Why I Chose W&L Law – Maggie Long

November 7, 2013

M.LongWe asked several of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Maggie Long, a graduate of Bowling Green State University from Kenton, Ohio, takes on the question.

My route to law school was a little different than many of my classmates.  Some of the other students at my undergraduate institute wanted to pursue the law to enact change in policy, to work at their family’s firm or to make a lot of money.  I simply wanted to advance my career in a field I was already working in.  You may be like my classmates and have broad goals for your law school experience, but don’t tune me out just yet.  The reasons I chose W&L are specific to my experience, but will shed some light on the vast opportunities available to you as a student here.

As a student at BGSU I worked in the alumni and development office.  This office is primarily responsible for raising the funds necessary to fill the gap between tuition, state funding and the actual cost of running the university.  In addition, almost all new buildings, renovations and student scholarships are funded through their endeavors.  I found myself working there through a scholarship I had received and fell in love with the mission of this small group of individuals.  With the continual reduction of state funding and the increasing tuition rate at all public schools, this is becoming a monumental task.  If I had not received a scholarship to that school I would not have been able to attend.  After considering the way education had furthered me as an individual and as a productive member of society I was compelled to give back and allow other students that same opportunity.  This is not as ambitious as ending violence in the Middle East or promoting human rights in Africa, but it is how I see myself impacting my community.  Allowing students the opportunity to become educated and use that education to benefit society is a noble cause in my mind.

So how does that lead to law school?  One facet of gift giving is estates and trusts where individuals leave a portion of their estate to the university.  This is a highly beneficial arrangement for the university and allows the individuals to feel that they are contributing to a place that helped to make them who they are.  This particular activity also requires a great deal of legal expertise.  In the small office I worked in with less than 20 staff members, 3 of them were attorneys and they were always in demand.  More importantly, the gifts they managed were the ones that meant the most to the bottom line.  To make the greatest impact I needed a law degree.

I, like you most likely, had heard the horror stories of law school.  The rumors of the experience being exceptionally stressful, your classmates being overly competitive, professors who try to embarrass you in front of your peers and a virtually unmanageable workload.  I did not want or need that stress in my life.  I also did not want to work at a big firm – so was this really a task I was willing to take on?  Did I want to subject my family to the strain that school could possibly put on our finances, relationships and career goals?

As I am writing this blog, you can infer that my answer was “yes”.  But not because I believed the trade for a better career was worth the trials I was so wary of.  I ultimately decided to attend law school because I found a place that would allow me to pursue improved career options but would allow me to be me at the same time.  Washington and Lee is the only university I visited that allowed such flexibility in the course work so I did not feel pressured into working towards a job in a big law firm.  On one of my visits to the school I met the individual who organizes the third-year program.  I told her of my interests and instead of explaining the available choices that would be applicable to that type of field, she sat down with me and we discussed how she and the office could tailor an experience that would place me directly in the advancement field.  She acknowledged there was no set program for that area but she was willing and excited to help me find an experience to fit my needs.

As for the horror stories, never once in any of my communications with W&L did I feel this was the kind of place those attitudes would be permitted.  The students were warm, welcoming and understanding.  The professors and the deans were accessible to answer questions or just talk about the application experience.  I have only been a student for few weeks but I can promise you this is not just a show.  The students here care about each other.  They are competitive in the sense they challenge each other to do better, to be better, but they are always willing to help if you need notes or just need to talk.  The professors are likewise a great resource, not a source of stress or anxiety.  They will push you to excel but they will help you every step of the way.  The work load is likely more than you have ever experienced before but again there are resources around every corner to help you succeed.

So how does this apply to you and where you are in your decision process?  In comparing Washington and Lee to the other schools on your list, consider where you want to be five years after graduation, and more importantly, who you want to be.  You may not know what kind of law you want to practice or where you want to end up.  However, you can determine what kind of lawyer you want to be.  Joining the Washington and Lee community is not a perfect fit for everyone.  We value professionalism, ethics and honor both in the work place, in education and in life.  We expect excellence. This is not to say we expect perfection, but we expect each student to work as hard as they can to exceed in their field. We expect this to be an experience that will change you as a person and as a professional, and we are here to help you throughout that experience.  I chose Washington and Lee because it will and has already begun to change me as a person and a professional, but still allows me to pursue the things that are most important to me.  You will not be a number here.  You will be an individual that is part of the greater W&L community.

Why I Chose W&L Law – Eric Santos

November 4, 2013

E.SantosWe asked several of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Eric Santos, a graduate of the University of Tampa from Newburgh, New York, takes on the question.

Deciding on where to go to law school is no easy feat.  Although I could not find exactly which school was calling me, I was certain on what I was looking for in a law school: small class sizes, reasonable job prospects, and a place where I could be happy to call home for the next few years.

I applied to Washington and Lee on a whim.  After I put in the effort, I realized that Washington and Lee was the diamond in the rough I was searching for.  Unfortunately, one can only obtain so much online.  I knew I had to visit to be convinced.

Coming from New York, impersonality is almost a trademark.  After my first visit to Lexington, the personable atmosphere in town left me questioning everything I was accustomed to.  I spent my weekend completely boggled by the fact that strangers on the street would spark up conversation to recommend lunch choices to newcomers.  Everyone I met at W&L remembered my name and everything I told them regardless of how many prospective students they were meeting.

Many of us choose a law school with one specific criterion in mind—a job.  I noticed W&L’s placement on the ranking was pretty strong so that was great.  After meeting humble and successful alumni, I understand that rankings can only tell you so much.  The alumni I have met thus far have already displayed an interest in getting me an interview, and I can sleep a little easier knowing that I have actual options.  Since W&L is such a tight-knit group, it is also not uncommon to see professors bending over backwards to make sure their students have summer jobs.

If I were to give only one piece of advice to newly admitted students, it would be to attend the Admitted Students Weekend.  After ASW, I was confident I was making the right choice in attending W&L.  The staff at the Admissions Office not only has an extraordinary knack for name recall but they took the time to hear my passions and encourage my goals.  The Admitted Students Weekend made me very excited to start law school, and I met plenty of brilliant people who remembered me when I actually started.

Ultimately, my biggest concern in choosing a law school was finding a place where I was genuinely happy.  I could not go to a large school to become a number in line waiting to be pumped out.  We have all heard of the stories of competitive environments with booby-trapped notes and pages ripped out of casebooks.  In hindsight, I know I could not have made a wiser choice to avoid that.  The Washington and Lee community is supportive, sincere, and downright honest.  During my first tour at the law school, there was a ten-dollar bill right in the middle of the courtyard—a fresh and crisp bill too.  The only thing holding that prized President down was a rock.  Where I come from, a boulder would not provide ample protection for long.  Perplexed at this point, I asked my Law Ambassador for answers.  He replied, “…Oh that? That’s been there for a week or two.”  It was at that point I understood how seriously the Honor System is taken at Washington and Lee.  Each student witnesses the Honor System in a different way but everyone quickly falls in love with the sense of security and kindness throughout the campus.  Some students like to leave their laptops in the library while they run to the gym, and others will post messages of found items around campus.  Each student is sworn in, proud of the code, and treats it with respect.

Lastly, the reasons why I chose Washington and Lee are vast but why I chose W&L before matriculation is not why I love it now: I see Dean Demleitner every morning at the gym before the sun rises, I stop in the admissions office on a routine basis to forage for candy and catch up with Dean McShay, there is a tire pump for my bike conveniently outside the law school, and last but not least, I have my own carrel in the library to call home so I never have to lose my spot or carry my books home.  Every student at Washington and Lee may love the school for different reasons but one thing that I am certain about is that they all do come to love it.

Now that I am an official W&L Law student, I am very grateful for the decision I made.  I empathize with those losing sleep over the decision of which school to attend but I confidently believe that Washington and Lee will not disappoint. At the end of the day, there is nothing sweeter than knowing that you are exactly where you want to be when law school gets tough.

Why I Chose W&L Law – Christina Tacoronti

October 28, 2013

C.TacorontiWe asked several of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Christina Tacoronti, a graduate of the University of West Georgia from Fayetteville, Georgia, takes on the question.

In the fourth grade, one of our class assignments was to create a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. My picture depicted a woman in a business suit holding a briefcase in one hand and a paintbrush in the other hand. I knew then that I wanted to either be a lawyer or an artist—never mind the fact that my last formal art class was in elementary school. As I navigated through middle, high, and undergraduate school, my desire to enter into the legal profession continued to grow.

Despite knowing I wanted to practice law, the idea of starting Law School was a little bit more intimidating for me than many. For a wide variety of reasons, I entered the work force after graduation instead of going straight to law school. When I started my law school search, I had spent five years growing my career. Walking away from that was difficult. Because of my hesitation, I knew I had to find a Law School that fit my personality while also helping me advance in my chosen career—and these were just the beginning of my laundry list of requirements.

First, I had a select list of regions I was willing to entertain for law school. The country life appealed to me, as long as I could travel to the city when I needed relief. Washington and Lee provides the perfect location. When I’m not studying, I can choose between hiking, rafting, wine-tasting, and camping or spending a few short hours in the car to enjoy in Washington, D.C. or Richmond. Plus, there are a number of mid-sized cities just over an hour away. And you don’t know charm until you’ve seen a historic downtown in this part of the state.

Other than location, another factor I based my decision on was the school’s curriculum. Washington and Lee outshone its competition with its third-year curriculum, but also because of the accessibility of the professors and the vast alumni network. Washington and Lee, through its third-year immersion program, small class size, its professor’s open-door policy, and clinics and externships, has set up a program that will prepare you for life as a lawyer. The school also maintains an impressive alumni network, and the number of alumnus genuinely interested in speaking with students and spending the time to help students find fulfilling work is impressive.

Lastly, what solidified my decision about attending Washington and Lee was the student-run honor system. When I visited Washington and Lee, I distinctly remember visiting the reading room and seeing several laptops left on the tables. “Is this for real?” I thought to myself. The answer is yes. Students administer the University’s honor system, and it is taken seriously. The benefit is that I know I don’t have to constantly lock up my belongings, I can trust that my peers are acting honestly, and I know that grades are a reflection of our effort and understanding—not unfair advantages. For those prospective students who have not attended a school with such a vigorous honor system, I invite you to visit Washington and Lee to see ours. It’s truly amazing.

As a first-year student with several weeks of school under my belt, Washington and Lee has done nothing but exceeded my expectations. I have already talked with my professors several times, left my laptop out during a Law School Football League game, reached out to alumnus, and enjoyed the surrounding outdoors. I have little doubt that I made the right choice and will leave Washington and Lee equipped with the skills and knowledge to reach my full potential.

Why I Chose W&L Law – Angela Kerins

October 22, 2013

A.KerinsWe asked several of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Angela Kerins, a graduate of The College of New Jersey from Westfield, New Jersey, takes on the question.

I’m sure we can all agree that picking a law school is not an easy thing to do. After my umpteenth pro-con list and multiple visits to each place, I knew that there wasn’t a way to quantify this decision. I had to go with my gut and my gut told me I was home at Washington and Lee.

As a proud Jersey girl, going to a New Jersey state school for my undergraduate education was a no brainer. I spent four years close to home, my family, and friends and I thoroughly enjoyed my life in the Northeast. When I started to think about where I would attend law school a similar decision seemed equally as obvious. I never expected to abandon my northern roots and head south of the Mason Dixon Line for school, but now that I’m here I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

When I first started my application process I didn’t know much about Washington and Lee. My advisor mentioned it because one of his students attended a few years earlier and suggested I look into it. From the beginning of the application process I could tell that this school was different. The members of the admissions staff promptly answered every single question I had. Many efforts were made to put me in touch with alumni, current students, and faculty in order for me to get a good feel for the school. This legitimate concern for prospective students became all the more apparent at the Admitted Students Weekend (ASW). It didn’t take very long for me to see that W&L was a special place. I know that sounds corny and cliché but it’s true. The sense of community is tangible even to weekend visitors. Throughout the ASW I had an opportunity to talk to both current students and alumni. Current students couldn’t say more wonderful things about the school, but what really stood out to me throughout the admissions process were the alumni. The fondness that each one held for their time at W&L was so apparent through their genuine desire to answer all my questions and share their own law school experience.

It’s hard to ignore the law school horror stories of book destroying and note stealing, but that could not be further from the academic experience here at W&L. It’s clear that every single student cares about their school work, but not at the expense of their classmates. Recently I had to miss a class, and many of my classmates offered me their notes.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a collaborative environment that fostered teamwork and communication. Professors’ hands-on approach only furthers this sense of community. I built strong relationships with my professors in my undergrad and it was important to me to have a similar experience in law school. Not only are their doors always open for students to drop in, but half of my professors have already required one-on-one meetings to track our progress and go over class material. The job market is so competitive that meaningful relationships and connections with professors are key, and it’s clear that they will be a natural part of my time at W&L.

I originally thought I wanted to be in a big city for law school, but I’m glad that I decided otherwise. It’s a whole lot easier to stay in the library on a Saturday night here in Lexington than it would be elsewhere. Don’t be misled though; we’re not always studying! The school does an amazing job providing us with excuses to leave the library. Every Friday afternoon Law school football brings the entire school out onto the lawn for friendly two-hand touch. Don’t worry if you’re not athletically inclined, I’m my team’s #1 sideline cheerleader. The Student Bar Association also plans a ton of fun activities, like pig-roasts and drive-in movies, which provide plenty of reasons to take a study break.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an adjustment period – law school is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before – but W&L has done everything in its power to make the transition as seamless as possible. Although I’ve only been here a month, I can already call Lexington my home, and I cannot wait to spend the next three years at Washington and Lee Law.

Why I Chose W&L Law – Rob Hubbard

October 18, 2013

R.HubbardWe asked several of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Rob Hubbard, a graduate of the University of Virginia from Charlottesville, Virginia, takes on the question.

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.

Why I Chose W&L Law – Loren Peck

October 10, 2013

L.PeckWe asked several of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Loren Peck, a graduate of Utah State University from Logan, Utah, takes on the question.

I am from Utah and I plan on returning there to practice law after graduation. Why did I choose Washington and Lee over schools that were closer to home? Read on.

I, like many pre-law students, got caught up in US News law school rankings, thinking I should set my sights on the highest ranked school where I would be accepted. My approach changed when I talked to some partners in law firms who told me that it didn’t matter where their new associates went to law school. Instead, the partners were concerned that their new associates had practical skills and were personable and reliable.

I saw an article about Washington and Lee’s revolutionary third-year program in the Washington Post, and I was impressed. When I started comparing Washington and Lee’s program against other, similarly ranked schools, I was surprised. I read articles from this very blog, talked with alumni about their experiences, and finally, visited the law school in Lexington.

Here are a few reasons why I chose Washington and Lee University School of Law, and why I would choose it again:

  • The third-year program. Read about it in the news, or ask a third-year student. It focuses on experiential legal education more than time in the classroom.
  • Small class sizes. With just over 400 students, class sizes are small, and my professors know me. Dean Demleitner greets me by name, and knows my wife’s name, too.
  • Every student has a carrel. Some law schools have lockers, but having a carrel is like owning a little bit of the school. It’s a place where you can always go to study and keep all your books, food, or anything.
  • The honor system. My undergrad school had an “honor policy,” but it was nothing like Washington and Lee’s. The honor system here is 100% student-run and student-enforced, and it is a tradition that is taken seriously. Take a look around the school and you’ll see laptops left in carrels overnight and bikes without locks. The library is always open. During exams, you don’t need special software or proctors. People trust you, and you can trust them.
  • The law school community. Last week, my wife gave birth to our first child. I was afraid I would fall behind in my classes, but my professors went out of their way to record classes and help me catch up. My classmates shared their notes. In fact, my small section threw a surprise baby shower for my wife. Law students play football together every Friday in the fall, and softball in the spring.
  • Lexington. Last, but not least, Lexington is a great community. People in Lexington smile at you when you pass on the sidewalk. It’s small enough to feel close-knit but large enough to have all the necessities. It has plenty of history, but doesn’t feel too touristy. In short, it’s a great place to lead a balanced life during law school.

These, and many other things, set Washington and Lee apart from other law schools. In the end, I chose Washington and Lee because it gives me the right tools and environment to become the lawyer I want to be.

Why I Chose W&L Law, 2012 – #7

November 6, 2012

We asked seven of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Sarah Curry, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University from Oak Hill, Virginia, takes on the question.

By Sarah Curry

Sarah CurryChoosing a law school can be intimidating. At this point in our lives, we’re wise enough to know that choosing an institution in which to pursue higher education is no insignificant task. When I was sitting where you are now, I had my mind set on two things: getting into a good law school and making sure that that good law school was situated in a city. So, sitting where I am now – in charming Lexington – I suppose I have some explaining to do.

I, like many of my classmates, didn’t make up my mind to commit to W&L until I visited the school during an Admitted Students Weekend. I visited mostly because I had been so impressed with the application process and the general vibe of amiability that the admissions staff had presented. Admittedly, I didn’t actually think that I would wind up here before I first visited. I grew up just outside of DC, went to college in Baltimore and spent the three years between graduation and starting law school living in either DC or London. I couldn’t imagine being so far removed from urban life. That all changed when I visited, however.  And here’s why…

Law school is tough. There’s no way of getting around that. Having gone to a rigorous undergraduate institution, I was already well-versed in the art of library camping by the time I started shopping for law schools. What intimidated me even more than the potential workload, however, was the atmosphere of intense competition that many of the other schools I visited seemed to exude. Stories of students circulating intentionally sabotaged notes and ripping pages out of casebooks struck me not only as unnecessary, but also as extremely discouraging. I’ve always believed that education is about competing with yourself more so than it is about competing with others (even though the latter is somewhat inevitable). You won’t find any of those horror stories here. That was something that I realized very quickly after speaking with current students on my first trip to Lexington. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that W&L is not just a school, it is a community.

Students here understand that classmates are not the enemy. Our classmates are one of our most valuable resources. Having spent a good three hours in my Torts study group this past weekend, I can personally attest to that fact. It’s easy to feel a bit lost at times (19th century case law will do that to you), but the truth is you’re never alone. If you have questions that your fellow classmates can’t answer, your professors will make themselves available to help in whatever ways they can. W&L is unique in that the students and faculty alike create a support system that eases the pressure that all law students feel in their first year.

Furthermore, I quickly came to realize that Lexington’s location is by no means a drawback. On the contrary, it has proved to be extremely advantageous. Everyone here is in the same boat, but in a city, you will inevitably be surrounded by friends outside of law school who cannot seem to understand why you aren’t able to go to happy hour five nights a week. All your friends here get it. Fewer distractions and a more understanding support system means more sanity. More sanity is never a bad thing.

That having been said, we’re not library mole-people either. W&L is very good about providing ways for everyone to get out and stretch their legs and let their brains relax a bit. The law school football league is one of the best examples of these efforts. Every Friday during the fall semester, students leave their afternoon classes, don their respective jerseys and hit the playing field. Not only is the football league a great way to get to know classmates during your 1L year, it’s just a great way to unwind. The Student Bar Association (SBA) also plans various other social events throughout the school year including a pig roast, Halloween party and a Barrister’s Ball.  As VP of the 1L class, I’m currently in the midst of helping to plan several of these upcoming events.

In the end, I chose W&L because I felt at home when I visited. That feeling has never changed. The first few months have been challenging of course, but I have not once felt as though I don’t belong here. The welcoming and supportive atmosphere that W&L provides makes the challenge enjoyable, not insurmountable. I will be forever grateful for that.