What They Don’t Tell You About 1L

Nick Agyevi-Armah, 1L

Nick Agyevi-Armah, 1L

They don’t tell you how much you’ll learn.

Or maybe they did, but I didn’t think I’d learn what I actually ended up learning. Yes, I learned about how there’s no “duty to rescue,”  in Torts; and how a death that occurs in the course of a felony, regardless of whether it was intended, can result in a Felony Murder charge in Criminal Law; and, yeah, I learned that a corporation can be subject to lawsuits outside the state in which it’s headquartered from Civil Procedure (shivers).

But I learned more about me, too.

I learned that I belong here. At the beginning of the year, I told you all how excited I was to be in this space: I was excited to learn laws that govern our society, excited to understand the legal systems that impact—both positively and negatively—members of our community, and, mostly, I was excited to learn amongst American’s next great leaders.

These learning expectations were daunting, though. How was I to succeed in such an academically challenging environment coming straight from undergrad? Would I burnout? Would I be able to retain as much information as my colleagues did? Would I be able to employ the study tactics necessary for a successful academic career? Would I be able to get involved in all the extracurricular organizations that piqued my interest? I was excited—and nervous—to find answers to these questions, to embark on a journey that would lead me closer to a rewarding legal career.

1L year at William & Mary taught me not only the importance of complete immersion in the law school experience, but the importance of identifying and understanding one’s role in contemporary legal society. The lessons that aid in this pursuit of identification are messy, though: they can consist of long hours in the library, slogging over complex readings; they can include chilling cold calls that make you swear you’re not comprehending the information correctly; and they can include office hour sessions with professors that leave you more confused than before.

But these lessons can be good, too: they consist of those amazing moments when the reading actually clicks; or the warm, glowy moments when you ace a cold call; and those wonderful, wonderful times you can tell you’re in the zone, learning how to think critically and analytically about everything and anything.

And this is how I stand before you today. A messy amalgam of all the amazing and not so great things that happened my 1L year, a mixture of colorful experiences that affirmed my space in this law school and the legal profession. I’m here not because of what others think of me but because what 1L has forced me to recognize about myself. I’m thankful to all my friends, family, and to William and Mary for all the support, love, and guidance I’ve received. 2L year will be hard, but I’m confident that my 1L experience has provided an outstanding foundation for the rest of my academic career.

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!