My Time at W&L Law – Casey Coleman

April 17, 2014

With less than a month left in the 2013-2014 academic year, we asked several of our third-year students to reflect upon their time at W&L Law. Today, Casey Coleman takes on the topic.

Casey Coleman '14L

Casey Coleman ’14L

As I sit on the porch sunning myself for the first time this Spring, I find myself excited for the next adventure and so grateful for my W&L experience. I know I made the right choice because with only a few weeks left I have no regrets. I studied hard, got involved, made lifelong friends, and had a fabulous time.

In my first year, besides all the studying, Washington and Lee gave me the opportunity to join Phi Alpha Delta and run their famed Charity Auction even though I was so new I was still trying to find the best bathroom. Professors and businesses donated everything from homemade dinners to fly fishing trips, and that year we increased the amount we gave to local charities by 100%. W&L provides opportunities for everyone who wants to be involved.

In my second year, I took a chance and joined the Student Bar Association, the law school version of student government.   Now, as President, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in the renovation of the law school, to solve student concerns, and to plan fabulous events like Pig Roast, where we all camp out along the nearby Maury River, and our 3L trip to the Foxfield Horse Races in Charlottesville.   Law school can be a grueling experience, but I had the opportunity to make it better for everyone.

A recent tragic event has yet again made me realize I joined the right community. The support from faculty, staff, and administration has been tremendous, and I know this experience is unique.  The school hired a bus to take friends to the service in Pennsylvania, put together a school wide dinner in remembrance and celebration, and continues to ask what more they can do.  I personally received overwhelming support from classmates and great friends.  We are 126 strong and I know I can depend on everyone for whatever challenges arise.

When I said “yes” to W&L, I said “yes” to lifelong friends, a fabulous academic experience and a community where I will always feel welcome.


My Time at W&L Law – Lauren Formica

April 17, 2014

With less than a month left in the 2013-2014 academic year, we asked several of our third-year students to reflect upon their time at W&L Law. Today, Lauren Formica takes on the topic.

Lauren Formica '14L

Lauren Formica ’14L

I went to a W&L open house where I met students from the law school. I remember two of these students in particular. One was a first-year student and the other was a third-year student. The first-year student told me about the law school football league that plays every Friday, how the faculty know your first name, the caliber of the school, and how students do not step on one another to get ahead. Then, I met the third-year student from Philadelphia. She gave me the one piece of advice that to this day resonates with me. She said if you want to go back to your home state, you should attend Washington and Lee because local students tend to go to local law schools and compete for local jobs. By going to W&L, I could offer a prospective firm a different educational background. I could diversify my resume and differentiate myself in the challenging job market. That is where Washington and Lee came into the picture. Ultimately, to me it came down to two questions: The first: where will I get the best education to become the best lawyer possible? And second, what school can help me get my dream job when I graduate? Washington and Lee was the answer to both of these questions.

Signing up for law school meant signing up for a challenging three years that tests you mentally and analytically. Some people may think that Washington and Lee’s location, situated in the Shenandoah Valley, is a downside of the school because it is in such a small town. It is not a downside; instead, it is a benefit. Instead of traffic, the hustle and bustle of a big city, the distractions from a large mall or a long commute, I chose a two-minute commute in a beautiful country town where people sit on their porches, eat southern style barbeque and crickets lull you to sleep. Law school very well may be the most stressful three years of my life, but I am glad I completed those three years in a relaxing setting.

“My personal life is falling apart.” said Andy Sachs.  
Nigel responded, “That’s what happens when you start doing well at work. Let me know when your entire life goes up in smoke: then it’s time for a promotion.” The Devil Wears Prada. The same is true for your first semester in law school. It is hard. It is challenging. It can be gruesome. But like most things in life, sometimes you need to clear out the clutter to make room for the new.

In the end, it is a leap a faith you will take when deciding whether or not to attend law school. When you receive an acceptance from W&L, it is not just an offer to a prestigious institution, but a guarantee that their faculty, students, and your soon-to-be-peers will catch you should you take that leap. I can personally attest that if you should you take this opportunity, W&L will welcome you into their community.




My Time at W&L Law – Randall Miller

April 8, 2014

With less than a month left in the 2013-2014 academic year, we asked several of our third-year students to reflect upon their time at W&L Law. Today, Randall Miller takes on the topic.

Randall Miller '14L

Randall Miller ’14L

After three years, I know without a doubt that Washington and Lee School of Law was the perfect school for me. The people at W&L are amazing. I am so grateful to be a part of the W&L family – because unlike other schools, we do feel like a family. I have met so many wonderful people both during my time in Lexington and while I was away from campus through W&L connections. When I broke my arm during my first week at W&L, I had one classmate drive me to doctor visits in Roanoke, another made me a peach cobbler, and others frequently forwarded me notes from class. I know that if I need anything, I have friends at W&L who are willing to help. I have listened to similar stories from W&L alumni, and I can testify that W&L has attracted and continues to attract kind students.

I am also very thankful to have taken classes under such distinguished professors who took the time to invest in my professional development and career path. For example, I was amazed when one professor, who is a frequently cited expert in international dispute resolution materials, wrote a letter of recommendation on my behalf with a very tight 48 hour turnaround. In fact, this professor drafted my recommendation during the two days between her trips to South Korea and Europe. Other professors generously connected me with practicing attorneys in my fields of interest, reserved seats for me at a U.S. Supreme Court oral argument, and provided extensive feedback on my writing projects. Another professor graciously offered feedback on two pieces of writing that I wanted to publish even after he had advised me on my student note for nine months. Before attending W&L, I heard stories about the open-door policy and how professors frequently made time outside of class to assist students in their professional pursuits. As a 3L, I can personally attest to the approachability and benevolence of the faculty here. These anecdotes provide just a few of the many examples of the faculty members going above and beyond their roles as educators.

Much like the professors, I have met numerous W&L alumni who have taken time out of their busy schedules to chat with me about my career goals on the phone, over a cup of coffee, and during lunch. Some of these conversations led to friendships, more introductions, internships, and one resulted in a permanent job after graduation. For instance, both my internship with the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and my internship with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission resulted from reaching out to W&L alumni who introduced me to some of their colleagues on Capitol Hill and at federal agencies. Just before interviewing with several law firms in Dallas, I met with an alumnus at a different firm. We stayed in touch, and I ended up working at his law firm for part of my 2L summer. I enjoyed the experience so much that I will be returning to work at this firm after graduation.

I believe much of the alumni support stems from the rewarding experience that many of them had during their time in Lexington. For me, the honor system has been an incredible aspect of law school at W&L. I frequently leave my laptop, IPad, books, and notes at my carrel between classes, and each day, I return to find them undisturbed. The honor system is a way of life at W&L. I trust my classmates and professors, and they trust me to do what is right. Professors have loaned me books and articles without doubting that I would return them. My classmates have placed coffee makers at their carrels and sent class-wide e-mails offering free coffee and cookies. I will greatly miss these moments that are so unique to W&L.

In addition to meeting wonderful alumni during my job search, I found that the W&L name opened a number of doors to opportunities that I did not think were possible. During my time as a law student, I was chosen to participate in a distinguished legal fellowship in Phoenix, AZ where I met hundreds of law students and practitioners from around the globe. Thanks to the professor who wrote my letter of recommendation between her transcontinental flights, I also participated in a graduate fellowship with an NGO at the United Nations in New York. In addition, I participated in internships with two nonprofit organizations working in both the areas of policy and appellate work.

W&L has allowed me to take part in many valuable experiences and enabled me to forge lasting friendships both inside and outside of the classroom. For me, the friendships, honor system, and quality of education are three things that I will always value from my experience at W&L.

Life Beyond the Classroom – Tiffany Eisenbise and Brian Buckmire

December 17, 2013

Brian BuckmireEisenbiseTAt 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, 3Ls Tiffany Eisenbise and Brian Buckmire explain the role of Moot Court’s Davis Competition in student life at W&L Law.  Additional information about the Davis Competition can be found by clicking here.

Each fall there is a buzz in the air as students arrive in Lexington, classes begin for the semester and Moot Court competitions get underway.  Why the buzz about Moot Court?  Well, we are here to tell you all about it.

As the Davis Administrators we serve on the Moot Court Executive Board (MCEB).  The MCEB is a team of ten 3Ls responsible for administering all of W&L’s internal competitions.  As the administrators we write the problems, organize the competitions, coach competitors, and work with judges and practitioners to visit W&L to judge our best and brightest.

Each year the MCEB hosts five internal competitions.  Negotiations, Appellate Advocacy, Client Counseling and Mock Trial competitions take place in the fall.  In the spring we host the Mediation competition.  Every W&L law student is able to participate in some way.  Second and third year students are able to participate in the competitions, while first year students are able to serve as bailiffs or witnesses in the various competitions.  Regardless of a student’s level of participation, there is a lot to learn and a lot of fun to be had from Moot Court competitions.

As we mentioned, we are the administrators of the John W. Davis Appellate Advocacy competition – a competition that simulates an argument before the Supreme Court.  To compete participants must write a brief and argue their case before “the Court.”  The competition begins the first week of school with students attending a primer conducted by a W&L professor.  At this meeting tips and tricks for brief writing and oral advocacy are shared with the competitors.  After the primer students are off to the races as the competition officially starts.

The competition consists of a problem with two issues that participants must research, write a brief on and then argue their case.  The issues are typically constitutional in nature and are issues that are currently before the Supreme Court.  Free speech, affirmative action, and government target killings are some of the past issues used for competitions.

Competitors are given two weeks to write a brief, either on their own or with a partner. The brief is an important part of the competition as it is worth thirty percent of their score moving into the quarter final round.  But the brief is more than just thirty percent of your overall score.  When you submit a brief you are in the running for Best Brief Writer, a prestigious and equally important award to the Best Oralist.

After briefs are submitted participants present their argument before “the Court.”  In the first round “the Court” consists of three MCEB members.  Competitors argue both On-Brief (the argument they wrote their brief on) and Off-Brief (the opposing argument). As the rounds progress, competitors are presented with more challenging judges and questions that test their knowledge of the record and their oral advocacy skills.  But don’t let that scare you from competing.  As Administrators our first responsibility is to develop the competitors written and oral skills. We provide constructive feedback after every round and meet with competitors between rounds to coach them and help hone their skills. The competition culminates several weeks later with four finalists arguing their position against a panel of Federal Judges.

From our internal competition we select a group of students to participate in the regional competition that takes place in the spring.  We have two teams, each made up of two oralists and one brief writer.  As with the school competition, each team researches a set of issues, submits a brief and then argues before “the Court.”  Last year our team made it to the semi-final round of the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition.  Members of the 2012 ABA Appellate Advocacy team were the first team to make it to the nationals in many years.  While that fact may be true, it is an honor that we seek to become a tradition at Washington and Lee School of Law.

All of W&L’s Moot Court competitions offer a great deal to the students involved.  The competitions provide an opportunity to not only learn more about the actual practice of law but to learn about yourself in a safe environment. Students are able to practice their skills and try new things without worrying about messing up in front of a client.  They can learn what kind of advocate they are and in what setting they may thrive after graduation.  As with our competition, the other competitions offer the opportunity to practice oral advocacy and writing skills.  In addition to actually participating, students are provided constructive feedback that fosters a sense of learning and growing as a lawyer.  Though there are great advantages to participating in a competition, there is also value in observing the competitions.  First year students, especially, are encouraged to come to the competitions or serve as a witness or bailiff so they can learn more about the competition in preparation for their participation in the future.

One of the great things about participating in the competition is allowing yourself to stretch and grow in ways you didn’t think possible.  Additionally, watching your classmates is a great way to learn.  Aside from the learning opportunities, participation in Moot Court competitions are a lot of fun.

Life Beyond the Classroom – Kristin Slawter

December 12, 2013
Kristin Slawter 14L

Kristin Slawter 14L

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.   Kristin Slawter is a 3L from Wayne, Pennsylvania, spending her fall semester interning for Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as a part of the inaugural W&L Law D.C. Semester. After graduation, she will clerk for a federal district court judge, and then join an international law firm in Washington, D.C.  Today, she discusses her involvement with the Dean’s Advisory Group.

Aside from its impressive reputation and innovative curriculum, the thing that drew me to W&L Law was the level of interaction between the students, faculty, and administration. Each of the individuals in those categories came to Lexington because they want to be at W&L Law, to make it a fantastic school—and that is most evident in the Dean’s Advisory Group.

When Dean Demleitner arrived in Lexington last fall, one of her main priorities was to get a sense for student opinion on big issues. She, with the help of Dean Twitty, created the Dean’s Advisory Group (DAG) to serve as such a conduit for the student voice to reach the administration. The DAG is composed of approximately five students from each year, as well as Dean Twitty and Dean Demleitner. The deans interviewed scores of candidates and worked tremendously hard to create a group of students that would represent the myriad of different backgrounds in the W&L Law community.

The group typically meets monthly to discuss issues such as curriculum reform, career services, and building improvements. You can imagine my amazement the day we met with the school architect, who informed us that our 1970s-esque Sydney Lewis Hall was designed in the style of a Japanese temple! (For the record, I still don’t see it.) But what I did see through that meeting was the school’s commitment to building and creating the space that the students want. The architect and Dean Demleitner devoted immense detail and time to discovering how we study, where we study, who we study with, and when we study, in order to best design future space in the law school. While it might be tempting while looking at law schools to be drawn to the most stunning library, once you’re on campus, the beauty pales in comparison to the functionality of the space—having student voice in this process is vital to ensuring the space works for students.

The DAG also worked on different seating options at carrels, as the current wooden chairs do not fit under the carrel desks. Describing and discussing how people study at their carrels—or don’t—helped formulate the plans for the renovations to the Sydney Lewis Hall based on student need. Similar suggestions for the career center and course offerings have seen implication over the last year, and as students react to the new changes, the DAG provides the feedback to Dean Demleitner to gauge success and effectiveness.

This group has truly enhanced my respect for the administrators and expanded my understanding of my colleagues. As the DAG only got underway last March, much of our meetings were merely feedback by May. But over the summer, the administration announced changes to W&L that directly mirrored the student opinions voiced in our group. Having deans that are not only interested in listening to students but committed to implementing their desired change is so valuable. Further, I have learned a great deal about my colleagues through each meeting—listening to what they value, what their experience has been like, and what change they would like to see. It helps us to be more understanding of differences in opinion and be more willing to come to compromise or consensus. In other words, the importance of the group goes beyond getting fancy new swivel chairs.

In my opinion, the importance of such groups cannot be overstated. As a former student body vice president during my senior year at the College of William & Mary, I’ve seen firsthand the power to effect student-led change that comes from having students in direct contact with decision makers in the administration. Having a group like the DAG further fosters a sense of community at W&L Law, as students understand that they can have open dialogue with the administrators and the administrators can more accurately implement change that will benefit everyone.

Life Beyond the Classroom – Howard Wellons

December 9, 2013

WellonsHAt 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 Howard Wellons describes his involvement in Law News.

There can be no doubt that W&L Law is unique among the nation’s top-tier law schools. Its rural location, close-knit student body, loyal alumni, and powerful legacy combine to imbue the school with opportunities that are simply unavailable at other law schools. As is often true in things that are worthwhile, these opportunities may not be apparent at first. I have always believed that the first step any student, whether law student or undergrad, should take in a new institution is to learn about the institution they have just joined.

That’s where The Law News comes in. As the W&L School of Law’s Newspaper, The Law News is constantly connected to everything worth knowing in the school. We interview Alumni and professors; we cover events both on campus and in the broader region; and we spotlight exceptional students in every issue. Essentially, we serve as the ideal vehicle to get new students plugged into all that is going on and everyone that is worth knowing throughout the campus and community.

The Law News, however, is far more than simply a means to update the community on the “who” and the “what.” Our real purpose lies in the “why” and the “how.” Over all of its forty-one years of existence, The Law News has remained independent and entirely student managed. This independence gives us the freedom to offer objective analysis on the school, its events, and its community. This freedom has contributed to our extraordinary success in winning the 2013 ABA Law School Newspaper Award, making us the nation’s most highly awarded law school newspaper.

This all may sound great in theory, but how would you as an incoming student actually benefit from what The Law News has to offer?  In the past, our writers have covered our law school’s appellate advocacy competitions, critiqued speakers, interviewed our Dean, and written articles on our law school’s history. Nearly any time something notable happens that involves our school, The Law News is there to capture and analyze it.

There is also another benefit to serving as a staff writer, a benefit which I didn’t fully appreciate until I began to serve in the Editor in Chief role: ensuring that you can still communicate in a non-legal way. Throughout law school, you will be asked to learn a new lexicon, and to communicate in a manner that values technical precision in order to make an effective case in court. While learning this new form of communication is necessary when becoming an attorney, law students too often forget the value of other forms of writing. The Law News is the only organization at W&L Law which gives you a chance to practice the art of conveying information for its own sake, and to communicate using a journalistic style, rather than a legal style of writing.

The Law News offers an interesting mix of opportunities and possibilities to incoming students. While it has a long legacy, it is always being re-imagined to fit the needs of the students and Alumni it continues to serve.  Just this year, the newspaper  began the process of enhancing its web presence on Facebook, Twitter, and throughout the web. We are excited by the new possibilities these venues will open, and we look forward to seeing what you, as the next generation of Law News leaders, will come up with next! I hope you choose to attended W&L Law, and I hope that when you do, you will choose to become involved with the publication that can keep you better connected to the school than any other.

Life Beyond the Classroom – Stephanie Bollheimer

December 6, 2013

BollheimerSAt 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 Stephanie Bollheimer explains the role of Honor Advocates in the Washington and Lee community.

The Honor Advocate Program is an integral part of Washington and Lee’s Honor System. Both law and undergraduate students run the program and serve as Honor Advocates. These students serve as resources and advisors to W&L students involved in proceedings before the University’s conduct bodies.  This means that when a student must appear before the Executive Committee (EC), the Student Judicial Council (SJC), or the Student Faculty Hearing Board (SFHB), an Advocate will assist them through the process.

The program plays a vital role for accused students at W&L.  Most students are not familiar with how an EC or SFHB hearing is conducted; few would know how to present their best case to the SJC.  To address this, Advocates bring detailed procedural knowledge to each student’s case.   Typically, an Advocate meets with the accused student, investigates the facts, interviews potential witnesses, gathers evidence, helps with opening and closing statements, and attends the various University body hearings to serve as a resource for the accused student. . It cannot be overstated how important it is for accused students to have someone to help them through what can seem like a confusing process.  For the accused student, disciplinary proceedings are almost always stressful. The Advocates’ overall aim is to support students throughout the process. At a time when students often feel at their worst, an Honor Advocate is there to help. In the W&L community, where we pride ourselves on helping each other out, the Honor Advocate program exemplifies the spirit of service we owe our fellow Generals.

For law students, the Honor Advocate Program provides an invaluable experience.  While law school classes teach substantive law, the Honor Advocate Program provides useful, real-life experiences where students can practice their factual investigation, counseling and advocacy skills. The program is especially valuable for first-year students because it introduces them to hands-on, practical lawyering situations early in their law school careers.  Honor Advocates are not engaged in law practice scenarios, but assist students in cases with real consequences that may even include dismissal from the University.

Though I am a double General (‘09,  ‘14L) and knew about the Honor Advocate Program from my time here as an undergraduate, I did not fully understand or appreciate the Honor System and its effect on me until I graduated and moved away from Lexington. The sense of community, its values and morals, and the trust found on W&L’s campus and among its students is unlike anything I have ever experienced.  For me, the Honor System was one the main reasons I attended W&L Law, along with the third-year program and the incredible opportunities being a General offers. When I made that choice and got back on campus, I realized I wanted to give back to the community and be a part of the system.  Being involved in the Honor Advocate Program was a great way to contribute and develop my advocacy and professional skills.

Personally, I have learned a tremendous amount through my participation in the Honor Advocate program.  Throughout my three-year involvement, I have had the opportunity to work in all areas where advocates play a role.  I have advocated on behalf of students before the EC, the SJC, and the SFHB many times. I have also contributed to many investigation teams.  These experiences have not always gone flawlessly and have been difficult at times, but they have always been rewarding.  My participation in the program taught me how to set personal feelings aside so I could advocate for each accused student effectively.  I have also learned how to sift through a great deal of information and synthesize it into a viable case theory.  At the same time, though I have learned that every situation must be approached in a unique manner, and that the only way to be truly prepared is to be prepared for anything:  many times I  developed a clear plan for how I thought  meetings or hearings would go, and—of course—they often did not unfold as I expected.  This forced me to be adaptable, and think on my feet. Interpersonal skills are also vital when dealing with clients, witnesses and judicial bodies in law practice, and the same is true for the work of an Honor Advocate.  The program certainly helped me develop these skills   I also learned how to be comfortable directing events in a hearing, and managing the changing factual landscape.   The third year program helped refine all these skills, which have been extremely helpful in my internships, moot court competitions, and working with clinic clients during my third year.

The Honor Advocate Program is a wonderful organization that serves an essential role on campus.  I encourage law students to look into what the program does and recognize how it can help them develop as an advocate.  I know that the lessons I learned as an Honor Advocate will serve me well throughout my future law career.