A Law School Built on Traditions

This week, The College of William & Mary celebrates its 326th birthday at Charter Day! On Friday, February 8th, we celebrate not only a renewal of the charter from King William & Queen Mary back in 1693, we also celebrate the official inauguration of President Katherine A. Rowe and the re-investiture of our chancellor Robert M. Gates ’65! In celebration of one of the greatest traditions at the College, we asked 2L Rebecca Jaeger to reflect on some of William & Mary Law School’s traditions as well. 

Rebecca Jaeger, 2L

Rebecca Jaeger, 2L

As one of the oldest universities in the nation, William & Mary is built on tradition. As a school that has been around for this long (326 years!), there is plenty of time to establish traditions that define the school and the community. William & Mary Law School is no exception!

Bust with 2021 hatLaw student traditions kick off during Law Week. Students right away are unofficially inducted into the William & Mary Law community when they receive a William & Mary Law School hat that is embroidered with the year of their graduation. To get the hat, you first have a conversation with the Dean of the law school, which is a great way to be welcomed into the community (and have a personal conversation with the Dean). And then, you get to rock your hat for the rest of the day.

One of the most well-known traditions is the ringing of the bell at the Wren Building. In the first week as a law student, students are invited to ring the bell to signify the beginning of their William & Mary Law education. The tradition comes full circle on the last day of classes as a 3L. All students are then invited to ring the bell again, as symbol of completing their William & Mary education. The entire day, as you walk outside, you can hear the bell ringing, as students are celebrating completing their last day of classes.

239 birthdayTraditions also mark milestones in the three years that we spend as law students here. There’s a “Halfway There” celebration in the beginning of January during 2L year, and a “100 Nights Until Graduation” celebration during the spring of 3L year. I can’t attest to what it’s like to celebrate “100 Night Until Graduation” (as I have a year and 100 Nights to go), but the “Halfway There” celebration was a great way to spend time with classmates, enjoying ice cream, and thinking about how far we have come. It’s also a tradition to celebrate the Law School’s birthday each year (with cake), and let me say that it’s quite a unique experience to attend a 239th Birthday party. It’s a fun way to recognize the previous centuries of legal education at William & Mary Law and to toast to the ones to come.

The traditions at William & Mary Law help build a unique community: one rooted in history and tradition, committed to educating and developing citizen-lawyers.

We Are Citizen Lawyers

Nick Agyevi-Armah, 1L

Nick Agyevi-Armah, 1L

Distinguishing between law schools is a difficult task. Many schools share similar mission statements, visions for their students, or programming and marketing that encompass the  “unique” ideologies their students possess. It can get overwhelming sifting through countless versions of “our students are different!” or “our faculty are stellar!” or “these student organizations are one-of-a-kind!” These laudatory phrases often fall on ears that have been inundated with information that implores students to visualize why going to this specific law school would set them apart from other law students, or how attending this law school will turn them into a different kind of lawyer.

classroomWilliam & Mary’s citizen lawyer is more than a marketing strategy–it’s a commitment to the ethical, and moral foundations that create the foundation of our legal system; it’s a reminder to all that legal services are to always remain equitable, just, fair, and, above-all, client-centered. William & Mary doesn’t just educate citizen lawyers—its very foundation rests in the civic ideals that operationalize the service-oriented philosophy the legal field encompasses.

William & Mary students are civic leaders who advocate passionately for equality and justice in a world where marginalized groups are pushed further and further outwards. W&M students are not trained to merely “advocate”—but taught that advocacy means denoting a substantial portion of one’s professional life and career aspirations to support the greater public good. W&M students and faculty are vital influencers in the justice system that exists in contemporary society.

bushrodmootcourtWe live in a world that Thomas Jefferson, George Wythe, and John Marshall could not have dreamed. The legal system is an entirely different landscape than it was in 1779. But the values of the citizen lawyer, the components of that concept, remain the same. We’re proud of our ethos and the legacy of citizen lawyers that have gone before us, and we will continue to be role models for the legal field.

Nick is a 1L from Silver Springs, Maryland. At William & Mary Law School, he is highly involved in many organizations, including representing the 1L class in SBA and serving his community through Equality Alliance, Lawyers Helping Lawyers, and the Black Law Student Association to name a few.