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.