We asked seven of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Garrett Rice, a graduate of Lafayette College from Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, takes on the question.
By Garrett Rice
The moment I exited Lewis Hall on the Friday concluding my first week of law school was the moment I knew without a doubt that I had made the correct choice in coming to W&L Law. As I walked out onto the patio, I was first greeted by the Assistant Dean who offered me an ice cream bar to cool down on what was a scorching afternoon. Upon acceptance of the treat, I made my way through the law school’s activities fair. I met several 2Ls and 3Ls who greeted me to the school and quickly convinced me to sign up for their organization’s email list and offered snacks as incentive. Finally, I made my way to the law school lawn. The first week of the Law School Football League games had just gotten underway, and I quickly found my teammates and starting warming up.
There are about 200 law schools in the United States. A great number of these schools, including W&L, are academically competitive, full of brilliant and talented professors, and highly ranked. But I feel confident that W&L is the only one where this kind of experience is possible.
I grew up on a farm a few miles outside of Mercersburg, PA, the classic American small town complete with two stoplights, a few pizza joints, and a single small grocery store. And although I’ve visited my share of major cities, small towns have always appealed to me. As I passed by W&L countless times while traveling to visit relatives in eastern Tennessee, however, I somehow never considered moving to Lexington for my legal education.
It wasn’t until I was going through my “Guide to Law Schools” book after receiving my LSAT score that I took real notice of what W&L had to offer. My initial attraction to the school came from the hard numbers. Namely, I took note of the small class sizes, student-to-faculty ratio, and outstanding career statistics. This was enough to entice me to send in an application. The first major impression the school made on me came a few months later, after I had been accepted. The W&L admissions staff made an unbelievable effort to answer my questions, put me in contact with current students, and help me with all aspects of the decision process. They made special arrangements for me to visit the law school on a day it wasn’t supposed to be open for visitors, and the Admitted Students Weekend (ASW) I later attended was beyond anything I could have imagined or experienced at other schools.
That weekend ultimately led to my decision to attend W&L Law. The students I met confirmed all I had heard about the school. First, I learned that Lexington is the perfect-sized town in which to go to law school. A lot of my classmates had concerns about spending three years in a small town in rural Virginia. Although I grew up in a town half its size and had no such fears, it didn’t take anyone long to realize that Lexington is small enough so that there are no distractions when you need to be studying but large enough that there are plenty of things to keep you occupied when you do have some free time. Lexington is quaint, quiet, and personal – the perfect atmosphere for studying law.
I also discovered during ASW that the Honor System really does work. During the application process, I had seen a great deal written about the W&L Honor System. I had read about how it gave both undergraduate and law students the rare trust of their professors and increased the freedom of everyone in the W&L community. Students told me that it really did work, even though no one would expect something like it to in today’s world. It wasn’t until I started at W&L did the system’s real effectiveness become apparent. I am able to leave my laptop, keys, and cell phone anywhere in the law building I desire and know without a doubt that they will be there when I return. A few weeks in to the semester, I lost my wallet, which was full of cash, credit cards, and gift cards. Within fifteen minutes of realizing I had lost it, I had an email from a fellow student informing me that he had found it and where I could meet him to pick it up. Such incidents speak to how the Honor System really does work and are just examples from my first few weeks at W&L.
The final thing I learned about during my ASW and that I can now attest to is that the professors at W&L Law are not only distinguished scholars, but excellent teachers who give their students unparalleled attention. One of my casebooks was written by a professor who teaches some of my fellow 1Ls. One of my own professors has four different law degrees. Another is so accomplished that his portrait already hangs in the law building and has had the peer mentoring program named in his honor. But I emphasize that these same people also take great care in making sure their students learn. During your first year at W&L Law, you have the same professor for one of your substantive classes and your legal writing course and these two “small section” courses are the only classes this professor teaches. I’ve already been to my small section professor’s office several times in the first weeks of the semester and can attest that she has taken a personal interest in making sure I learn the material. Knowing that my professors are approachable and willing to help has made my transition to law school so much easier than it otherwise would have been.
Many of the law students that choose W&L had offers from several top law schools. We chose W&L because we recognized all of the amazing things that are going on here, only a few of which I have been able to touch on. We chose W&L because we wanted an experience not offered anywhere else. I hope that my own experiences have helped you visualize what Washington and Lee Law is all about, and I hope you take the time to visit the school for yourself. You’ve already taken the first step by considering the school. Good luck with your decision.