Why I Chose W&L Law #2

by Ellis Pretlow

As previously noted, over the next few weeks, we will feature a number of blog posts by current students in which they discuss why they chose W&L Law. Today, second-year student, Ellis Pretlow, takes on the topic.

Choosing a law school was certainly not easy, but, for me, W&L stood out because of the academic experience all of the students receive here. I say “experience” because it really isn’t just about going to class and taking exams; it is about an academic community within the law school.  It is about a connection you feel with not only your classmates but also your professors. It is about being a part of a group of people who genuinely care about and support one another.

Although a lot of schools may claim to have open door policies, here it is a reality. I am able to walk into any of my professor’s offices or ask them a quick question in the hallway between classes. I am always running up to Dean Danforth’s Office to ask him a question about my Student Note for the Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice or asking a professor about a class I am interested in taking next year. This experience was a huge part of what I was looking for in a law school because having a strong academic support system within the law school was of the utmost importance to me.  I have found this academic community at W&L, and it has really helped me with any number of things, from getting through a really tough class to planning for my legal career.

Small class size was also important to me when comparing law schools.  Although the 1L class I sat in on when I visited was about 60 people, I was assured that in the 2L and 3L year, many of my classes would be much smaller. This has definitely been the case, and I appreciate being in a class with four or five other individuals and a professor who cares passionately about a specific area of law. My Partnership Tax class is taught by a tax lawyer from Richmond who drives up every Wednesday to teach the five of us all about the tax consequences of various business formations.

The interactions I would have with other students also mattered. Because of the nature of law school and the personalities it attracts, I realized that there wasn’t going to be any school that didn’t have some competition, but some schools definitely offer better working environments than others. I wanted to go to a law school where students worked competitively but also, more importantly, cooperatively. All I ever heard from students at W&L was how great all the people are here, and I can attest to it myself now. It really is unbelievable how much surrounding yourself with other hard-working and friendly people can help you through law school. I can’t imagine going to a law school where I felt like I couldn’t lean over to my carrel neighbor and ask to borrow a book or ask an older student what classes to take. These may seem like small things, but when looking for a law school, these kind of interactions made W&L stand out as a great place to learn and grow.

The decision to come to W&L was reaffirmed when I came to visit. The friendly interactions between students and the mentoring relationships they’d formed with professors were immediately obvious. The combination of academic rigor and cooperative learning available here made my decision very easy. Although getting to the decision was difficult, I am confident that choosing W&L was the right decision and one that has opened me up to many possibilities both at school and in my career.

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