My Time at W&L Law: Tristan de Vega

devegaWith less than a month left in the 2012-2013 academic year, we asked several of our third-year students to reflect upon their time at W&L Law. Today, Tristan de Vega takes on the topic.

When I was asked to write about my experience at Washington and Lee Law, I didn’t immediately respond. I was certain that I wanted to help but I didn’t know what differentiated my time at W&L from that of the thousands of other law students throughout the country. Every law student has spent countless hours under the harsh fluorescent library lights dissecting seminal cases like Marbury v. Madison, Miranda v. Arizona and Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad. Each of us has wiped away torrents of the cold sweat that accompanies our first cold call. However, after reflecting on the conversations I’ve had with friends who attended other law schools, I realized that my experience at W&L Law is truly unique.

First, W&L’s is a quiet university town nestled in a largely rural community.  Although I was accepted at law schools in more urban settings, I knew that their library doors would not be thick enough to block out the big city buzz. Lexington provided me with an ideal learning environment: the community is welcoming, the cost of living is incredibly low and there are enough restaurants and bars located in town to provide a temporary reprieve from the casebooks. When the strain of sitting in my carrel became unbearable, I could easily find a running trial or a decent cliff face to scale. And if the weather was too cold to be outside, the University’s gym offered far more than I ever found at the big commercial gyms.

Second, the high caliber of W&L’s faculty combined with low student to professor ratio provided me with unique opportunities that weren’t available to my friends at other law schools. While students at other law schools rely heavily upon TAs for individual help, the professors at W&L made sure that they were always available. I remember that even though my Close Business Association final was only a few days away, Professor Bruner patiently sat with me for a few hours until I final understood the mysterious principles of agency and partnership. The small class sizes also allowed me to form personal relationships with my professors, which in turn led to other opportunities. As a research assistant for Professors Luna and Wilson, I developed an expertise in family law and the legal regimes surrounding terrorism, two largely divergent areas of law that both really interested me. My work with Professors Luna and Wilson not only deepened my knowledge of the law, it also led to letters of recommendation that I feel truly set me apart during the job hunt. Similarly, I believe that the School’s dedication to preparing its students for the practice of law made me a much more competitive job applicant. The School’s partnerships with local law offices helped me to land a year-long internship with the US Attorney’s Office, which in turn allowed me to prosecute cases in federal district court.

Lastly, W&L’s small class size made it easy to get to know my peers and form lasting friendships. On Fridays in the fall, everyone would gather on the lawn to watch and play in the Law School Football League. Although the majority of us were well past our athletic prime, it was still fun to shut our laptops and enjoy each other’s company as we plodded around the shortened field. During the spring semester, we all looked forward to Feb Club, a month of SBA sponsored theme parties that gave us all an excuse to get dressed up and trudge out in the cold. Outside of these organized events, I will always remember just relaxing with my friends, playing volleyball in the sandpits at the General’s Retreat Apartment and splitting pitchers of cheap beer at Mac’s.

So as I look back on my time at W&L Law, I am so thankful for the many opportunities for professional and personal growth and look forward to using these lessons in the service of the Nation.

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