Life in Williamsburg

R GallagherBy: Ryan Gallagher, Class of 2019

Prospective students, friends, and family members often ask me what life is like in Williamsburg. They seem to have the impression that Williamsburg is a historically preserved tourist town, a sleepy retirement spot, or a pitstop between Virginia Beach and Richmond.  Although some aspects of these impressions may be true—Colonial Williamsburg and the Cheese Shoppe are exponentially harder to navigate in the summer than in the winter—Williamsburg has a great deal to offer law students.

Simply put, I think Williamsburg is the perfect place to attend graduate school. As a Law School alumnus recently put it, “Williamsburg has enough going on to keep you from getting bored, but not too much to distract you from what you’re there for.”  Williamsburg offers plenty of places to eat, things to do, and beautiful scenery—everything that a three-year transplant could want.

Williamsburg is neither a small town nor a big city, which I think is an asset. It takes me ten to fifteen minutes to get to the Law School from the opposite side of town.  I am originally from a small town in Kentucky.  If you wanted to do something—go out to eat, see a movie, go to school for the day, and so on—you had to drive at least thirty or forty minutes to do so.  After high school, I moved to the biggest city in the state for college.  Traffic in Louisville could make what should be a ten-minute drive to Target a rage-inducing, hour-long standstill.  Williamsburg does not have this problem.

As I mentioned above, Williamsburg has plenty of things to do. Students are able to take advantage of Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, the undergrad campus, and Colonial Williamsburg (which is only a short walk from the Law School).  Law Students get free admission to William & Mary’s home basketball and football games.  Additionally, law students typically use the gym, trails, and participate in intramural sports on the undergrad campus.

Williamsburg is also perfectly situated geographically. It takes forty to fifty minutes to get to Richmond or Virginia Beach, two hours to Charlottesville, and three hours to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  Furthermore, if you are interested in history, Jamestown (the first permanent English settlement in America) and Yorktown (the site of General Conwallis’s surrender to General George Washington to end the Revolutionary War) are both only twenty minutes away.  Williamsburg’s perfect position along Virginia’s coast provides W&M Law students the opportunity to take a variety of day or weekend trips.

I hope you will consider giving Williamsburg a close look. It is not merely a tourist trap or a pass-through between Richmond and Virginia Beach.  Williamsburg’s movie theaters, food, amusement parks, history, College, and location make it a perfect place to go to law school.

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!