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. 

1L of a Year: Reflections of a 1L

Nick Agyevi-Armah, 1L

Nick Agyevi-Armah, 1L

MAMA, I MADE IT! I cannot get over the fact that I—Nicholas Steven Agyevi-Armah—got into LAW SCHOOL! I’m really, really here!

Throughout the entire application process, I thought so much about what law school would mean to me, what I would do with a J.D., or whether a legal education would prove too difficult for me to handle. I doubted whether law schools would want someone like me at their institution: a hard worker, but not always fully confident of their work; someone who was highly involved but perhaps to the detriment of mental wellness; someone who aspired for greatness without a fully developed path. Initially, I thought I would have to hide all the “bad”, unique things about myself and create an image of pure excellence, the “perfect” law student (which doesn’t exist, by the way). But I soon realized my authenticity would serve as a bold, hand-raising gesture to law school admission offices – I was not to be overlooked.

Before applying to law school, I received my Bachelor of Arts in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland in College Park. After three years of tough classes, demanding involvements, and amazing experiences, I decided to pursue my lifelong dream (6-year old Nick was so proud!) and apply to law school my senior year. I had excellent pre-law advisors who did a FANTASTIC job guiding me through the law school application process. I stumbled here and there (scrapped my diversity statement, drastically altered my personal statement, took the LSAT twice), but by January of my senior year, I had applied to 14 schools and received four acceptances!

William & Mary was one of the first law schools to accept my application. Attracted by the warm, welcoming, collegial, and collaborative community that places students as the central focus, I decided to keep William & Mary at the top of my list as I awaited other responses. As I received further admission decisions, I weighed options such as location, faculty, mental wellness resources, and price (the real kicker!). On February 8, 2018, I signed my statement of intent at William & Mary Law School, indicating I would join the Class of 2021!

During my first day of Law Week, the nerves were FLYING: Will I make friends? How will I find my way around campus? Am I prepared to tackle the academic workload? William & Mary did a great job ensuring we were prepared to jump into classes, but they also introduced us to all the resources necessary to be successful: career advising, library services, wellness strategies, PLENTY of academic resources, and student organizations.

I’ve always viewed spaces of higher education as hubs of growth and experience. I wanted to explore my interests, challenge my beliefs, and learn more about the world, people, and myself. So, I took the things I was passionate about and translated them into involvements at William & Mary: I was selected by my class to represent all 1Ls through the Student Bar Association; I aid in mental wellness efforts by serving as the secretary for Lawyers Helping Lawyers; I play an active role in my living community, serving as Vice President of the Community Council at the GradPlex; I hone my leadership skills in the William & Mary Law School Leadership Institute; I reaffirm salient aspects of my identity in my membership of William & Mary’s chapter of the Black Law Students Association and Equality Alliance; and I serve the overarching William & Mary and Williamsburg communities representing graduate students on the Commencement Policy Committee and as a member of the Williamsburg Baptist Church!

A LOT, I know! And I know that it will get more difficult as I continue through the remainder of law school. But again, there is no “perfect” law student. I personally believe that stepping outside of my comfort zone and putting myself in spaces that challenge me and inspire growth will make me a better lawyer. Getting involved has introduced me to amazing people that I may not have met otherwise, and has led me through experiences that have already proved themselves to be transformative.

All these involvements have allowed me to feel extremely ingrained in the William & Mary community, and it’s made tackling the difficulty of classes much easier. This semester, I’m enrolled in Criminal Law, Torts, Civil Procedure, Legal Research and Writing, and Lawyering Skills. I won’t lie – so far it’s been challenging. But I feel so much better knowing that I have people within this community who are going through the same thing and who are all about supporting one another. I’m finding the importance of being vulnerable, being honest, and being patient—both with the process and myself.

I can’t imagine getting my law degree anywhere other than William & Mary. I know that 1L year will be really hard. Doing well in my classes, balancing all my involvements, and striving to meet personal, academic, and career goals will truly be demanding, possibly even scary at times. But I know that I have the support of my friends, classmates, professors, and staff to push me as I get through this first year. I’m ready, excited, and I know I’m able. 1L year: Nick’s coming for ya!