by Roddy Flynn
With graduation less than a month away, we asked several of our third-year students to reflect upon their time at W&L Law. Today, Roddy Flynn, takes on the topic.
When I started at W&L Law three years ago I was expecting a close community, accessible Professors, and an academically demanding environment. And on these three points, W&L has delivered in spades. But looking back on my three years, what surprises me is the variety of the experiences I have had—both academic and social—while in Lexington. The flexibility, the resources to pursue my own interests, and the wide range of options available to me are more in keeping with a huge, 1,000-student law school in New York City than that of a small school in Lexington, Virginia.What I expected was that there would be a trade off. You get a small community environment in exchange for other constraints of a small law school—limited course offerings, limited resources, and a “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality. But these expectations couldn’t have been proven more wrong. What I found is that when a faculty and an administration have the luxury of getting to know each student as an individual, as they do at W&L, they care about tailoring to the student’s unique goals and interests. And this opens up a world of possibilities that can make the W&L academic experience personalized for each student’s interests.
I was always interested in advocating for the rights of LGBT people, and I thought going to a school in southwest Virginia meant I’d have to put that interest on the backburner. Not so at all. The faculty and administration worked with me to ensure I had the resources and faculty encouragement to explore my interest. The school helped me connect with a mentor who worked on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I had several faculty members take time out of their schedules to advise me on my research into the treatment of transgendered persons in prison. The school went so far as to fly several LGBT students out to the Lavender Law Conference in Los Angeles to attend panels on LGBT issues and network with LGBT professionals.
And even my expectation that the course offerings would be limited proved unfounded. At a school with 400 students, you wouldn’t think W&L would have resources to offer a full slate of international law courses (from human rights to international trade), courses in Bioethics and Health Care Quality Regulations, and several courses on National Security and Cyber Law. There are a few different reasons for these broad and diverse offerings. Classes at W&L are usually small, so there don’t have to be a lot of students interested in a particular topic for a course to be offered. In addition, W&L has the academic reputation and professional network to attract top-notch professors with wide-ranging research interests. These faculty members are drawn to W&L’s reputation and the quality of the student body, and the array of courses they offer really allows students to pursue a variety of interests during their second and third years.
Going to a small school means you have a very supportive community. But going to W&L means you don’t have to give up big school resources in exchange for a small, supportive community. W&L’s administration is nimble enough to help you tailor your law school experience to your own goals and dreams. The school may be steeped in tradition, but the faculty and staff are ready and willing to help you forge new ground and develop new programs to make your academic experience rewarding for you. I can’t think of a better place to grow as a lawyer and as a person.