W&M Law Makes Its Podcast Debut with “Office Hours”

A KaiserBy Alyssa Kaiser, Class of 2019

For podcast lovers at the Law School, things just got exciting. Michaela Lieberman (3L) and Professor Jeffrey Bellin will now co-host “Office Hours.”  Each episode will present a conversation with a member of the faculty or other notable expert to explore an interesting topic.

Professor Eric Chason discussed Bitcoin on Episode 1, which is definitely something I see on the news all the time but do not understand “what the deal is.” I still am not sure I understand, but I now know Bitcoin is not similar to a token in Mario Cart, so, progress was made. Let’s just say I am on board with Michaela’s sentiment that she only understood about 40% of the conversation. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the witty exchanges and am looking forward to future legal topics.

I am excited the school started a podcast because it gives students the chance to update themselves on what is going on in the world and to learn from their favorite professors. The tone is very casual and sounds like a natural conversation (which can be a nice change for students used to getting cold called). The podcast feels like an extension of lunch hour meetings, but the flexibility of the podcast allows students to work it into our schedules at our own convenience. I can’t wait for future episodes!

Podcast Logo“Office Hours” is available on SoundCloud and iTunes. In addition to Professor Chason and other law school faculty, guests have included Bill Bray J.D. ’17, who pitched for the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds, William & Mary President Taylor Reveley, and Susan Herman, President of the American Civil Liberties Union. The last episode of the semester airs April 17 with guest Dean Davison M. Douglas (topic: A Dean’s Life).

Valentine Reflections from Christi and Bryan

Christi Cassel (’08) and Bryan Skeen (’08) live in Atlanta with their two-year-old. They were voted “Cutest Couple” by their brilliant law school class. They celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary this year.

BRYAN: Christi was the last law student in our class that I saw.

CHRISTI: And Bryan was one of the first that I saw.

1LsoftballBRYAN: She was, as she so often is, fashionably late to orientation week.

CHRISTI: [rolling eyes] I missed the morning of the first day. Because I was on an airplane, flying in from the South Pacific. I had a good excuse.

BRYAN: That morning, Dean Reveley had mentioned that there was one unnamed student who would be late for orientation. He didn’t say why. Christi was already intriguing and a mystery.

CHRISTI: I went immediately from the airport, disheveled and jet-lagged, to the law school. In the lobby, my roommate introduced me to Bryan.engagement

BRYAN: Despite being disheveled and jet-lagged, she was striking and witty. The intrigue continued. I asked her out.

CHRISTI: And he was sarcastic and had piercing blue eyes. How could I say no? Our first date was to the Fat Canary, the nicest restaurant in Williamsburg. Bryan was clearly trying to impress me.

BRYAN: It must have worked. Two years later, I proposed to her after we’d had another dinner at the Fat Canary.

CHRISTI: In between those two dinners, we didn’t share any law school classes, but we were on the 1L softball team, were Moot Court partners, were on an undefeated fundraising flip-cup team, and shared countless adventures.

BRYAN: There were also lots of other dinners at the Fat Canary. I highly recommend it.

CHRISTI: We got married at The Homestead a few months after graduating, surrounded by lots of William & Mary friends. That was ten years ago.

familyBRYAN: So that’s the secret to happiness: Show up late, go after the disheveled, witty girl, and have lots of expensive meals along the way.

CHRISTI: And go to William & Mary Law School.

Working in the Public Sector

H LittlefieldBy Hannah Littlefield, Class of 2019

I had the privilege to work at the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia this past summer. Interning for the Legal Aid Society was a very enriching experience. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn from the hard-working and dedicated staff attorneys, but I also had the honor of helping low-income Virginians with a variety of free legal services. On my first day, the managing attorney inquired about my areas of interests and within an hour, I was working on a case dealing with a child custody dispute between a same-sex couple. On my second day, I was already meeting with a client and learning so much about the legal process.

From day one at Legal Aid, I was doing a variety of legal tasks, and I loved every minute. One of the most rewarding experiences was having the opportunity to see my work, and the work of the staff attorneys, help people in need. Cases are continuously being assigned to the staff attorneys, and sometimes within a week or two, an attorney is already in court representing the client. After helping one of the staff attorney’s put together a client’s trial binder, I was able to observe the client’s court proceedings in Family Court. During the span of one day, I observed the testimony of both sides, attended the private conference between the attorneys, joined the Guardian Ad Litem’s meeting with the children, and witnessed the judge enter a temporary restraining order. It was truly rewarding to see how Legal Aid was able to help a mother fight for the custody of her children and obtain a protective order against her abuser.

I also had the opportunity to research a wide range of legal issues for the staff attorneys, including child custody disputes between biological and non-biological parents, consumer rights, and housing authority disputes. I assisted the Equal Justice Works Fellow with automobile fraud and consumer protection advocacy by analyzing how Virginia courts have defined deceptive acts and practices, and by outlining the possible avenues for filing a claim under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. I frequently interacted with clients, prepared advanced medical directives, simple wills, and divorce complaints; drafted memoranda; prepared trial binders; and presented my research findings to the staff attorneys. I also participated in a domestic violence meeting where staff attorneys from every office brainstormed strategies to help more victims of domestic violence obtain and keep protective orders.

One of the greatest aspects about interning with Legal Aid was learning something new every day, working with the staff attorneys on an array of issues, and helping people in need. The staff at Legal Aid never ceased to amaze me, and the work they do in the community is truly inspiring. This experience solidified my commitment to work with individuals and communities living in poverty. I always knew I wanted to work in the public sector, and after interning with Legal Aid, I cannot imagine working in any other field. I cannot thank Legal Aid enough for providing me with invaluable, hands-on experience.

Supreme Court Seminar: Our Day at the High Court

L ZimmermanBy: Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

In Professor Neal Devins’ Supreme Court Seminar, third-year students get an up-close and personal look at the Court and the accomplished attorneys who argue before it. I count myself fortunate to be among the 3Ls who have had the opportunity to take this unique course. After a semester of hearing from incredible guest speakers at the law school, we made our way to Washington, D.C. for the capstone experience of the Seminar: a visit to the Supreme Court.

We spent the first day of our two-day trip at The William & Mary Washington Center, where we had the privilege of hearing from four prominent legal professionals. Our first speaker was Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Judge Kavanaugh, who is featured on President Trump’s short list of potential Supreme Court nominees, explained how he views his role as judge as being that of an umpire. He must be completely impartial and use his best judgment to determine a case’s outcome. Judge Kavanaugh also gave the class tips on brief writing, and encouraged us to cleanly organize our writing and use themes to tie our arguments together.

We were next joined by Beth Brinkmann, who was a familiar face for our class. In September, Ms. Brinkmann participated in the 2017 Supreme Court Preview, which is hosted annually by the William & Mary Institute of Bill of Rights Law. She served as Counsel for the Respondent in a moot court of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Ms. Brinkmann shared insight about her time arguing before the Supreme Court as an Assistant Solicitor General, and now as a partner at Covington & Burling. She also gave a thoughtful commentary on the rise of women in the legal profession.

Miguel Estrada kicked off the afternoon session with a candid look at his tenure before the Court. He shared about his experience clerking for Justice Kennedy and the way it influenced his style of presenting oral arguments. He also explained his preparation strategy: he carefully crafts his arguments to appeal to each Justice on an individual level.

Paul M. Smith, of the Campaign Legal Center, rounded out our procession of distinguished speakers. He answered questions about his win in Lawrence v. Texas – the case that made him a well-known defender of civil rights for the LGBT community. He also spoke on his involvement in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, the “violent video game case” where he successfully advocated for the first amendment rights of video game producers. Mr. Smith also touched on his involvement in several high-profile redistricting cases. Needless to say, our discussion with Mr. Smith was fascinating!

When our class gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court the following morning, our excitement was palpable – we were like giddy children on Christmas morning. We made our way into the Courtroom and eagerly waited for the Justices to make their grand entrance. After having studied them for so long, it was incredible to see the Justices in person and to watch them in action. That day, the Court heard argument for Patchak v. Zinke, a statutory interpretation case implicating the separation of powers. Predictably, Justice Thomas was the only one who did not ask a question. Justice Kagan was admirably relentless, requiring the advocates to answer tough questions without giving them an easy way out. Justice Ginsburg was her enigmatic self – poised at the edge of her seat to raise concerns to the advocates. And Justice Gorsuch added to the conversation, continuing to establish his persona on the Court. The hour of argument passed quickly, and following Petitioner’s rebuttal, the Justices swiftly retreated to their chambers.

After oral argument, we were ushered into the Lawyers’ Lounge, where advocates customarily await their turns at the podium. There, we had a conversation with Principal Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Wall. He shared about his experience clerking for Justice Thomas, and his time in private practice. He also detailed the whirlwind of events through which he was named Acting Solicitor General prior to Noel Francisco’s official appointment as SG. Additionally, Mr. Wall provided valuable advice to us as law students, about ways we can succeed as legal professionals.

When Justice Sonia Sotomayor entered the Lawyers’ Lounge, we could hardly contain our excitement. She, too, was all smiles as she addressed the class from the front of the room. She was incredibly personable and encouraged students to introduce themselves when they asked questions. Justice Sotomayor discussed her philosophy on the importance of engaging with the public and being among the citizens whose lives are impacted by the Court’s decisions. She also shared about her personal journey and the obstacles she overcame to ascend to her position on the Supreme Court. Meeting Justice Sotomayor was the perfect finale to an amazing trip to D.C., and one of the major highlights of our class.

When I registered to take the Supreme Court Seminar, I knew it would be a wonderful opportunity – but it has far surpassed my expectations. My understanding of the intricacies of the Court has increased exponentially, and I am grateful to have met some of the most influential players in our legal system. I can say with certainty that the Supreme Court Seminar will be one of the most memorable experiences of my time at William & Mary.

Election VOTELine

A KaiserBy Alyssa Kaiser, Class of 2019

The 2017 Election in Virginia was contested in a number of different races, and the state election gained national spotlight. As it turns out, the gubernatorial election was not all that close, but after the election, the results in some races were so close that there are still contested seats in the House of Delegates, as issues arose specifically surrounding voting administration and polling place errors. It will be interesting to see how the recounts play out and if there is a meaningful remedy.

William & Mary’s Election Law Society set up a VOTEline on November 7th so that voters all over Virginia could call in and ask any questions that presented themselves on Election Day. The voters could ask any questions, but the most expected were in regard to proper polling places and verifying the proper use of photo ID.

The coordinators of the VOTEline were Matthew Catron (1L) and Alannah Shubrick (2L), and they were very organized and helpful to all of the volunteers. I was excited about the election and volunteered to field questions through the VOTEline on Election Day. After some training the day before, mainly using guidance documents, I was excited to assist voters!

When I arrived to work my shift, I was updated on some issues that arose earlier in the day, specifically regarding students and their voter ID, and also voters that appeared on the inactive voter list. In some of these situations, voters were offered to vote provisionally by poll workers. However, a provisional ballot is rarely ever counted, so this was a problematic remedy. Indeed, given the recounts, provisional ballots will be a hotly contested issue.

I was fortunate to speak with a voter that needed his polling place identified and to know the candidates on the ballot in his voting district. Although relatively easy to do with the tools that I was provided, it was helpful to the voter.

The VOTEline was a fun and interesting project to be involved in and was truly helpful to those voters who had questions. It is nice to know that the Law School provides a service to the Virginia community, especially regarding something as important as the right to vote.

http://wavy.com/2017/11/02/william-mary-adding-non-partisan-political-hotline/

A Kick-Start to Law Firm Leadership

K KoballaBy Kasey Koballa, Class of 2018

Unique to the William & Mary Law curriculum, second- and third-year students may enroll in a Law Firm Leadership Seminar taught by LeClairRyan’s co-founder, Gary LeClair. The course allows students to dip their toes into organization and governance in the law firm structure.  Even for students who plan to take a path outside of the private sector, this course provides helpful problem-solving strategies and analyses of the current state of the legal profession.

As opposed to the classical Socratic method, Professor LeClair fosters interactive class discussions focusing on current changes and problems in law firms, and offers students rewards for their class involvement, such as a bottle of olive oil from France relating to the class discussion. The course began by asking students to reflect on their own personal characteristics and values which set the mindset of how a particular student may seek governance in a law firm setting.  I found these concepts very interesting and applicable to my law school experience.  While I am still a student, and cannot yet delve into a law firm organization, the topics Professor LeClair discusses were pivotal to my career search – from finances to inner-firm politics to core values – and will be advantageous to my career.

Typically in a law firm, partners trust the values they choose, and they choose leaders they know will execute those values. These are often over-arching values, but they play a key role in how co-workers interact in a law firm, which I feel will be important to my daily happiness.  These intangible values vary vastly from firm-to-firm, and they structured my job search.  Some leaders value rigorous support while others want to surround themselves with co-workers who challenge their ideas.  Some firms have very candid structures, while in others shareholders and compensation are kept private.  One structure may not be better than another, but Professor LeClair gets students thinking about these clashes which leaders face on a daily basis.

While this class may not help prepare me for the bar exam or structure black letter law, I know these lessons will be more permanent and unwavering. I plan to take Professor LeClair’s lessons and dilemmas, and all the bits and pieces I’ve learned from his pivotal discussions, into the law firm setting next year, while also taking steps now to envelop the mindset of a law firm leader.

Public Service Fund Trivia Night

 

R GallagherBy Ryan Gallagher, Class of 2019

William & Mary Law School’s Public Service Fund holds a Trivia Night every year during the first week of class. At Trivia Night, William & Mary students, faculty, and staff attempt to show why they should have been selected for “Jeopardy!” over beers and pizza.  Trivia Night has been a great way to support PSF and engage in a friendly trivia showdown.

PSF’s Trivia Night is also a great way to get to know your peers, professors, and faculty members. Participants must compete as a team of four to six, but people can register as free agents and end up on a random team.  In fact, I know of classmates that registered as free agents who later became good friends with the three other students on their team.  PSF Trivia Night has been a fantastic, relaxing way to interact with new classmates outside of the law school during a time when everyone is adjusting to the new and crazy environment.

Professors come to Trivia Night—as either a professor-only team, or a mixed bag—and are just as competitive as the students. It is always interesting to see the otherwise stoic and astute professors boo, hiss, and holler over a wrong answer.  In fact, the hilarious Professor Adam Gershowitz has hosted the event the past two years.  Apart from his jokes at our expense, I especially enjoyed going to Trivia Night my first year because it gave me an opportunity to interact with Professor Gershowitz, who was my Criminal Law professor at the time.

Though I have attended and lost twice, PSF’s Trivia Night is always a fun time. The money raised (five dollars per participant) goes to the Public Service Fund, which is a student-run organization that has provided fellowship to students who take unpaid summer internships.  Having fun and giving to a good cause makes me excited for next year’s PSF Trivia Night, even though my team will probably come up short again!

Ringing in the New Year with Law Week

Emily Stanley

by Emily Stanley, Class of 2020

For me, starting law school was a lot like being immersed in a new culture and new language. I personally had almost no knowledge of the law when I came to William & Mary, so everything was new to me. Just a few months ago, I was Googling the definition of “torts,” emailing friends who were already in law school with frantic questions, and worrying about whether I’d be able to remember the difference between the plaintiff and the defendant when discussing cases in class. Now, I’m reading several criminal and tort cases each day and comfortably debating them with classmates. This transition has been hard, but it was made easier by William & Mary’s fabulous first week program for 1Ls, called Law Week.

One of the main reasons I chose to attend William & Mary Law was the collegial and supportive community. However, I didn’t realize the full extent of it until I arrived in Williamsburg. I went to a small, community-oriented college for undergrad, and I was excited to have a similarly close-knit experience in law school. In the weeks before Law Week, incoming students organized a number of social activities via our Class of 2020 Facebook page to get to know each other before classes began. The Saturday before our first day of Law Week, a large group of us got together in downtown Williamsburg. I was so impressed by how friendly everyone was and by how excited my classmates were to meet each other!

By Monday, I already knew a few people in my class and had even made a couple of friends. We were asked to wear business attire on the first day so that we could take professional group photos, and I was initially nervous and uncomfortable in my new suit, which I’d had to purchase for the occasion. When I put on the suit that morning I felt a bit like I was wearing a costume. However, as the day went on, I started to feel more comfortable in the traditional garb of the lawyering profession. Several faculty and student leaders welcomed us to William & Mary and to the legal profession in general, and it began to sink in that this was our first day on our journey to becoming lawyers. From then on (although I thankfully got to change back into more casual clothes), each Law Week session provided me with information that helped me feel more at ease with the transition.

Law Week was a whirlwind of activity. We participated in many academic activities, such as a case briefing workshop and our very first Torts class. We also met several of our professors and Dean Douglas, who gave us terrific Class of 2020 baseball caps.First Day of Law Week The Office of Career Services gave us an introduction to navigating our career paths, and a panel of alumni spoke about their own career trajectories. There were also more social activities, like an ice cream social and a student activities fair.

At night, there were more built-in optional activities to help facilitate socializing and acclimatizing to our new community. Different student organizations, like the Public Service Fund and Honor Council, hosted events around town. One of my favorite of these was a walking tour of Colonial Williamsburg, organized by the George Wythe Society. At the culmination of the tour, Dean Douglas delivered a lecture in the Great Hall of the Wren Building, the oldest standing college building in the United States. Wren Building Bell1He then informed us that we were starting a new tradition of ringing the bell in the Wren Building to ring in our first week of school. Then, at graduation, we would each get to ring the bell for a second time, bookending our law school experience.

After the official Law Week activities were over, some of us ended the week with a trip to Virginia Beach on Saturday, which members of the class organized on the Facebook page, inviting anyone who wished to come. We enjoyed a last day of summer vacation bonding in the sun together. Then, it was home to start studying up for our first week of classes!

I HAD QUESTIONS, I FOUND ANSWERS

A YoungBy Alec Young

Alec Young is a 1L guest blogger

When it came time to apply for law school I applied to a short of list schools, and of course, William & Mary Law School was one of those schools. When I was accepted to William & Mary, I had questions about all aspects of the school, and, fortunately, there were places to go for answers!

In my admission packet, I received employment figures for the Law School’s previous classes, bar passage rates, and a letter from Career Services that identified internship and externship possibilities. Dean Shealy, who personally reviews every application, even included a handwritten note on my admission letter. The admitted student website had additional details not covered by the information in the admission packet. The website explained everything I could possibly need to know about the next steps in my legal journey and contained housing resources, financial aid information, law school tips, and answers to every question an aspiring law student could ask. If by some chance the admissions page did not answer a question, then the professors, law students, and alumni from a network that stretched from coast to coast and around the globe reached out to answer them.

Even so, I still wondered more about the school behind the Admission Office, the emails, and the personal phone calls, so I resolved to visit the place that I would ultimately decide to call home. At William & Mary Law, I discovered a place that lived in its history and celebrated its heritage. I found an academic world that was renowned for integrity, drive, and professionalism and was esteemed by its graduates. Yet, above all, I found a true community in William & Mary Law School that seemed to exist as a historical constant throughout the turbulence of history.