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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Learning More Than You’ve Realized

brownby Cathy Brown, Class of 2017

It’s that part of the semester.  We have only a few short weeks left of classes, finals are looming, and my course outlines are, let’s just say, not in great shape.  (I’ll start outlining this weekend, I swear!)  Spring has arrived in Williamsburg, bringing warmer temperatures, flowering trees, and a desperation to finish the semester and begin summer vacation.  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve vacillated between feeling stressed out and burned out as my 1L year begins to draw to a close.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the midst of a busy semester.  Many times throughout the year, I’ve felt like I’m the only dunce who didn’t know that the Uniform Commercial Code governs transactions for the sale of goods; who doesn’t understand what a restrictive covenant is; and who is still a little murky on the definition of promissory estoppel.

Recently, however, I realized just how much I’ve grown over the past eight months and how much law I’ve actually learned over my 1L year.  To prove my point, I’ll share three anecdotes that occurred over the past week.

First: I’m much better at reading the law than I realized.  My boyfriend, who doesn’t attend law school, picked up one of my textbooks and started reading it.  After a couple of minutes, he put it down, stared at me, and asked how on earth I understood the case I had been reading.  I looked at the page he was stuck on and started skimming it.  To me, it seemed pretty straightforward; sure, there were a couple of confusing points, but I at least understood the gist of what the Court was saying.  So, the moral of the story?  The law really is like another language, and I’ve taken for granted just how much I’ve learned this language throughout the past year.

Second: I can apply the law better than I realized.  I was recently watching a movie with a court scene in it.  One of the lawyers requested a change of venue, which is something you’ll learn about in your Civil Procedure class in the fall.  I paused the movie and – no joke – started running through a change of venue analysis in my head, realizing that the filmmakers had actually done their research and had applied this concept correctly.  This made me very excited, probably more than it should have.

Third: I’m not the only one who’s felt overwhelmed at points this year.  After an exceptionally difficult class a few days ago, I left the lecture hall feeling discouraged, assuming that I was the only student who was incredibly confused.  This feeling lasted only a few minutes until my friends also started complaining about how little they understood about this topic.  Turns out, we’re all in exactly the same boat as far as our level of comprehension goes.  A group study session is forthcoming.  Two heads are better than one, right?

Law school is hard.  I’d be lying if I told you otherwise.  However, even after just a year, I can already tell how valuable my William & Mary Law School education is, and how well I’m being prepared to practice the law.  As Professor Kingsfield said in The Paper Chase: “You come in here with a skull full of mush, and you leave thinking like a lawyer.”  After a year, I can say with certainty that the de-mushing process is definitely well underway.

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And They’re Off! (PSF Auction 2015)

wentworthby Christie Wentworth, Class of 2017

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

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

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


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

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Virginia Attorney General Mike Herring Pays W&M Law a Visit!

lennonby Kate Lennon, Class of 2017

On March 24, W&M Law had the privilege of hosting yet another prominent figure in the legal community. In the afternoon of that day, Virginia Attorney General Herring came to the law school for a lecture and Q&A session. This event was open to students and the public, which provided for a great atmosphere and a variety of questions. The Attorney General began his lecture by speaking of the roles of an attorney general: fighting for constituents, fighting for equality and opportunity for all Virginians, and keeping neighborhoods and community safe. He then went into talking about these roles individually.

When speaking of his role to fight for constituents, the Attorney General spoke of the Affordable Care Act. He explained that in his view, the issue of the Affordable Care Act literally means the difference between a modest family of four being able to afford health insurance and not being able to afford it at all. He then spoke about his role in fighting for equality and opportunity in both the areas of marriage equality and domiciliary status for children of immigrants. As most know, Attorney General Herring is known for his refusal to defend Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. Hearing his view in regards to this topic was truly fascinating, revolving around his goal of Virginia not being on the wrong side of history with these marriage issues.

herringAttorney General Herring then turned to discussions revolving around keeping neighborhoods and the community safe. He explained that since he used to be a county supervisor, issues of safety are of great importance to him. He reflected on a public safety tour he did to find out the issues and move toward helping these issues like drugs and sexual assault. The Attorney General then ended his lecture listing issues he hopes to address moving forward such as consumer protection, equality, hate crimes, and the criminal justice system.

After this lecture, the event moved in Q&A. The Q&A was incredibly interesting as it varied from public questions on local issues to student questions involving the law and professor questions regarding the Attorney General’s authority in defending state laws. When the questions portion ended, the event moved into a reception where attendees could talk with each other and with the Attorney General one on one. These opportunities to hear from and speak with such a prominent figure in the making of history are another reason law school is such a unique experience. I think taking advantage of the opportunities that interest you in law school are what can round out the law school experience and make the most of legal education.

Click here to read the news story.

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Helping Ex-Felons Reclaim Their Right to Vote

woodsby Lance Woods, Class of 2015

My name is Lance A. Woods, and I am a third year law student from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am a U.S. Army veteran and have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I attended the University of Pittsburgh for undergrad, where I earned a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in History. After graduating, I moved to New Haven, Connecticut where I helped supervise a juvenile correction facility. This past year, I served as a legal extern with the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Restoration of Rights office (ROR), which helps ex-felons reclaim their right to vote.

Given that this is my last year of law school, I wanted to earn class credit while also using the skills I acquired over the past two years, to better the lives of marginalized populations. Each day in the ROR office, I worked closely with probation officers and court clerks from all over Virginia to ensure that applicants completed the necessary steps to reclaim their voting rights. Additionally my supervisor, Carlos Hopkins, Counselor to the Governor, provided me with a number of interesting research projects concerning felon disenfranchisement. I also had the privilege of working along side the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Levar Stoney, who helped Governor McAullife set a new record by restoring the voting rights of 5,113 Virginians in 2014.

My most memorable externship experience occurred when I informed an applicant that his voting rights had been restored. The man, who was in his seventies, became overwhelmed with emotion and cried genuine tears of joy. Virginia’s 2014 general election marked the very first time this applicant had ever voted. Knowing that I contributed to this unforgettable event, serves as the most fulfilling part of my law school experience.

Although great progress has been made, there is still a lot of work to be done. Virginia is one of four states where convicted felons can permanently lose their right to vote.  According to the Sentencing Project, it is estimated that Virginia is home to over 450,000 disenfranchised felons. The ROR office is always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help alleviate the effects of this archaic policy. I would highly encourage everyone to take advantage of this extremely fulfilling opportunity.

Externship Experience: Judicial Extern

wongby Debbie Wong, Class of 2015

Debbie Wong is originally from Needham, Massachusetts. She earned her B.S. in Commerce from the University of Virginia. She spent her1L summer working at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Hearings and Appeals, and her 2L summer at K&L Gates LLP in Washington, D.C. After graduation, she will be clerking for Federal Chief Judge Glen Conrad in Roanoke, Virginia for a year before returning to K&L Gates LLP as an associate. She is the Communications Editor for the William & Mary Law Review and a teaching assistant for Torts.

When I accepted my post-grad federal clerkship in January of 2L year, I knew that externing for a judge during my final year of law school would be a great way to learn about clerking. I vaguely knew what a clerk did after researching for my clerkship interview and talking to current and former clerks, but I really wanted to experience the work firsthand. Each judge runs his or her chambers differently, but my externship with Judge Mark Davis, a federal judge at the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk, helped me understand the general day-to-day life of a clerk and allowed me to work on challenging, but extremely interesting, cases.

I spent about fourteen weeks externing for Judge Davis in the fall of my third year. During my first and second weeks with Judge Davis, I was fortunate to sit in on a criminal jury trial and observe direct examination, cross examination, and closing arguments. During my last week of the externship, I also got to observe voir dire for a different case. I was taking Trial Advocacy at the time, a class at the Law School about the fundamental steps of a trial, and it was so interesting to see the concepts I learned in the classroom play out in the real world. Also, I really enjoyed observing criminal sentencing hearings where the judge discussed and considered both mitigating and aggravating circumstances of the case in order to reach an appropriate sentence for the defendant.

One really cool aspect of externing for a judge is that you are free to observe not only your judge’s proceedings, but also the proceedings before other judges in the courthouse. I observed initial appearances, detention hearings, and other motion hearings in criminal cases before the magistrate judges. I saw attorneys with very strong oral advocacy skills as well as those with unpersuasive techniques.

Outside of the courtroom, I researched controlling and persuasive case law, drafted memorandum opinions, and discussed cases with Judge Davis and his clerks. The issues that I handled during my externship include: modification of a restitution order, petition for writ of habeas corpus, attorneys’ fees, motion for default judgment, and interpleader action. Judge Davis and his clerks took the time out of their incredibly busy schedules to meet with me whenever I had questions and also gave me specific, valuable feedback on my work. Most importantly, I was welcomed into chambers and immediately treated like part of the team by Judge Davis, his clerks, his assistant, Becky, and the other staff members at the courthouse.

There is truly no substitute for the experience I received in Judge Davis’s chambers and I highly recommend judicial externships as a way to gain universal skills for every area of the law.

BLSA Symposium – Where Do We Go From Here: Community or Chaos?

phillip lby Phillip Lecky, Class of 2015

On Tuesday, March 17, the Black Law Students Association, in conjunction with the Center for Student Diversity, The Lemon Project, Student Assembly and the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity hosted a symposium in the Commonwealth Auditorium of the Sadler Center.  The symposium’s inspiration arose from Martin Luther King’s book, the namesake of the symposium.  The purpose of the event was to provide a space for dialog about many of the pressing issues facing minority communities such as police brutality, structural racism, poverty, and affirmative action to name a few, and to provide strategies for eradicating injustice and inequality.

The esteemed and highly regarded panelists were Professor Adrien Wing of the University of Iowa, Professor Greg Carr of Howard University, Professor Eddie Cole of William & Mary, Professor andre douglas pond cummings of Indiana Tech, Monique Dixon from the NAACP LDF, and Jessica Pierce, from the Black Youth Project 100. The moderators were William & Mary’s own Professor Vivian Hamilton and Professor Jamel Donnor.  Law students, graduate students, faculty members, former students, and other members of the community were in attendance to listen and engage with the speakers about the issues.


Thanks to BLSA and Symposium Chair, Belema Idoniboye for organizing this well-needed and still relevant discussion!

Click here for the news story.

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1L Interviewing, Part 2: GPIIP

brownby Cathy Brown, Class of 2017

As I mentioned in my last blog post, this is the time of year when interviewing is at the forefront of 1Ls’ minds.  The summer internship search is in full swing, and my peers and I are becoming seasoned interviewees with a variety of potential summer employers.  My classmates have engaged in on-campus interviews and Skype interviews; some have even packed their business suits in their carry-on luggage to interview with organizations closer to their hometowns over spring break.  However, the largest-scale interview opportunity by far was the Government & Public Interest Interview Program, or GPIIP.

The University of Richmond Law School hosted the 13th Annual GPIIP this year.  This program is a collaboration between William & Mary Law School, University of Richmond School of Law, and Washington & Lee School of Law and was available for students at all three institutions.  At the beginning of the spring semester, students received a large list of government and public interest employers who are looking to hire legal interns for the summer.  Each of these organizations sent a representative to GPIIP to sit at a booth for the day and interview candidates for their summer positions.  Students could apply electronically for the opportunity to interview with as many organizations as we’d like.  Each interview slot lasted twenty minutes.

Therefore, this program is efficient for both employers and students; employers could see many interested internship candidates throughout the day, and students could conveniently interview with a wide variety of organizations that piqued our interest without needing to travel across the state to these groups’ offices.

Twenty minutes is not a long time to convince someone that (1) you’re interested in working for them, (2) you’d be a good fit for their organization, and (3) you’re the best candidate for the job.  However, I put my interviewing experience and tips from William & Mary’s Office of Career Services to good use and had a very informative and memorable conversation with a representative from a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. that really interested me.  I had done my research ahead of time, so I knew all about the organization’s goals and past achievements and who would be interviewing me.  This helped a lot, since it meant that my interviewer didn’t have to waste precious time going over this basic information with me.  I had also reflected on my past work experience and my reasons for being interested in this employer so I would be prepared for potential questions.  Finally, of course, I prepared some questions of my own for the employer to show that I was genuinely interested in their organization.  This preparation paid off, since the organization contacted me about having a second interview just a couple of weeks after the GPIIP event.

GPIIP was an efficient and helpful way part of my summer internship search, and I felt very prepared for the interview thanks to the Office of Career Services and Legal Practice Program’s efforts earlier in the semester.

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