. While the men and women at the Department of Veteran Affairs are working to help veterans, the system is in need of reform. That discussion is for another time and place, but the reality veterans face is enough to motivate law students and clinicians to take action.

The first lesson students learn at the Puller Clinic is that the men and women served at the Puller Clinic are not victims. They are hardworking men and women who spent time performing a duty that over nine in ten of us will never personally experience. They sacrificed, and the result was the endurance of the greatest nation on earth and the continued advancement of human freedom in the globe. This is no small accomplishment, and in return we owe them a great debt. That debt can never be repaid. However, by serving our veterans through programs like the Puller Clinic we can do our part to honor their service by serving them.


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Law Students Arguing in the Fourth Circuit – My Experience in the Appellate & Supreme Court Clinic

sniderby Abby Snider, Class of 2016

Even though the Fall 2015 semester is just warming up, students in the W&M Appellate & Supreme Court Clinic are hard at work. The Appellate & Supreme Court Clinic provides an awesome opportunity for 3L students, as it enables them to represent clients in appellate cases. Clinic students choose cases, write motions and briefs, and even present oral arguments in Circuit Courts across the country. It is an amazing opportunity for any lawyer, let alone a third year law student, to be able to argue in front of a Circuit Court. The clinic, taught by Professor Tillman Breckenridge, focuses its attention on unique or controversial First and Fourth Amendment issues of law.

On September 16, 2015, my clinic partner, Amber Will, argued in front of the Fourth Circuit. The case she argued is about whether evidence of drugs found in our client’s car was lawfully obtained by police officers. In the weeks leading up to her argument, I helped Amber prepare her argument by talking through hypotheticals, attending moot arguments with professors who specialize in Fourth Amendment law, and making plans for us to travel to Richmond. All too quickly, it was the day of the argument.

Amber and I walked into the Fourth Circuit, nervously wandering the hallways searching for attorney check-in, where we had planned to meet Professor Breckenridge. It felt imposing (but so cool!) to be in the Circuit Court. When we checked in with the courtroom clerk, she wished Amber luck, saying “I hope you do better than the last law student who argued in my courtroom – he passed out at the podium!”

The argument scheduled before Amber’s was an immigration case, about whether an illegal immigrant should be granted asylum because he was targeted by Honduran police to be a drug runner. It was really neat to hear this argument and realize that I had a solid grasp of the issues in the case – my Immigration Law class was coming in handy. The argument raced by, and suddenly it was time for Professor Breckenridge to introduce Amber to the panel.

Amber absolutely killed her argument. She had articulate answers for every judge’s question, and they did not go easy on her. She outshone all the other lawyers that we heard argue, not only because of her solid, organized grasp of the law, but because she learned every detail of the record, down to the second the client’s traffic stop ended. Afterwards, in the Fourth Circuit, the judges come down to shake the lawyers’ hands. All the judges paused when greeting Amber, congratulated her, and emphatically told her what a great job she did. Immediately after the argument, it finally sunk in what an invaluable experience it was to get involved with appellate cases and to argue in Circuit Court. We went out for a celebratory lunch in Richmond, then drove back to Williamsburg – and straight back to classes.

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A Focus on Firms: My 2L Summer Job Search

satiraby John Satira, Class of 2017

Law school certainly is fast-paced, and that characteristic rings true for the job search process as well. After wrapping up a great 1L summer internship, the time had come to start the application process for 2L summer associate positions, as interviewing started in August! Despite the quick turn around, William & Mary Law School’s Office of Career Services (OCS) did its best to keep things running smoothly and comfortably.

Looking back, I realized that the 2L summer job search process began during the spring semester of my 1L year. OCS had a variety of programs to help to get students thinking about what type of position we wanted to pursue after our 2L year. These included panels with 2L students that have secured summer positions as well as with employers that will be doing summer hiring.

I learned that, as someone interested in working for a large to mid-size law firm, the application process starts in July, with interviews beginning in August. But the OCS programs explained the timelines for different opportunities, and some of my friends who are more interested in government, nonprofit, or small firm work did not have to worry about starting their application processes until a bit later.

Knowing that my application deadlines would be on the early side, I regularly updated and revised my resume and created some cover letter templates throughout the summer. My application materials were put to good use in July, as law firms began accepting applications. Specifically, OCS runs a website called Symplicity where I uploaded my resumes, cover letters, and writing samples. There were two major outlets for interviews that I had applied to: regional interview programs and on-campus interview (OCI) programs.

William & Mary Law School offered four different regional interview programs that allowed students to interview with a variety of employers based in different geographic locations. The offered areas were Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and Texas. Personally, I applied for and attended the Greater Washington D.C. Interview Program (GWDCIP). GWDCIP took place in early August. Since my internship was in Arlington, Virginia, I was able to extend my summer lease a few days to stay for the interview program, but many students drove into town for the day. My classmates and I interviewed with a variety of law firms and other legal employers, and the day was busy but very worthwhile. It was great to have the opportunity to interview with a variety of firms from a convenient location.

Once I arrived back in Williamsburg in preparation for my 2L year, I was also able to take part in the on-campus interviewing (OCI) process. A variety of law firms and other legal employers from across the country rent out rooms in the law school and interview students for summer positions. While OCIs are not condensed into one day like the regional interview programs are, the process is still very convenient and students are able to meet with a variety of employers.

The final step of the process involved being selected for callback interviews after the screening interviews at the regional interview programs or from OCIs. The callback process involves a law firm setting up interviews with a variety of individuals at the firm, which can last a few hours but is a great opportunity to learn more about the firm. After the callback interviews, all that is left to do is wait and see if the firm is willing to extend an offer or not. While I am currently awaiting to hear some final results from my own 2L summer job search, I am thankful to have had so many opportunities available to me thanks to the guidance of OCS. While the 2L job hunt seems like an arduous process, I am glad that it is knocked out so early in the year!

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Financial Basics Seminar

satiraby John Satira, Class of 2017

During my time at law school, I aim to learn more about business and corporate law. However, I was always a bit intimidated about jumping into those areas of law, because I have never taken a formal accounting or business course in my life. Thankfully, the Office of Career Services (OCS) partnered with BARBRI Financial Skills Institute to offer a free seminar called “Their Business is Your Business: Financial Basics for Legal Careers.” As someone interested in business law, I immediately signed up for the event.  Knowing that the course was covering “basics,” I looked forward to finally beginning to learn about finance.

Structured as a “mini-MBA” program, the event was broken down into three parts: financial analysis, financial statements, and problems in financial reporting. The financial analysis portion introduced me to a variety of new financial terms and vocabulary, while the financial statements part helped me become capable of reading and understanding balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. I even received a much-needed introduction to accounting.

In my opinion, the most interesting part of the seminar was learning about the problems in financial reporting. With the newfound knowledge of how to read business statements, we ran through a variety of scenarios that had us analyzing financial statements to pinpoint information in financial documents that helped tell the story of the companies in question. We were also given a history lesson of sorts about scandals in the accounting and auditing industries in order to help understand when a business might be floundering, or even recognize if the business was engaging in fraud or manipulation.

The program ran on a Saturday from 9:30am to 4:30pm, but it was well worth my time. (Plus, we were served breakfast and an excellent lunch—so I really cannot complain.) I learned so much about how business transactions affect every day life, and I left the crash-course with a wider array of knowledge surrounding topics not only relevant to business law, but also to white-collar crime and property law.

Ultimately, I would say the event was a huge success, and I look forward to the other events that OCS brings to William & Mary Law in order to help enrich its students’ education.

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leckyby Phillip Lecky, Class of 2015

A few short days ago, God will bless me to achieve the pinnacle of the law school experience, graduation. Reminiscing, these were, by far, the most challenging years of my life academically, and perhaps in a lot of other ways too, but I found ways and means to persevere through adversity. I came out the better for the experience, and not just because I received a Juris Doctorate.

My journey taught me so much and stretched me in ways that I couldn’t even anticipate. I found strength in the extracurricular activities that I participated in, such as the Black Law Students Association, America Reads, Student Legal Services, and Student Admissions Ambassadors, to name a few. I found strength in the various relationships that I was able to develop with my fellow classmates, faculty and staff, and other legal professionals. I continued to find strength in the knowledge that many had already preceded me and graduated, and thus, I could too.

I am so grateful for the times that I had while in law school, both the fun times,as well as those where I felt overwhelmed (it happens to everyone, but it isn’t all that bad I promise). All of these experiences matured me, and as a young professional, maturity is imperative. Now I look forward to entering the real world of law and using what I have learned to make a perpetual and definitive mark. Thank you William & Mary Law School for the preparation and congrats to the Class of 2015!

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