My Time at W&L Law #10

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, Ned Hillenbrand takes on the topic.

Ned Hillenbrand

Ned Hillenbrand

My three years in Lexington have flown by, although I must admit there were many late nights when I thought it would never end. Law school has been a humbling, but enjoyable experience. I leave with lasting memories and friendships. For that, I am grateful.I decided to attend W&L for several reasons, three of which come to mind: location, student to faculty ratio, and the Third-Year Program.

My experience as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College inspired me to apply to law schools in a rural setting. I figured the less distractions and the more personal space, the better. Anticipating that much, if not all, of my time afterwards would be spent in a metropolitan area, I viewed law school as another opportunity to live in a place surrounded by green, not concrete. Lexington seemed to be the ideal place for that.

When I was looking at schools, I placed a high value on smaller classes and the ability to know my professors beyond the classroom. On my visit to W&L, I attended a class of roughly fifteen students taught by Professor David Millon. Despite the increased demands on each student to be well-prepared and active in class, they seemed to enjoy interacting with Professor Millon. This was a much different setting than I had grown to expect from law school, and I thought it was a great fit for me.

I had heard the adage, “First year they scare you to death, second year they work you to death, and third year they bore you to death.”  Without knowing why that was the case exactly, I thought W&L had a viable solution for the boredom experienced by so many third-year law students. I also read several articles about the gap between legal education and the practice of law in which employers expressed their desire to hire better-prepared graduates. The Third-Year Program promised to close that gap by providing students with more practical, hands-on legal experience than they would receive in a traditional classroom setting. It sounded like a good idea, especially in this job market.

This year, I have experienced the Third-Year Program first-hand. Although the program will continue to evolve and improve over time, I have been impressed with the majority of the curriculum and have learned a great deal through my practicum courses and externship.

Thanks to the Third-Year Program, Justice Donald Lemons, a Justice on the Supreme Court of Virginia, taught me the do’s and don’ts of appellate advocacy and arranged for me to watch oral arguments at the Supreme Court of Virginia and the United States Supreme Court. I also worked as an intern at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia in Roanoke and represented the U.S. Government in Magistrate’s Court. In my Civil Litigation Practicum, I participated in an asbestos-exposure lawsuit simulation run by a former litigation attorney, and in my Corporate Governance and Shareholder Derivative Litigation Practicum, I participated in a shareholder-derivative lawsuit simulation run by two current litigation attorneys.

I can assure any prospective or current student that you will not be bored to death during your third year at W&L. My practicum courses and externship kept me very busy throughout the year and provided me opportunities I would not have in a traditional classroom setting. I feel better prepared for the actual rigors of legal practice.

There are many things that I will miss about W&L and Lexington: attending the Rockbridge Wine Festival at the Lime Kiln Theatre, playing in the law school’s touch football league, teaching a first-year legal research course, coaching the W&L Men’s Lacrosse team, playing in the law school’s softball tournament, going to Feb Club parties, taking hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lexington’s cheap housing, Lexington’s low cost of living, fried pickles at the Palm’s, playing golf in the school’s outing, pitchers of beer at Macado’s, and getting together with my friends for a barbecue, all come to mind. I will also miss the faculty. The faculty at W&L has been truly incredible. I cannot thank them enough for their support and guidance over the last three years.

Lastly, I will miss my last days as a student. With no plans to pursue any other degrees, the end of law school is also likely to mark the end of academic pursuits. Except for summer jobs in-between semesters and my two-year stint as a legal assistant between college and law school, being a student is all I know. Although I am sad to see this stage of my life come to an end, I am confident that W&L has given me the skills to achieve success in the legal profession, and I look forward to taking the next step.

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