My decision to attend W&L was certainly shaped by my strong ties to the area. My family has been in the Natural Bridge area, just south of Lexington, for at least the last 5 generations. My father graduated from W&L in 1974, part of the second integrated undergraduate class in the school’s history. While it might seem like an easy choice to come back home to attend a top-notch law school, I struggled with my decision for several weeks. But after weighing a number of factors, I eventually decided that W&L was the best place for me.
After graduating from the University of Virginia, I spent the last twelve years teaching World History, Government, and Sociology outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. Charlottesville is a great town, but I desperately needed a change of pace and when I made the decision to go to law school, I was strongly considering schools in hipper, more urban areas. I was still leaning against coming to W&L when I came home for Admitted Students Weekend, but the weekend forced me to reevaluate my decision. The professors that I met were all very passionate about teaching, and all professed to be available for their students at almost any time of day or night. I attended a mock class that Professor Murchison gave on Torts and was surprised to learn that a case about a 3-year old kid on a tricycle could actually be quite entertaining.
As an experienced educator, I was impressed by the forethought involved in W&L’s approach to their curriculum, which seemed to be shaped with practice in mind. The 1L year is geared towards building skills, especially in legal research and writing. At W&L, fully tenured faculty members teach legal writing to first-year students, in small classes of about 15 students. The second year allows for more specialization, with only two courses that are required of 2Ls. The 3L year is preparation for actual practice and is a combination of traditional classes with immersion projects and internship/externship opportunities. The legal field is changing rapidly, and I felt it was important to attend a school that is innovative and making efforts to adapt to a constantly evolving profession.
I was also attracted to W&L because of its reputation, and when I say that, I mean more than just this year’s ranking in US News or some other magazine. Everyone wants to attend a highly ranked school, but W&L has a strong reputation for producing competent, ethical, and honorable lawyers. W&L’s reputation extends to its alumni network, which is extensive and supportive. Just two weekends ago, members of W&L’s Law Council, an alumni advisory board, took time out and scheduled meetings with members of our student body, including a number of 1L’s. It impressed me that these successful, and certainly busy, attorneys would want to take the time to meet with students who have only been taking classes for a couple of weeks. In conversations that I have had our alumni, they all remark fondly on their times here and clearly made lasting friendships with their classmates and colleagues.
My classmates have remarked to me about how beautiful this little town is and how “almost freakishly nice” its inhabitants are. While this is certainly true, there are other advantages to living here. Lexington has a handful of surprisingly good restaurants, and a few local treasures, including our drive-in theater and a homemade ice cream shop. The area is filled with natural beauty. The Blue Ridge Parkway is 20 minutes away, and great hiking, camping, fishing, or scenic drives are all just around the corner. It’s comforting to know that if I leave my place 15 minutes before class, I can get there with time to spare (not that I would ever do that, but theoretically it is possible). Lexington also has a low cost-of-living, and a very relaxed pace.
Growing up here, I always knew about the Honor System at W&L, and while it really didn’t factor into my decision beforehand, it is one of the things I have appreciated the most since I’ve gotten here. I can leave a $200+ casebook in my carrel over the weekend, and come back to find it just where I left it. Just last week, someone found $3 in the parking lot, and posted a message saying that she would hold the money until someone claimed it. The Honor System helps to foster a sense of trust and community in your classmates that you likely won’t find at many of the nation’s top law schools.
Ultimately, I decided not to base my law school choice on finding a location with the hottest nightlife, or where I could enjoy big-time college football, or even hit the beach on the weekends (although I strongly considered all three possibilities). I decided to go to W&L because here I would receive a top-notch legal education and actually be prepared to enter the legal field 3 years from now. I chose W&L because the community here values teaching, but also because W&L values honesty, personal integrity, and treating others with respect, character traits that I feel are under-valued in today’s society. I chose W&L because this school wants me to be a great attorney but realizes that all of that means nothing if I am not a good person. With all that said, I would suggest you come visit W&L and the Lexington area. While it certainly is not downtown Manhattan, it might be the right place for you.