Why I Chose W&L Law #10

by Anaeli Sandoval

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, rising 2L, Anaeli Sandoval, takes on the topic.

The entire law school application process was extremely stressful for me. I remember creating a spreadsheet of all the schools in which I was interested, their rankings, employment numbers, location, rate of admission, and tuition. In the very beginning, W&L wasn’t even on my list, since I had never even heard of it. However, that all changed when I was invited to a Preview Day and came to visit.

I come from the New York City area, so small was new to me, and coming from a big city, I had a few reservations about attending such a small school in a small town. During my visit, however, I spoke with a number of current students, and their love for W&L, their professors, and the staff was noticeable. I connected with the students and they made me realize that no matter what Lexington lacks (Starbucks, a “big city feel”, for example), the opportunities, connections and relationships created by the law school’s small size (professor’s open-door policy, the Honor System, the strong alumni network, etc.) are what really matters.

One of the reasons I chose W&L is the small class sizes. I liked the idea of having less than one hundred and forty students in my entire class. Visiting other schools made me realize that elsewhere I would be just a number, but at W&L I would be an individual. As a first-year law student, my largest class size was no more than 80-85 students. Even in these classes, I still got to know my professors and they got to know me. My small-section classes were composed of 20-25 students, which gave each of me an opportunity to really interact with these professors on a more personal level. There were plenty of times I would stop by my professor’s office to discuss papers I had written or how I might maximize my studying. Forty-eight hours before my summer internship application was due, I realized I still needed a letter of recommendation. At 9:00 am I emailed my small section professor requesting the letter and it was on my desk by 2:00 pm that same day.

As I mentioned above, one of the things that really struck me when I visited W&L was the sense of community amongst the current students, faculty, and staff. There wasn’t that competitive feeling that most law students talk about. It was a genuine sense of camaraderie that I thought would make it easier for me to learn and help me to form stronger connections with my classmates. This has absolutely been my experience. W&L is a community of friends and family that support one another’s law school careers. When preparing my personal statement for my summer internship, I had two of my 1L friends review and critique it before submitting it to the employer – something I have done for them as well.

In addition, to take a break from the craziness that can be law school, about ten or more of us get together at someone’s house or apartment and have a potluck dinner once a week. We also get groups together and make trips to the J. Crew Outlet, Washington D.C., Roanoke, and Charlottesville. Having these wonderful people around me has made the transition to law school and Lexington a lot easier. Knowing that my classmates and friends are concerned with school but are also concerned about their classmates as well, makes the learning experience at law school pleasurable and fun, and that is something I’ve never heard many people say about law school before.

I was also drawn to W&L because of the Honor System. I knew law school would be difficult enough without adding the stress of stolen books and laptops. Admittedly, coming from a big city, I was skeptical at first. I questioned whether the Honor System really worked. However, after finishing my first year of law school I can say it absolutely does, and it is amazing. There were times in the past year when I would be working on a specific project and would set up shop at a library table. Because of the Honor System, I felt comfortable leaving my books, materials, and laptop sitting out on the table overnight. I knew they would be there the next morning untouched (and they always were). Because W&L has this system, I know I can trust everyone at the school and they can trust me, and this trust enables me to focus my time and energy on doing my best work.

The strong alumni network was another thing about W&L that I found appealing. When deciding on a law school, I spoke with several W&L alumni who had nothing but wonderful things to say about the school, the education, and the people. It was then I knew that W&L was the right fit for me. It was amazing to me that a small school in a small town in rural Virginia was so well-known with alumni spread out across the nation, in places like D.C., New York, California, and Texas. Our first semester, those 1Ls who were interested were paired with an Alumni Mentor. This person would be an additional resource for us and help us with any questions we might have, from finding a job, to how to break into a specific area of law, to how to survive our first year as a law student. My Alumni Mentor was extremely helpful. He answered all of my questions and provided me with advice on how to handle the stress of law school and even offered to help me network in future job searches. It was so nice to be able to speak with someone who went through what I’m going through and was willing to help in any way possible.

In the end, I chose W&L because of relationships. Specifically, the relationships I saw amongst the current students, the faculty, and the alumni. W&L is a great place, and, because of its size, it is one of the only places where you can build lifelong relationships with both classmates and faculty.

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