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!

 

Summer Associate Program at Kaufman & Canoles, P.C.

BennyBy Benny Zhang, Class of 2020

One of the perennial questions law students confront during their brief tenure in law school is how to make use of our degrees. Does one seek to be a corporate lawyer, or rather a public defender or prosecutor? This is often amplified for first-year law students with the Office of Career Services’ proactive and mandatory career sessions early on in our first semester. While some of us begin law school knowing with upmost certainty our specific career path, most of us strive to explore many options in hopes of finding an answer. Working as a summer associate is just one of these opportunities for students to find their path. This past summer, I worked as a 1L summer associate with Kaufman & Canoles, P.C in its Williamsburg branch.

What is a Summer Associate?

Summer associate programs offer a survey into legal practice at a particular firm. Typically offered to 1Ls and 2Ls, summer associates are paid positions that expose you to a firm’s workplace culture and it’s legal practice. The pay varies among firms, but is similar to market rate for an associate’s salary. More significantly, it is an opportunity for both you the student and the firm to assess a good fit. According to my branch’s managing partner, “[I]t is typical for a firm to take upwards of two or three years to train newly hire associates.” Following this logic, summer associates who are offered a position have already begun their training with the law firm.

The Kaufman & Canoles, P.C. summer associate program typically lasts for eight weeks in one of several branches; though I worked solely in the Williamsburg branch, my classmate worked in both the Norfolk and Newport News offices. I also benefited from two assigned mentors,  Dustin DeVore, a hard-charging former Marine, and Erin Deal Johnson, a perennial workhorse. At Kaufman & Canoles, these mentors are most usually a partner and an associate.

Equally important to the experience is the exposure to the idea of work-life balance; I quickly learned that the KaufCan life is not a typical 9-5 job. On any given Sunday afternoon, a panicked corporate client may send an email and expect an immediate answer. One of my mentors regularly worked until 9:00 PM most weeknights. Virginia state Senator Thomas Norment is still active in his legal practice at Kaufman & Canoles, and I often joined him working on the weekends. Despite the time and energy we devote to our elected duties on the weekdays, the legal work must still be accomplished. [Read more…]