We asked eight of our current first-year students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Samantha Brewster-Owens, a graduate of Tufts University from Boca Raton, Florida, takes on the question.
I chose Washington and Lee Law because of the sense of community I felt the first time I stepped onto the campus.
When I started the application process, I had no idea where I wanted to be so I applied to a smattering of schools up and down the East coast and a few in California. The only thing I did know was that, after attending Tufts University and growing up in South Florida, I wanted to be in a relatively large city.
As anyone who has taken or is planning on taking the LSAT knows, the amount of information you receive from law schools is pretty daunting. But among the piles of glossy brochures, one simple, yet notable, package stood out to me. After flipping through the pages I thought, “ This would be good if it weren’t in such a tiny town.”
As I began to do research on the schools that had contacted me, I quickly learned that Washington and Lee was a top tier school. I also began to think differently about its location. What I once thought of as a negative actually started become a positive. Yes, Lexington, Virginia is small and quaint, but, when I thought about it, I began to realize that a small town with fewer distractions would actually be the ideal place for me during law school. Being in a large city has its advantages—more people, bustling nightlife, and a variety of places to explore—but law school requires a lot of work, and I felt the advantages of life in a big city would quickly become distractions. I needed to be in a place where I could concentrate on studying yet still have a life. After one visit to Washington and Lee, I knew that this law school fit that bill.
Out of all the schools I visited, Washington and Lee was the only one that took the competitiveness so often associated with law school off the table. Most schools I visited seemed more interested in relaying all types of data that I could just have easily read in a book somewhere. However, Washington and Lee made a point of providing prospective students with a real sense of life at the law school. During my Open House, we did not just sit in on a first year class; we participated in a mock class with Professor Murchison who led us through an actual case. Over the course of the weekend, I talked to a number of current students, and I was impressed by their willingness to discuss their experiences at the law school and the honesty with which they answered my questions.
However, what really sold me was the amount of personal attention W&L shows everyone. During the Open House, I had a brief chat with Dean Evans, and a few days after returning to Boston I received a hand written note from her commenting on our conversation. I can’t think of many law schools where that would happen, but this is just one example of the genuine care Washington and Lee offers. Another great example are the carrels in the library. At W&L, every student has his/her own personal carrel in the library. None of the other schools I visited made similar arrangements to ensure each student had his/her own study space, but the carrels are a tremendous luxury and they say a lot about the priority students are at this law school. It is a great comfort to know that I have a place, with my name on it, where I can study any hour of the day, any day of the week.
As my time here passes, I am confident that I made the right decision in coming to Lexington. Though the town is small, the school always has something for its students to do. Every Friday in the fall, there is LSFL (the Law School Football League) and grabbing a free beer while playing school-wide touch football is a great way to unwind after a stressful week. The annual Pig Roast, the Women’s Law Students Organization’s Fall Cocktail Party, and the Epicurean Society-sponsored Oktoberfest celebration are a few other examples of the many weekly social activities that take place at the law school.
In addition, the upper classmen are an open book here. Everyone is more than friendly and within the first week I had multiple outlines in my inbox from other students. But best of all, the spirit of the school, embedded in its Honor System, greatly reduces the stress of law school. I can honestly say that I have no issues leaving my textbooks anywhere. There are no horror stories about pages being ripped out of books. I can leave my computer anywhere in the school and be confident that it will be untouched when I return. If I have forgotten my wallet, don’t have cash on me, or just need a snack during midnight studying, I can put it on my tab at the Brief Stop pay for it at the end of the week.
In addition, I am a member of the university’s Student Judicial Council, and my experience with this organization has only
strengthened my faith in this community. At W&L, we are governed by our peers. The Executive Committee enforces our Honor System, hearing cases involving allegations of lying, cheating, and stealing. On the Student Judicial Council, we
investigate and hear complaints of alleged student misconduct. It is our job to see that students take individual responsibility for their actions. Both of these organizations are emblematic of the amount of respect the University affords students. However, they are also reflective of the confidence we have in each other. The people who choose to attend Washington and Lee do so because they know this is a community founded upon mutual respect, and, as a result, they have faith in their peers to handle such matters.
In law school, you are going to work hard and be challenged at any law school. But here at W&L you don’t worry about having to compete with the person sitting next to you. Here learning, rather than competition, is emphasized. At first, all of this didn’t sound like much to me, but now that I am here, I realize how lucky I am to be a Washington and Lee law student.