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.

1L Summer Work- DOJ in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Homicide Division

maherby Alex Maher, Class of 2019

Alex Maher is a current 2L from New Jersey. She is a member of the Moot Court Team, Environmental Law and Policy Review, a Themis representative, and Events Chair of the Women’s Law Society.

During my 1L summer I worked at the Department of Justice in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Homicide Division. I could not have imagined a better place to gain real insight into the legal field among true professionals. The attorneys in the homicide division are warriors, and they were so eager and willing to let me learn from them.

By week three I had already been handed research assignments, given a motion to draft on my own, allowed to sit in on witness interviews, asked to organize evidence for trial, observed three murder trials in part, and spent hours weeding through jail calls, testimony, and police interviews. In the weeks, following I attended two murder trials from start to finish, accompanied homicide detectives on a ride-along, visited the Baltimore Medical Examiner’s office, and visited a crime scene. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office had a variety of programs for their summer interns that made the summer a lot of fun. We toured the Capital and the Library of Congress, had lunch with the U.S. Attorney, and attended a Q&A with the Attorney General.

I cannot recommend the Homicide Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office enough to anyone who, like myself, is interested in litigation and really sees themselves practicing in a courtroom. These attorneys are in court just about every week, constantly preparing for a hearing, motion, or trial. There was never a dull moment. And while working in homicide was a sobering experience at times, there was real fulfillment in knowing I was helping the victim’s loved ones find justice.