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.

blsa

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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Michael Toner Talks Elections

lennonby Kate Lennon, Class of 2017

On March 2nd, law students interested in Election Law were able to enjoy a lunchtime talk with Michael Toner. Mr. Toner is a current partner at Wiley Rein and the former FEC Chairman. He was also the Chief Counsel to the Republican National Committee and General Counsel to the Bush-Cheney 2000 Presidential Campaign. The discussion began with Mr. Toner speaking about the changes in election law and finance in regards to recent Supreme Court cases, as well as what changes to Court’s make-up could mean for the future in Election Law. Mr. Toner discussed that this is a time of deregulation, but if some of the more conservative justices retire, we could see more increased regulation again in the next ten years.

Michael Toner

Michael Toner, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC)

As the discussion moved into a question format, the topic turned more towards the future of campaigns. Mr. Toner explained that we no longer live in a world where a successful presidential candidate can get by on a few million dollars in donations. With President Obama breaking records with donations in the $750 million range, Mr. Toner predicted a 2016 election campaign potentially breaking the billion-dollar mark. He found this to be particularly likely with candidates like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush potentially taking significant roles in the 2016 election.

It was clear from the start that Mr. Toner was personally fascinated with Election Law. He stated at one point that he chose his career path because he was able to combine his two interests in law and politics into one job. His enthusiasm about the topic spread through the room and really drew the attention of the professors and students. As a first year student, the novelty of having such interesting and accomplished speakers here at our school has not yet worn off. I am not sure that it even will at all. Every day at the law school is a new experience, and lunchtime speakers like this one are just one of the many avenues for these experiences.

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Student Legal Services Provides Law Students an Opportunity for Hands-On Experience

keefeby TJ Keefe, Class of 2017

Given the many hours of  independent reading and researching that accompany a 1L experience, I sometimes lose track of how interpersonal the legal profession really is.  Although esoteric legal concepts frequently occupy my thoughts, I try to remember that the practice of law is really the act of solving real-world problems for real-world individuals.  In the spirit of this mindset, I decided to join William & Mary’s Student Legal Services team.

Blow Memorial Hall  (2)Student Legal Services  was established by William & Mary Law students who hoped to use their abilities to serve other members of the College community. The organization is entirely student-run, and relies on over thirty-five volunteers to staff its office on William & Mary’s main campus.  From room 316 in Blow Memorial Hall, Student Legal Service volunteers research whatever legal issues the students and staff of the College bring to the office. Cases involving landlord-tenant disputes or criminal citations are common, but the office has handled a much greater variety of cases in the past.

In order to provide the best assistance possible, the Student Legal Services team has an established system. Members of the campus community are encouraged to set up an appointment in order to discuss their legal questions confidentially. Once  a member of S.L.S.  team has documented the details of an community member’s legal problem on an intake form, volunteers draw on their researching skills to find all applicable laws. As law students who have not yet passed the Virginia Bar, S.L.S. volunteers are forbidden from providing clients with any recommendations beyond the explicit text of the law. Even so, clients often leave with a much clear sense of  what laws will be applied to their specific legal issues.

I would recommend S.L.S. to anyone interested in gaining some hands-on experience with the law. Although law school can be quite academic in nature, William & Mary’s Student Legal Services has definitely provided me with the refreshing opportunity to assist with real-world legal problems.

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1L Interviewing, Part 1: The Alumni Mock Interview Program

brownby Cathy Brown, Class of  2017

Have you ever felt nervous before an interview?  One of my college friends was always petrified of the interview process, afraid of embarrassing herself or being unable to think of an appropriate answer to a tricky question on the spot.  Consequently, I’ve been involved with quite a few mock interviews over the past few years, posing as the interviewer the night before her meeting to help her practice and allay her fears.

This semester, however, I had the opportunity to practice honing my own interviewing skills when the Legal Practice Program partnered with the law school’s Office of Career Services (OCS) for the Alumni Mock Interview Program.  This program began with representatives from OCS giving a presentation on interviewing techniques in every 1L’s Legal Practice class.  In class the following week, we watched some demonstration videos illustrating examples of successful interviews and those that missed the mark.  After watching the clips, we had the opportunity to critique them as a class.  We also split into pairs and practiced interviewing with a classmate so we could practice fielding difficult questions in a friendly atmosphere.

Finally, the program culminated on January 30th, when each member of the 1L class was assigned to have a mock interview with a William & Mary Law School alum.  To make the experience as rewarding as possible, the Office of Career Services assigned students to an interviewer from a field that matches our potential legal interests.  For example, I’m tentatively interested in practicing family and elder law at a small firm, and my alumni interviewer – who started his own small firm – specialized in juvenile dependency.  To make conditions as realistic as possible, students were asked to dress professionally and conduct some preliminary research on the interviewer’s work.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous before going into my interview; however, my interviewer was extremely friendly and clearly excited to be back at his alma mater, helping to train the next generation of lawyers.  After a nice twenty-five minute conversation and a few minutes of helpful feedback, he sent me on my way, feeling more confident in my ability to be professional and express myself in the interview setting.

This mock interview program couldn’t have come at a better time, since my classmates and I are beginning to be called in to interview for summer internship positions.  Next week, for example, I head to Richmond for an interview at the Government & Public Interest Interview Program (expect an update on that in my next blog post!).  Although I’m sure I’ll still have butterflies in my stomach before the interview, at least I can go into the program knowing that William & Mary has given me a unique opportunity to develop interviewing skills, and has given me the tools I need to succeed.

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Halfway There!

lizradby Liz Rademacher, Class of 2016

On January 15, William & Mary Law celebrated a tradition that I’ve been looking forward to celebrating ever since my 1L year: the Halfway Through BBQ. Every year, the Law School throws a barbecue complete with all the fixings for 2L students who have just finished the first half of law school. After making it through our first three semesters here, my classmates and I felt like there was plenty to celebrate!

Over pulled pork sandwiches and generous helpings of baked beans and freshly-made applesauce, second-year students enjoyed catching up with each other. We chatted about what the second half of law school held in store and took some time to reflect on how far we’d all come since that first day of class a year and a half ago.

While people roasted marshmallows over a fire to make s’mores in the crisp winter air outside on the patio, I was struck by just how quickly my time in Williamsburg has passed. In my short time here, I’ve taken thirteen classes, worked as a summer intern in Washington, DC, become a Law Review staff member, done an externship in Richmond, and so much more. My classmates have won moot court tournaments or started their own organizations; they’ve worked as student attorneys at clinics and performed their own independent academic research. I’ve seen many of my classmates get engaged or get married—a few have even had their first children! And through all these milestones and changes, the entire Law School community has been a constant source of support and strength.

So much has happened since law school began, and I’m excited to see what new adventures and opportunities the second half of this journey will bring my classmates and me. Cheers, Class of 2016, we’re halfway through!

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Love and the Law: Not Mutually Exclusive

graham bryantby Graham Bryant, Class of 2016

Every Valentine’s Day, we here at Get Wythe It! like to highlight couples from the Law School who met, became engaged, or were married during their time at William & Mary. Some examples can be found here, here, and here. This past year, we learned that just over one quarter of all William & Mary alumni across the university’s various campuses are married to one another. I’m nothing short of thrilled to say that I will soon count myself among that number.

I’m a 2L, and last semester I proposed to my longtime girlfriend Mary Seward, a first-year biology master’s student in the School of Arts and Sciences on the main campus. Mary and I have known each other for years, but we began dating the summer before I began my undergraduate career at William & Mary.

Because Mary did her undergrad just down the road at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, we spent many of our courting days on the William & Mary campus and walking the byways of Colonial Williamsburg.

View More: http://chelseaandersonphotography.pass.us/graham-and-maryI opted to stay at William & Mary for law school, and Mary joined me at the College by pursuing her biology graduate work here as well. In addition to our dates across the historic campus and surroundings in Williamsburg, we’ve spent a number of fond evenings together in the law library getting our respective projects done.

I proposed to her this fall at the Cascades waterfall in the western part of Virginia, but when the time came for our engagement photoshoot, I could think of no better surroundings than Williamsburg, my backyard for five years now.

View More: http://chelseaandersonphotography.pass.us/graham-and-maryThe campus and Colonial Williamsburg were particularly appropriate for us, not only because of their sentimental meaning for Mary and myself, but also because the wedding ceremony itself is set for August 2016 in the historic Wren Chapel in William & Mary’s Sir Christopher Wren Building. Mary and I all but bleed green and gold, so we can’t imagine a better venue.

I’m now halfway through my time at William & Mary Law School, but I couldn’t be more excited about what lies ahead: three semesters, the bar exam, my wedding, and then we’ll see what life has in store. None of this would’ve been possible without William & Mary, where Mary and I have both met our closest friends, deepened our relationship, and gained the educations needed for a successful future life together.

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Externship with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

hubbardby Matt Hubbard, Class of 2016

I am originally from Richmond, Virginia, and I attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where I received a degree in Political Science. After graduating I was a staffer for a U.S. Senate campaign in Virginia and also a Director with YMCA Camps Sea Gull and Seafarer. I currently serve as an Assistant Symposium Editor for the William and Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review and am a member of the National Trial Team. 

This past fall semester I had the privilege of accepting a legal externship with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). I had looked forward to the externship program since coming to law school, eager for the opportunity to earn class credit while also receiving real life work experience. I hope to practice within the field of environmental law, and a semester with CBF presented an excellent opportunity to both gain experience in this area of law while also serving the important mission of a non-profit advocacy organization that has been working hard to protect the bay and its watershed for over 40 years.

My externship got off to an unique start when I arrived for my first day to find the office looking like a disaster zone after new carpeting had just been installed. It turned out to be the best possible way to begin the semester though, as there is no better way get to know people than moving heavy furniture together!  My supervisor, Peggy Sanner, is the Assistant Director and Senior Attorney for the Virginia section of CBF. She started me off with some standard legal research surrounding the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, or total maximum daily load, which is a set of pollution regulations developed by the EPA for all the bay states. As the semester continued my research and analysis projects became more diverse, and I was assigned more complicated tasks that were both more interesting and more challenging. My work wasn’t restricted to legal research, however, and some of my favorite days included meetings with members of the Virginia General Assembly, meetings at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to advise the drafting of regulations, and attending a speech about the bay given by Attorney General Mark Herring.

Eel Caught in a River Pot

Eel Caught in a River Pot

The highlight of my externship came when we invited several members of the Virginia Association of Counties to come aboard one of CBF’s educational vessels for a  tour of part of the lower James River. As a group we observed oyster beds, caught several varieties of fish, and examined crabs and eels collected from CBF river pots. A true appreciation for the value of the bay and its watershed can only be achieved by experiencing it, and it was powerful to watch the participants gain this understanding.

My externship has been one of the best parts of my law school experience so far, and I encourage everyone to find an opportunity that aligns with their interests and take advantage of this unique learning experience.

Before and after pictures of planted grass to serve as a runoff buffer on the lower James River

Before and after pictures of planted grass to serve as a runoff buffer on the lower James River

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