Externship with OneVirginia2021

williamsby Benjamin Williams, Class of 2018

My name is Ben Williams and I am a rising 3L from Hurricane, West Virginia. I attended Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana where I double-majored in International Relations and History with a minor in Latin American Studies. During the summer between my Sophomore and Junior years I worked as an intern in the United States Senate and House in Washington, D.C.  The following summer, I ran the summer internship program for Senator Jay Rockefeller. At William & Mary Law School, I am a Notes Editor on the Bill of Rights Journal, an executive board member of the Public Service Fund, and am a Co-Director of Constitutional Conversations, a public lecture series where law students affiliated with William & Mary’s Institute for Bill of Rights Law lead a discussion on a different topic in constitutional law. Outside of law school, I enjoy skiing, hiking, and traveling.

One of the great things about William & Mary is its proximity to both the Richmond and Hampton Roads metropolitan areas and their abundant externship opportunities. Taking advantage of this, I had an externship with OneVirginia2021 for the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters. OneVirginia2021 is a nonprofit organization which advocates for redistricting reform in Virginia. While I didn’t know much about Election Law prior to coming to William & Mary, I quickly found that the field lies at the intersection of two of my favorite things: law and politics.

onevirginiaOneVirginia2021 was founded in 2014 by a group of motivated citizens who were tired of the impacts of gerrymandering on the political process. Unlike most other organizations, OneVirginia2021 is transpartisan and maintains many supporters in both major parties, at the grassroots level and in the General Assembly in Richmond. They pursue three primary methods of advocacy: direct lobbying of the legislature through their 501(c)(4), legal advocacy through their legal team, and public education and awareness building through their 501(c)(3).

My externship was with OneVirginia2021’s 501(c)(3) and the legal team. During the fall, my work primarily focused on developing tools for the organization’s poll volunteers, who initiated conversations with voters on Election Day to raise awareness of the impact gerrymandering has on electoral competitiveness. I also helped to edit the organization’s amicus brief filed on behalf of petitioners in the Bethune-Hill racial gerrymandering case. During the spring, I helped with OneVirginia’s anti-gerrymandering lawsuit against Senate Democrats and House Republicans. I also helped draft summaries of individual legislators’ positions on gerrymandering, for distribution in their districts so voters will be better-informed when they go to the polls this November. My work helped to solidify my desire to work in Election Law post-graduation, and helped me make valuable connections that have already helped me begin down that path.

International Law Engagement at William & Mary

zaleskiby James Zaleski, Class of 2019

When I was looking at law schools, I looked for schools that would provide opportunities to become engaged with international issues. International law has become an important vehicle for collaboration among states, international businesses, non-profits, and markets. In the era of globalization, it is important for law students to develop a global perspective. William & Mary Law School offers many opportunities for students to become engaged with these important issues.

In addition to the Law School’s diverse course offerings in international law, William & Mary also has many internationally-focused student organizations that bring practitioners to the Law School to speak about international issues. I recently had the opportunity to attend a lunch talk hosted by the Comparative Legal Student Scholars. This lunch speaker series featured Judge Katzmann, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judge Katzmann’s talk focused on immigration law and he spoke about the unmet legal needs of the immigrant poor. I also had the opportunity to attend a talk hosted by the Human Security Law Center which featured former U.S. Ambassador to Belize, Vinai Thummalapally, who spoke about U.S. trade policies.

William & Mary Law School’s Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding also plays an important role in promoting international law engagement at the law school. The mission of the Center is to bridge the gap between resources available at academic institutions and the need for them in the international field. The Center offers law students a wide range of academic and field experiences all over the world. The Center maintains collaborative working relationships with many international organizations such as the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance at the Hague, Democracy for Development in Kosovo, and the Open Development Cambodia Initiative. William & Mary law students travel overseas each summer on behalf of the Center to intern with these organizations and contribute their talents, energy, and skills to important international projects.

ODC-LOGOThis summer, I will be interning with Open Development Cambodia (“ODC”) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Cambodia has a tumultuous history and the country still faces enormous economic and political challenges in the national rebuilding process. Transparency and accountability are two important components of this national reconstruction. ODC’s mission is to provide the public with accurate information about Cambodia and its economic and social development. By collecting and analyzing environmental, social, and economic development data, ODC helps to facilitate research and communication between the public, private companies, and governments. As my first year of law school comes to an end, I look forward to applying my legal research and writing skills in the field and engaging with international law issues!

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

A Farewell to the 3Ls

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

Just a few days ago, the members of the Class of 2017 donned their robes and walked across the stage to accept their diplomas. Hundreds of family members and friends gathered with the graduates at the Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheater at Lake Matoaka while “Pomp and Circumstance” played in the background. After three years of relentless hard work, it was a time of reflection and celebration for the graduating class. For the 1Ls and 2Ls, however, it marked a more somber occasion, because we know that William & Mary Law School will not be the same without them.

The 2Ls first met this year’s graduates when they were working on cite checks and writing their notes in the Fall semester of 2016. They were our Legal Practice Fellows and our TAs, and they kindly showed us where to go when we didn’t know how to get to the Cottage. Since the 1Ls have been here, they have seen the 3Ls excel as leaders in student organizations. The 1Ls have listened to their advice on tackling the job search and taking interesting classes. They’ve seen the 3Ls’ succeed as editors and staff members on law journals, and they’ve been encouraged to take part as well.

Class2017-475x265 (002)Apart from our memories of them, surely the 3Ls have fond memories of their own. They remember bonding with their new classmates during Law Week while everyone tried to figure out how law school works. They felt the stress of their first cold call, and the reassuring pat on the back they got from their neighbor when it was over. Thoughts of their first-year Legal Practice Sections, and the life-long friendships that came from them. Laughs shared over cheese fries at Bar Review. Fun nights spent dressing up for Fall Formals and Barristers’ Balls. Hanging out with professors after winning their packages at Auction. In spite of the stress of law school, memories such as these must make the end of their legal education bittersweet.

To the graduating 3Ls and LLMs: your fellow law students are proud of you and all that you have accomplished in your time here. You have shown an amazing work ethic and have helped make our organizations, teams, journals, and community what they are today. We thank you for being role models to us and for showing us what it means to be Citizen Lawyers. Most importantly, we thank you for being wonderful classmates and friends. You have done incredible things at William & Mary, and we know you will continue to make our school proud. Congratulations to the Class of 2017!

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

Five Things I Wish I Knew About Law School: A 3L’s Reflections

alsawafby Sami Alsawaf, Class of 2017

As a 3L getting ready to graduate on May 14th (not that I’m counting the days or anything…), I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking back on my decision to attend William & Mary and what life was like before law school. Having spent three years here at W&M, I like to think I know a thing or two about law school and law students. So, I present to you the five things I wish I knew about law school before I started:

1. Positively, 100%, most certainly, everyone else is confused.

I remember back in my Torts class fall of 1L year, and I thought everyone else seemed to understand the material, and I didn’t. My classmates had the most eloquent answers to questions, and every time I opened my mouth to talk, I fumbled around to even form a sentence. Certainly, I was doomed to fail law school because I didn’t understand the most basic law school class that literally every law student in the country takes first semester.

Not the case! Once I mentioned to a friend in the class that I had no idea what the professor was talking about, I realized my friend felt the same way. Then I found another person, and another, and eventually realized that pretty much everyone was as confused as me. Ironically enough, I felt more confident in myself. I realized I wasn’t falling behind or not smart enough; law school is just hard!

2. Pick one club, and stay committed.

The first three weeks of law school are jam packed with interest meetings for different clubs and organizations. Go to as many as you can, because 1) free food, and 2) you might actually find something you are really passionate about! I was interested in all the events I went to, but it wasn’t until I went to the meeting for the Women’s Law Society that I felt like I finally found an organization in which I wanted to be actively involved. I applied to be on the Executive Board and started off as Social Media and Advertising Chair. My 2L year, I was Vice President, and this year, I am President of the group. I really think that picking one group and staying actively involved has been better than being part of three or four groups, but not being able to stay as involved as you’d like in each one.

3. You have an hour to go to the gym today, even if you don’t think so.

Before law school, I went to the gym pretty much every day. The weeks before starting school, I was worried if I would have the time to go to the gym and keep up with all my work for school. There were some days where I thought “there’s no way I have time to work out.” Even if I felt like I didn’t have time, I would try to go even if it was just for half and hour. It’s important to have some time to yourself that’s away from law school. Going to the gym is a great mental break and a vital part of staying healthy in law school. I promise, you’ll get all your work done eventually, so take that gym break because you probably need it more than you think.

4. Employers are people.

Over the past three years, I’ve had many interviews and work experiences that have provided me with the opportunity to meet practicing attorneys and judges. It’s always a little stressful, but something I’ve learned is that they are normal people too. In fact, they used to be just like me! They were once 1Ls slogging through a civil procedure reading, then they were going on summer associate interviews, and then they took the bar. They are normal people who happen to be lawyers. When meeting prospective employers or making networking contacts, try to not be too nervous. Chances are you’re binge watching the same Netflix show as them.

5. It’ll be over before you know it.

I honestly can’t believe that I’m getting ready to graduate in a few weeks. It feels like I just started the other day, and it’s been quite a ride. I think back over the classes I’ve taken, the exams I sat through, and the friends I made. As much as I’m ready to graduate, I’m going to miss my friends and the experiences I’ve had. The days seem long, but it goes by quickly. It’s your last chance to be a student, so don’t be afraid to try something new or take a fun class. You’ll learn a lot in law school, but you’ll have fun too. Don’t stress too much because, believe me, it’ll be over in the blink of an eye.

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

Why I Chose William & Mary

kaiserby Alyssa Kaiser, Class of 2019

Looking back now, there were many factors at play that led me to choose to attend William & Mary for law school – and I have to say, I am still so happy with my decision. My career and locational goals certainly had something to do with why I applied to William & Mary, as was my interest in constitutional and election law. W&M has an outstanding reputation for my practice area interests and also has great connections into the Washington, D.C. market. So, applying to W&M was an obvious choice for me.

I sent out all of my applications around the same time, but William & Mary was the first school to admit me, just a few days before my birthday! I remember being so excited by the personal note on my acceptance letter, and as my other acceptance letters rolled in, nothing seemed as special as the acceptance from W&M because of that personal touch. Shortly after, I received a phone call from a current student to congratulate me, and then eventually received more correspondence from the Law School – this time with a notepad. I know that it may seem silly, but I really appreciated this extra effort because I am a firm believer myself that extra effort truly does go a long way, and I wanted to go to a law school that had similar beliefs.

I decided to attend Admitted Students Weekend, solidifying my decision. I had the opportunity to speak with professors, current students, and other future students who were also making decisions about law school. I met my future roommate and best friend at Admitted Students Weekend, and it just seemed like all the pieces were falling together.  I wound up buying a W&M Law School sweatshirt after the weekend was over and left with a big smile on my face.

After I got home, reality set in and I still had to make up my mind about where I was going to spend the next three years of my life. One piece of advice that wound up having an impact on my decision was this – law school is stressful enough, choose a place that isn’t stressful. What it comes down to is that William & Mary stood out because of the extra effort they made in the Admissions process, and I believed that this extra effort would be present in my education, too. As a current student, I can honestly say that William & Mary actually cares about every student, and I am so grateful that the overall good vibes from W&M in my decision process led me to become a member of the Tribe!

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

Being a Journal Staff Member

grecoby Marc Greco, Class of 2018

Before arriving here, I had heard of law journals—or law reviews, as they are also known—but understood very little of how they really worked. I like to think I understand a thing or two now that I’ve served on the William & Mary Law Review for over six months.

W&M Law boasts five journals. Membership in any one begins with a write-on competition at the end of the first year. The competition has two parts: an editing portion and a writing portion. Students are selected for a given journal based on their performance in the competition and the order in which they rank their preferred journals.

Introductory matters aside, I’ve found my time on the Law Review equal parts rewarding and enriching. Staff members like myself have two duties: cite checking and writing an original note. Cite checking is essentially the process of editing the articles selected for publication. It requires the staff member to confirm the factual accuracy of the author’s statements, add authority to support the author’s assertions, and edit for proper grammar and citations. Though challenging, this process confers several benefits to the cite checker. I’ve worked on excellent legal scholarship, improved my research and writing skills, and learned of topics I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered.

library (69)Writing a note has been just as challenging and rewarding. A note is the law student’s version of an article that would appear in a journal (“note” is one of the many misnomers in the legal lexicon because the papers are typically over forty pages long). Staff members complete their notes over the course of the year, working closely with the journal’s Notes Editors to produce a work of publishable quality. I’m writing about the law of outer space as it pertains to asteroid mining. I’ve learned just how much research goes into journal pieces (spoiler alert: a whole mess) and the patience necessary to make it work.

Membership on a journal is a valuable component of the law school experience. The skills I have honed on the Law Review have translated usefully to other parts of my legal life. And no one in the profession can deny the purchase journal participation carries on a resume.

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

Preparing for the 1L Job Search

zaleskiby James Zaleski, Class of 2019

We are officially two months into the second semester, and the summer job search for the 1L class is well underway! While the 1L class is still busy as ever with our classes and the moot court competition, we also must make a commitment each week towards our job search. A summer legal internship is an invaluable opportunity for students to gain real legal experience, improve their legal research and writing skills, and explore different practice areas.

The Office of Career Services (OCS) has been a tremendous help during this ongoing process. Towards the end of the first semester, all 1Ls had individual meetings with their OCS Dean to discuss career interests and develop individualized action plans for securing summer internships. The OCS Deans have been very accessible and helpful in preparing 1Ls for the application and interview process. I have sent cover letters to OCS for review, and each time I received prompt and invaluable edits and feedback which I have incorporated into my applications. OCS also hosts different job workshops for 1Ls throughout the year. Shortly after returning from winter break, OCS hosted an important 1L Interviewing Skills Workshop where they discussed interview strategies, analyzed common mistakes, and detailed what employers value in an interview. As a part of this workshop, we had the opportunity to develop strategies for answering those tough interview questions and practice with our fellow classmates.

Directory Page TitleIn late January, OCS hosted a mandatory mock interview program for all 1Ls. Every first-year student was paired with a William & Mary Law School alumnus or alumna who played the part of an employer interviewing candidates for a summer internship. Approximately twenty minutes of the appointment was for mock interviewing and approximately ten minutes was discussion time for feedback. Students were paired up with an alumnus/alumna who is working in one of their desired practice areas. I am interested in securing employment in the national security field, and I had the privilege of interviewing with Michael Dick, Class of ’06, who currently works for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs. I appreciated the opportunity to practice my interviewing skills, receive good feedback, and gain some more insight into the Department of Justice. This event highlights the strong community that exists here at William & Mary Law School and the dedication our alumni have to the school and to the continued success of our students. I am confident in my job search, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have the support of so many people here at William & Mary Law School.

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

William & Mary Moot Court

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

After an exciting two weeks of intense competition, 23 students have been selected to join the William & Mary Moot Court Team! 1Ls and 2Ls participated in the annual Bushrod T. Washington Tournament to earn a place on the team. The tournament was named for Supreme Court Justice Bushrod Washington, who graduated from William & Mary and served on the Court with Chief Justice John Marshall at the turn of the nineteenth century.

The Moot Court Team practices appellate advocacy, using the format of oral arguments presented before the Supreme Court. Participants in the Moot Court Program learn to write appellate briefs addressing pertinent legal issues. They then argue their positions before panels of judges, who may interrupt to ask questions about the law. Advocates must be able to think on their feet and persuasively defend their positions.

In most cases, the Bushrod Tournament is the first exposure that students have to appellate argumentation. For the current team members, it’s a chance to channel our favorite Supreme Court Justices as we don black robes and question competitors about the law. For the competitors, it is a chance to show their argumentative prowess and zealously advocate for their party’s position. This year’s problem dealt with potential First Amendment concerns surrounding a classification of Gay Conversion Therapy called “Talk Therapy.” Students did an excellent job of navigating the complex constitutional issues and delivering convincing arguments.

Moot Court TeamThe top eight competitors in the Bushrod Tournament will move forward to compete for the coveted Edmund Randolph Silver Tongue Award. The William & Mary Institute of Bill of Rights Law also presents this award to a practicing appellate lawyer for outstanding achievement in their field. The award-winning attorney serves on an esteemed panel of William & Mary faculty, who select the ultimate winner of the Bushrod Tournament.

In the fall, the new members will take an Advanced Brief Writing course to help them master the written advocacy skills required to write a persuasive brief. They will then practice oral arguments in a fun and competitive intra-team tournament. From there, they will have the opportunity to compete in Moot Court tournaments across the country in a variety of legal disciplines. Based on the exceptional skill displayed during this year’s Bushrod Tournament, the Moot Court Team is thrilled to welcome our new members!

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

A Match Made in Torts Class: Alex and Elspeth’s Story

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

In first-year Torts class, students learn about duty, breach, and causation through cases about spontaneously combusting haystacks, accidentally igniting fireworks, and collisions of every type of vehicle imaginable. In a happy accident, you could say that Alex and Elspeth’s worlds collided when they sat down beside each other the first day. And after hearing their story, any reasonable person would know that they were meant to be together.


On that first day of Torts class, Elspeth sat on the end of the row, and Alex took the empty seat between her and a member of his Legal Practice Section. Elspeth remembers that day especially well, because when they introduced themselves, Alex asked her how to spell her name, and wrote it down. She was impressed by how determined Alex was to pronounce her unique name correctly; he was the first person to ever ask her how to spell it. During the semester, the two talked casually before and after class. One conversation revealed their shared interest in Celtic music, and Elspeth offered recommendations of songs for Alex to listen to.

Fall semester finals came and went, but when Spring semester started, they sadly didn’t have any classes together. After not seeing each other for several months, Alex got the surprise of his life: in his hanging folder, he found a CD of Celtic music that Elspeth had made for him.  Alex was thrilled to know that his sweet classmate from Torts class was still thinking of him. He didn’t have Elspeth’s phone number, so Alex decided to send her an email to thank her. Now it was Elspeth’s turn to be surprised! The two were so glad to get back in touch, and they spent their 1L summer getting to know each other by exchanging emails every couple days. When they came back in the fall, Alex and Elspeth were eager to see each other in person. The first time they met up, the pair got coffee and talked for six hours, not realizing until the end how much time had gone by. They discussed their mutual interests in Celtic music, genealogy, and history, and discovered their common faith as Christians. A few days later, they were officially a couple.

visser weddingAlex and Elspeth fell for each other quickly; they were both certain that they were meant for each other. So on April 6th, 2016, Elspeth’s birthday, Alex asked Elspeth for her hand in marriage. Neither one of them ever expected to get married in law school, but they were so happy to be together they couldn’t wait. The pair set the wedding date for December 17, and spent their 3L fall semester in a whirlwind of classes and cake tastings, cold calls and coordinating. They chose to get married in the historic Wren Chapel on main campus. It was a perfect fit: it encompassed the history that they both so loved, and it paid tribute to the place that brought them together.

On the special day, guests were welcomed to the chapel by the sound of bagpipes, played by the Law School’s own Raymond Bilter. Friends and family filled the chapel as the happy couple said their vows. Elspeth looked beautiful in her long-sleeved, lace gown, and Alex was dapper in his tails. A reception followed at the Alumni House, where the Bride and Groom made their grand entrance to the Star Wars Theme, played by a string quartet.

After a honeymoon in Scotland, Alex and Elspeth returned for their final semester of law school; this time as husband and wife. They are making sure to keep a good work-life balance. They do their readings and hold each other accountable, but they also take time to share meals and watch their favorite movies. They also make music together in their Celtic Band, the Highland Rogues. After graduation, the pair will move to North Carolina, where Elspeth plans to pursue opportunities in Elder Law or Mediation, and where Alex will work as a Prosecutor.

As Alex and Elspeth have found during their time in law school, it’s important to love what you’re learning. But it’s a special gift when you get to love someone you are learning with. As Alex so aptly put it: “William & Mary: It’s a great place to meet friends – or your future spouse!”

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

2L Judicial Externship Experience

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

One of the most valuable things you can accomplish while being in law school, is to take the opportunity to extern at least once (but hopefully more). Like an internship, an externship will provide you with the opportunity to work with and learn from a practicing professional and to gain insight into a particular field of law.

courthouseThis semester, I will be working for a Virginia Circuit Court Judge in Newport News, Virginia. While it is still very early in the semester, the experience has already been invaluable. Though I have already been assigned important and interesting research projects, I have also been able to sit in court, observing preliminary hearings and motions, as well as to witness part of several trials. Additionally, I have been able to sit with the Judge and one of his clerks, in chambers, and discuss with them different legal issues, policies and procedures. While often the conversations seem casual, it has been an incredible experience to listen to two practicing attorneys of different levels and to hear their input on important issues. As the semester progresses, I am sure my time working for a Judge will continue to prove valuable, interesting and fun.

While this experience is awesome, it is certainly not unique for any one student at William & Mary Law School. Each semester, dozens of students partake in externships of different levels around Virginia. No matter what your interest, there is almost certainly an opportunity out there waiting for you to learn, and the faculty and Office of Career Services at the Law School are always looking to help.

For more information about externships at William & Mary Law School, click here.

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.

Whoa…We’re Halfway There! Reflections of a Second Semester 2L

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

There is no feeling quite like finishing your law school exams for the semester, but this time around the feeling is even sweeter: the close of this finals season marks the halfway point for the Class of 2018! We are halfway to being lawyers! (Notwithstanding the Bar Exam, of course, but we’ll worry about that later.)

It is incredible for me to reflect on how far our class has come, and how much we have learned over this past year and a half. This time last December, we had just conquered out first semester of Criminal Law, Civil Procedure, and Torts classes. Our professors taught us the ins-and-outs of the Socratic method by engaging us through cold-calls and open class discussions. In our Legal Practice Classes, we learned to conduct oral reports and client interviews, and we turned in our first Graded Legal Memo. Some of our classmates made the Alternate Dispute Resolution Team or National Trial Team, while others joined the Honor Council and Student Bar Association. Across the board, 1Ls got involved with numerous student organizations at the law school, and began to foster friendships within their Legal Practice Sections.

In the spring, the first-year class came back feeling a little more confident. With one semester under our belts, we had a better idea of how to tackle the new semester of Constitutional Law, Contracts, and Property. During the first few weeks back, some students traveled to West Virginia for the Student Bar Association’s Annual Ski Trip. Some students competed to join the Moot Court Team or the Transactional Team. Students began applying for summer jobs and interviewing with employers, while the Office of Career Services coached us along the way. After finals, the 1Ls stayed for one more week to participate in the Joint Journal Competition in order to be placed on one of the five legal journals. We worked hard to prepare a work product that would show the selection committee our strengths as legal writers, and our diligence was rewarded with positions on our respective journals.

They say that the fall semester of your 2L year is by far the busiest, and I have certainly found that to be true. The new responsibilities that come with being on a journal take a little getting used to, and many 2Ls extern and take on leadership positions within student organizations. Still, we are continuously learning to balance our commitments and budget our time to stay focused on our studies. I have personally enjoyed being able to choose classes that interest me, and to learn alongside 3Ls, as well as my fellow 2Ls.

It has been exciting for us to find our niche within the school, and to be able to pass on war stories and wisdom to the incoming 1L class. But although we’re halfway there, we’ve got a lot left to learn! After seeing how this first year and a half has prepared me and my classmates for our legal careers, I look forward to seeing what the next three semesters have in store for the Class of 2018!

To learn more about our student bloggers, click here.