by Lauren Chunn
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, Lauren Chunn, takes on the topic.
Selecting a law school is a challenging decision and it is important to choose a school where you think you will thrive. Graduating from Spelman College, a women’s college in Atlanta, which offered a small community environment, steeped in tradition, with ample opportunities for student interaction with professors made me want the same qualities in a law school, and W&L was the only school I found that offered the kind of experience I was looking for.
I knew W&L was the school for me after visiting. During my visit I had the opportunity to tour the campus and meet with the staff, professors, and current students. I was able to explore the shops downtown. I really enjoyed the quaintness of Lexington. I also appreciated the small size of the school. I did not want to go to a school where I would be lost in a sea of students or be referred to by my student ID number. I knew law school was going to be hard, so I wanted to learn in an environment where professors were available to help and answer questions. In addition to having high caliber credentials, it was clear the professors at W&L were really accessible. And this has absolutely been my experience.
Whenever I email a question to a professor I get a prompt response, and it is even common towards the end of the semester for some professors to take the class out for a family meal. Professor Wilson fed my entire seminar class at Nikos, the Greek restaurant in town. It is great to be able to relate to professors in a casual setting (and, as you will soon learn, in law school, free meals are very exciting).
In addition, being involved has always been important to me, and one of the things I really liked about W&L was that the students were so involved in the life of the law school. As a minority student, my experience in BLSA has been very meaningful to me. From orientation to graduation, BLSA gave me additional support as I transitioned each year. During my first week in Lexington, BLSA held a social event. It was a great way to get to know my classmates and other minority students and it instantly made me feel a part of the community here. I served as 1L Representative of BLSA my first year and then as Vice-President in my 2L year.
Being a member of BLSA gave me opportunities to network with other BLSA members through the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA). W&L sponsored several members of my class to attend the NBLSA convention my first year. From that convention alone, I made lifetime friends and professional acquaintances as well as contacts that led to my summer position as a Washington Bar Judicial Law Intern in Washington, D.C.
BLSA maintains a supplement library that was immensely helpful to me, especially during my first year. Law school casebooks are pretty expensive and buying supplements for every class is not economical. It was great to have those available through a student organization. In addition to the supplement library, BLSA has a mentorship program that pairs first-year students with 2L or 3L students. Having the extra support from upper-level peers made my 1L year much more manageable.
As a 3L, I know I am better prepared for practice because of W&L Law’s third year program. While they are only two weeks long, the skills immersions that begin each semester were particularly eye-opening for me. My focus is public interest law, but through the skills immersions, I had to negotiate a simulated acquisition of a business and argue a simulated wrongful termination case. There was no issue spotter problem for an exam, rather a deal to be made and a case to be won.
The third year program also requires students to participate in a clinical or externship experience. My clinical experience has been with the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse (VC3). In the clinic we help defense attorneys throughout Virginia who are representing capital murder defendants at trial. I do many things for the attorneys we assist, including case research, develop case theories, and interview clients. I visited a prison for the first time this year and met a client on death row for an interview. The client is a defendant who was sentenced to death, had his death sentence overturned, and now VC3 is working on his case as he faces resentencing.
Visiting death row changed some of my assumptions because it was the first time I knowingly met a murderer. In this meeting, I found I felt a sense of sympathy that surprised me. When I began the clinic, I was not necessarily opposed to the death penalty; I just believed that every defendant deserved a fair trial and zealous representation. My work this year has expanded my perspective to be inclined to oppose the death penalty because such an imperfect justice system should not have the authority to end someone’s life.
I am excited to begin my law career and am confident as I prepare to take the California bar exam this July. W&L Law will always be a special place for me. Undoubtedly, a few tears will be shed at graduation when a good chapter of my life closes. If you are admitted I encourage you to visit and spend some time in Lexington. W&L was a great choice for me, and hopefully it will be a great choice for you.