At W&L Law, students benefit from the many experiences and learning opportunities both within and beyond the classroom. We asked several of our current law students to discuss the activities and organizations they have chosen to devote their time and energies to. Today, 3L Kyle Hoffmann explains the role of the Kirgis Fellows in transitioning to life at W&L Law.
Law school can be a tough transition. Whether you’ve been working for a while and are coming back to school, or you’re heading straight through from undergrad, you’re likely not going to have experienced anything like law school before. It’s a different beast. Not necessarily harder or easier or more time consuming, but certainly different.
You’ll likely have questions and expectations about law school and W&L Law in particular—how important are journals? What does a law school exam look like? Will I ever see my friends again? Can I really call my LSFL team that? While some of you may have friends or relatives who are lawyers who told you what to expect—at least when they were in law school—many of you don’t, and are coming in blind. I certainly didn’t know what to expect.
That’s where the Kirgis Fellows come in. The Kirgis Fellows are a group of second-year students who help incoming students acclimate academically, socially, and emotionally to law school, to W&L, and to the Lexington area. Each first-year student is assigned a small section and small section professor. This group of 20 or so also comprises your Kirgis Group. Each group will have male and female Kirgis Fellows, who are exceptional second-year students, chosen because of their friendly, intelligent, and personable demeanors. They are approachable people; at your disposable for any questions or concerns you have throughout your 1L year.
After Orientation week, during which your Kirgis Fellows are by your side throughout, the formal aspect of the program is the approximately fortnightly meeting with your Kirgis Fellows and your small section. In your Kirgis groups, you will discuss issues such as adjusting to life in law school, preparing for the job search, talking to professors, and avoiding or managing the stress that will likely come with taking first law school finals. Kirgis Fellows get dinner with their students in small groups, help students communicate with their small section professor, and help 1Ls to manage their time in the new law school environment.
Kirgis Fellows share best practices, and help new students avoid the mistakes that they made during their first years. Their job is to help make the law school transition that much easier for each first-year student.
The informal aspect of the program is that every 1L immediately knows a dozen upperclassmen to help them navigate the first few weeks. As small as W&L Law is, it’s easy to spot a familiar face, so for the vast majority of students who don’t know anyone in the area, the Kirgis Fellows can provide some sense of comfort. The Kirgis Fellows welcome our 1Ls into the W&L Community, and are an integral part of maintaining a community that we believe is special.
The culture of W&L Law is what makes this place unique among top law schools. We are very proud of this culture, and every student here plays a role in shaping it. It is a community dominated not by its competition but by its collegiality. Kirgis Fellows have the responsibility of introducing new students to this community by being an example of the type of friendly, helpful, and respectful student that excels at W&L. They introduce new students to our proud traditions—the Honor System and the speaking tradition—and our local institutions—LSFL and Southern Inn.
The Kirgis Program has benefitted me personally in a number of ways. I made some of my closest friends through my Kirgis Group, as my Kirgis Fellow introduced me to professors and upper class students who shared my interests, legal or otherwise. She persuaded me to join an LSFL team, despite my naïve thinking that I wouldn’t have time for it—one of the best decisions I made in law school. She told us the difference between supplements, gave advice on best study practices, and offered words of encouragement before that first nervous week of finals.
As a Kirgis Fellow in my second year, I learned even more about how to navigate law school. By trying to best inform incoming students, I was able to reflect on my own best practices—what worked for me, what worked better for friends, what I should have avoided. The other Kirgis Fellows taught me a tremendous amount about how they were successful in their first year. With them, I was able to help shape the Orientation and the Kirgis Program to reflect what I thought were the most pertinent concerns for new students. I became closer with my other Kirgis Fellows, and made friends with those in my Kirgis Group. It is the experience that comes up most in interviews, and it has always impressed employers that W&L Law has a program dedicated to helping incoming students with the potentially difficult transition from undergrad or the real world to law school.
The Kirgis Program is integral to the culture of W&L Law. By having selected students address the concerns and questions that incoming students are feeling, W&L makes incoming students feel welcome and cared-for, allowing them to tackle their studies knowing that their ultimate concerns will be addressed.