We asked eight of our current first-year students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Meghan Flinn, a graduate of West Virginia University from Oakland, Maryland, takes on the question.
Deciding which law school I would attend for the next three years of my life was a scary, difficult, an doverwhelming process. But once I made my decision to attend W&L, I was relieved, gratified, and excited. Those positive emotions have continued to stay with me throughout my experience at W&L.
Many people talk about how they arrived at their decision to attend W&L, but the initial decision to actually visit the school is sometimes overlooked. Visiting a school was an important step in making my final choice. Being on campus and surrounded by the students really gives a sense as to what it will be like to attend that school. However, I did not visit all of the schools that I was admitted to – why did I choose to visit W&L?
I am in my second month here, and I have yet to meet a cutthroat or callous classmate. And this is not because my classmates do not care about being good students; it is because they care more about being good people.
The answer to that question requires some insight into my background. I grew up in a small town (possibly smaller than Lexington), and I went to undergraduate school at a big school that is also situated in a relatively small town. After 21 years of living the small-town life, I thought I needed a change, and I wanted to attend law school in a big city. Consequently, all of the law schools I planned on visiting were located in a large city. However, after discussion with my family and mentors, I realized the importance of incorporating a smaller school into my list of possibilities. I needed to consider both environments to figure out what was right for me. W&L, a small school with a big reputation, was the perfect addition to my visitation schedule.
During my visit, I did a lot of things, but it was my tour that perhaps made the biggest impression on me. The students who led my group were genuinely happy and excited about their experiences at W&L, and their positivity and helpfulness factored largely in my final decision. My tour guides understood that being situated in a small, Southern town tended to make prospective students unsure about W&L, so they discussed the valuable aspects of the school’s size and location.
First, a small law school means small class sizes. I think the small classes have made my transition into law school much easier; in a class of about 60 people, I am more confident speaking in class, meeting with my professors, and handling the Socratic Method than I would have been in a class of 160 people. Also, having a small section writing class of about 20 students gives me one-on-one attention from my professor that I feel is necessary in becoming a good legal writer.
Second, going to law school in a small town means less stress! I can drive to class each day without worrying about sitting in traffic for hours. If I forget a book or an assignment at home, I can make a quick trip to my apartment and arrive back to the law school in 15 minutes. I can easily get to class by car in Lexington, whereas in a larger city, I would have a long commute and would have to lug fifty pounds of books for several blocks just to get to class in the morning. Also, because of its small size, Lexington is safe. I am not scared or worried for my safety when leaving the library late at night, and life in a big city cannot offer the same sense of security.
Apart from the positive elements of a small school and town, my tour guides discussed the Honor System at W&L that enables students to leave their belongings anywhere on campus without fear of them being stolen or damaged. I rely on the Honor System every day, leaving my laptop, books, and phone at my carrel while I am in class or at the gym. Under the Honor System, I can even grab a bag of chips from the Brief Stop (the café on campus) and pay for it later!
My tour guides also emphasized the loyal W&L alumni network, and I have personally experienced the dedication of W&L alumni. When I was having trouble making my final decision, I talked with two alumni, one who works in D.C., which is where I plan on going upon graduation. My conversations with the alumni attributed to my final decision; they were nothing but helpful, telling me about how W&L successfully prepared them for life as a practicing attorney. W&L also provides an alumni mentoring program, which assigns each interested student to an alumnus who works in an area of law or in a specific location that interests the student. I plan on taking full advantage of this unique program because having such connections will aid me in my summer job search.
The benefits of a small school, the Honor System, and the strong alumni network were large factors in W&L’s favor over other schools. But, the friendly relationships among the students and the law school community finalized my decision. Instead of burdening me with worries about the academic pressures that accompany law school, my tour guides talked about the fun events that are hosted throughout the year, emphasizing the camaraderie that W&L students have with one another. I knew their statements were honest when I saw them wave and smile at each person who passed by our tour group. When visiting W&L, the intense competition among students that I sensed at other schools was absent. I am in my second month here, and I have yet to meet a cutthroat or callous classmate. And this is not because my classmates do not care about being good students; it is because they care more about being good people.
I chose W&L because the professors, staff, and other students were welcoming and truly interested in my thoughts and concerns. Needless to say, I am glad that I decided to include W&L in my initial list of schools to visit. As you continue on in your decision-making process, be sure to keep your options open. My experience proves that what you originally valued in a law school can completely change.