Reflections of a Recent Graduate: Special Edition

As a special edition of Get Wythe It, we asked recent graduate and former blogger Liesel Zimmerman to provide her reflections on her time in Williamsburg and as a student at William & Mary Law School. 

IMG_3357As September comes into full swing, the new semester is now well underway. Students are reuniting with friends, sorting out their schedules, and adjusting to the unique cold-calling styles of their professors. For me, it feels strange not to be settling into the familiar rhythm of Williamsburg. As a member of the most recent graduating class, this marks the first fall in three years that I’m not walking the halls of the nation’s oldest law school. The feeling is bittersweet, and has made me reflect on the ways I was impacted by my time at William & Mary.

I was drawn to William & Mary by its rich history and its sense of community. That collegial atmosphere proved to be one of my favorite aspects of my law school experience. I instantly bonded with the members of my Legal Practice Section, and made lifelong friends. From the beginning of 1L, I encountered 2Ls and 3Ls who were willing to mentor me and invest in me as I began my legal education.

My professors genuinely cared about me as a person, and wanted to see me succeed. My brilliant classmates constantly challenged me, and I count myself fortunate to have learned alongside so many gifted thinkers who are truly passionate about the law.

easter1Much of my feeling of community came from the extracurricular activities I took part in. The Christian Legal Society was a foundational part of my law school experience. It helped me stay grounded in my faith and establish enduring friendships. Through the Moot Court Team, I found my voice as an advocate. Simultaneously, it was both terrifying and rewarding to be behind the podium arguing my case to persuade the panel of judges. While writing my note for the Journal of Women and the Law, (now the Journal of Race, Gender and Social Justice), I had the opportunity to extensively research human trafficking laws in New York State. The knowledge I acquired will be indispensable as I work toward my ultimate career goal of prosecuting human trafficking cases.

SaraSapia_ThanksgivingBasketsMy time in law school proved to be tremendously challenging. Yet there are too many fond memories for me to count despite the challenge. I will forever treasure my section’s Thanksgiving Baskets display, where we incorporated all of our professors into our Star Wars-themed sculpture, “May the Torts Be Wythe You.” I’ll never forget the unparalleled experience of watching oral arguments at the Supreme Court, and meeting Justice Sotomayor with Professor Devins’ Supreme Court Seminar. I think of Dean Douglas’ and Professor Heymann’s epic Lip Sync Battle every time I hear “Shake it Off” on the radio. And I will always remember exploring Colonial Williamsburg with my roommates, and relishing the joys of living in Colonial America.

Now, for some unsolicited advice (although not legal advice – the bar results haven’t come out yet). To the 1Ls: give yourselves time to adjust to this new venture you’re setting out on. It will take a while to learn how to “do law school,” but soon you will look back on these early days and see just how far you’ve come. 2Ls, this year will present new challenges, but you will accomplish more than you ever thought possible. Know that your Tribe is rooting for you. 3Ls, enjoy this year as you take the final steps toward becoming Citizen Lawyers. The time will fly by, so be sure to make lasting memories every chance you get. And to prospective students, I hope you’ll enjoy your law school experience as much as I have. There is nowhere I would have rather spent the last three years than at William & Mary.

Five Things I Wish I Knew About Law School: A 3L’s Reflections

alsawafby Sami Alsawaf, Class of 2017

As a 3L getting ready to graduate on May 14th (not that I’m counting the days or anything…), I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking back on my decision to attend William & Mary and what life was like before law school. Having spent three years here at W&M, I like to think I know a thing or two about law school and law students. So, I present to you the five things I wish I knew about law school before I started:

1. Positively, 100%, most certainly, everyone else is confused.

I remember back in my Torts class fall of 1L year, and I thought everyone else seemed to understand the material, and I didn’t. My classmates had the most eloquent answers to questions, and every time I opened my mouth to talk, I fumbled around to even form a sentence. Certainly, I was doomed to fail law school because I didn’t understand the most basic law school class that literally every law student in the country takes first semester.

Not the case! Once I mentioned to a friend in the class that I had no idea what the professor was talking about, I realized my friend felt the same way. Then I found another person, and another, and eventually realized that pretty much everyone was as confused as me. Ironically enough, I felt more confident in myself. I realized I wasn’t falling behind or not smart enough; law school is just hard!

2. Pick one club, and stay committed.

The first three weeks of law school are jam packed with interest meetings for different clubs and organizations. Go to as many as you can, because 1) free food, and 2) you might actually find something you are really passionate about! I was interested in all the events I went to, but it wasn’t until I went to the meeting for the Women’s Law Society that I felt like I finally found an organization in which I wanted to be actively involved. I applied to be on the Executive Board and started off as Social Media and Advertising Chair. My 2L year, I was Vice President, and this year, I am President of the group. I really think that picking one group and staying actively involved has been better than being part of three or four groups, but not being able to stay as involved as you’d like in each one.

3. You have an hour to go to the gym today, even if you don’t think so.

Before law school, I went to the gym pretty much every day. The weeks before starting school, I was worried if I would have the time to go to the gym and keep up with all my work for school. There were some days where I thought “there’s no way I have time to work out.” Even if I felt like I didn’t have time, I would try to go even if it was just for half and hour. It’s important to have some time to yourself that’s away from law school. Going to the gym is a great mental break and a vital part of staying healthy in law school. I promise, you’ll get all your work done eventually, so take that gym break because you probably need it more than you think.

4. Employers are people.

Over the past three years, I’ve had many interviews and work experiences that have provided me with the opportunity to meet practicing attorneys and judges. It’s always a little stressful, but something I’ve learned is that they are normal people too. In fact, they used to be just like me! They were once 1Ls slogging through a civil procedure reading, then they were going on summer associate interviews, and then they took the bar. They are normal people who happen to be lawyers. When meeting prospective employers or making networking contacts, try to not be too nervous. Chances are you’re binge watching the same Netflix show as them.

5. It’ll be over before you know it.

I honestly can’t believe that I’m getting ready to graduate in a few weeks. It feels like I just started the other day, and it’s been quite a ride. I think back over the classes I’ve taken, the exams I sat through, and the friends I made. As much as I’m ready to graduate, I’m going to miss my friends and the experiences I’ve had. The days seem long, but it goes by quickly. It’s your last chance to be a student, so don’t be afraid to try something new or take a fun class. You’ll learn a lot in law school, but you’ll have fun too. Don’t stress too much because, believe me, it’ll be over in the blink of an eye.

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