Why I Chose W&L Law, 2012 – #6

November 2, 2012

We asked seven of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Brian Buckmire, a graduate of Queens College – CUNY, from Toronto, Canada, takes on the question.

By Brian Buckmire

Brian BuckmireI do not know if my decision-making process to come to Washington and Lee Law was similar to that of other students, but when I did choose to come to W&L, I was sure that it was the right choice.

After graduation I will be a first-generation attorney in my family, and other than an uncle who lived in Florida, no Buckmire has ventured this far south in the United States. I did not know much about Washington and Lee and I knew even less about Lexington. So when the opportunity came to apply, I needed to do a lot of research on both the town and the school.

My first year of law school was at Hofstra Law, and I enjoyed many aspects of the law school. However, Dean Demleitner and Dean McShay, two of the reasons I loved Hofstra Law, were moving to this “foreign” law school named W&L, and I felt a need to look into this school a little more. Immediately W&L’s rank and prestige jumped out at me from every page I read, and obviously that was a big factor to me. But I was not sold. I am a city boy through and through, so when I read that Lexington had a population of 7000 people, I cringed a little. As a Torontonian and an adopted New Yorker my first thought was, “Where can I get a good bagel in this town?” Thankfully, my second thought was to apply and see what happened, and so I did. Then I toured the school to see what it was about. I was greatly surprised by everything and everyone I met. From private carrels to study in, to community-building events like the Law School Football League, W&L offered many unexpected touches that allowed me to envision myself here. And while there isn’t a subway system or a nightclub in Lexington, I did quickly find a good bagel spot called Sweet Treats. The people were welcoming and genuine, and Lexington has a little bit of everything, enough to keep even this city boy entertained.

The second and most important thing I needed to investigate when making my law school selection was the law school’s curriculum. In my first year of law school I attended a number of alumni events and interacted with many practicing lawyers as well as politicians. At every event there was always a consistent theme in critiquing law schools, “law students are not actually taught how to be attorneys.” This was usually followed by, “you learn more from your first internship than from your first year of law school.” After my first internship, I realized that there was some truth to that idea. I began to continually question why so many attorneys could have this criticism without law schools trying to address it. Then I came to W&L, and the 3L program seemed to be the answer. W&L integrates and infuses practical skills throughout the third year clinics, externships, and practicum class options for all students, not just of the top ten percent of the class. This helps to educate and prepare the whole student body to be practicing attorneys in a wide range of disciplines.

This was the tipping point for me. In Lexington, I found a small town where the majority of people my age were focused on a similar goal. I found a place that may not be large in population, but is large in opportunities. Lastly, I found a  law school that was focused on transforming students into exceptional attorneys upon graduation. That is why I choose W&L Law.

Why I Chose W&L Law, 2012 – #5

October 29, 2012

We asked seven of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Natalie Wengroff, a graduate of the University of Michigan, from New York City, takes on the question.

By Natalie Wengroff

Natalie WengroffI knew from a young age that I wanted to go to law school, but I was unsure what I wanted to do within the legal field. So even with some summer legal internships in college, I decided to work for a boutique law firm after graduating before taking the dive and applying to law school. The experience was great and ensured that going to law school would be a wise decision, but it raised the age-old question. Where should I go?

As a city girl, born and raised in New York, who then went on to a big university, the thought that I would wind up at a school that was smaller than my freshman year dorm was a shocker to me. I applied to W&L on a whim, due to both their great statistics and reputation in the DC area. But it was Admitted Students Weekend (ASW) that sold me on the school, a school where I could not be happier.

The sense of community that the school provides really drew me in. I had heard horror stories about kids ripping out pages in books to get an edge over other students. But the students I talked with during ASW showed me this was not the W&L mentality. One student explained that she and another student were sharing some extra study guides for one of their classes. This was not the normal atmosphere of law school that I had heard about. The fact that people not only knew each other but also cared and were willing to help each other out really struck me. The dinner that weekend only furthered this thought when students of different years actually knew each other by name, something I would not have expected.

My tour guide explained that W&L Law professors have an open door policy. They do not have set office hours but instead tend to just leave their doors open whenever they are in their office and are available to talk. I appreciated how the open door policy would allow me to approach professors at any time, even if I did not have a question about the material, without feeling frightened. I also liked the fact that for once, a professor would know me by my name rather than by student id. One of my professors has already invited my entire class over for dessert and coffee to get to know us all better. This may not be a typical law school experience, but it is a typical W&L Law experience.

W&L’s strong alumni network has been apparent since my admittance. W&L was the only school where alumni sent me letters congratulating me on my acceptance. Alumni relationships were important to me, especially coming from an undergraduate school that prides itself on alumni loyalty. W&L shows that their alumni really care and are willing to do what they can to help you, which was very reassuring especially because of the current legal market. I was fortunate enough to attend an alumni event while in DC and was shocked both with the turnout and the variety of legal fields represented by W&L Law alumni. The fact that these individuals were congratulating me and wanting to know more about me made me feel secure in my decision to attend W&L.

I must admit that I was very apprehensive about coming to a small town, as I am not the most outdoorsy person and did not envision myself taking advantage of the area’s hiking, biking, and camping. But unlike my friends elsewhere, I have been able to actually meet everyone in my class and know almost everyone’s name. And, for those of us who aren’t as interested in exploring the outdoors, the school does a great job of providing enough activities so that you are never bored. There are intramurals such as Law School Football League on Fridays in the fall, Student Bar Association-sponsored events such as patio party and pig roast, community events like the wine festival, and a host of speakers and special events to keep you entertained. I can honestly say that deciding to come to W&L Law was one of my best decisions.

Why I Chose W&L Law, 2012 – #4

October 25, 2012

We asked seven of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Dan Strong, a graduate of Appalachian State University from Charlotte, North Carolina, takes on the question.

By Dan Strong

Dan StrongMaking the choice to come to law school is a fairly easy one. If you want to become a lawyer, it is almost the only way that it can be accomplished. This, however, is where the ease of the process ends. Selecting which law school can be much more difficult. There are many things one must consider: location (big or small city, east or west, north or south), school size (a big school where you might get lost among the masses or small school with less notoriety), the curriculum (does the school have a practice area it specializes in), atmosphere (a nebulous term you can’t truly grasp until you get there), clinics, journals, student/teacher ratio, and even the number of volumes in the library.

When I was applying to schools each of these factors carried equal weight. I was teaching high school and it had been six years since I had graduated from college. I had no preference about what city I was in or the school name on the program the first day of orientation. Because of this I was able to compare schools holistically, not just focusing on the ranking or the number of books the library had, or which had a college football team that I liked better. I focused on what each school had to offer me during the three years I would be there. What academic approach did the school take? What was a typical student like? Was there anything to do in the city besides study? After making a short list, narrowing it down, changing approaches and starting over (multiple times), W&L kept popping up. Here are some of the reasons why:

One my main focuses when selecting a law school was the academic environment. W&L has made industry-revolutionizing changes to the academic curriculum. The old adage is that the first year of law school they scare you to death, the second year they work you to death, and the third year they bore you to death. W&L thought that spending a third year in a lecture-based classroom would not help students transition into being practicing attorneys. The third year at W&L is now a practical application of the content that you learn in the first two years.

W&L also has a wide range of clinics, journals, and competitions that I am interested in. For example, I recently participated as a bailiff in the Davis Appellate Advocacy Competition. I was able to see second and third year students argue a Supreme Court case in front of a panel of judges. While researching I found the best part was, unlike other schools, most of the competitions and journals are open to everyone who wants to try out!

The second area that I was looking for was the atmosphere of the school. I was exposed to this when I visited for Admitted Students’ Weekend. The atmosphere at W&L is different than any other school I visited. Students here understand that when you get out of law school all of your fellow students turn into colleagues. Students are always willing to help by giving advice or answering questions when you need it. Relationships you forge in law school can last the rest of your life, for better or worse. Schools with a cutthroat atmosphere can see that transfer into the working world after diplomas are distributed. The positive relationships at W&L can be seen in action through the alumni network of the school. Alumni are very welcoming and are eager to help students with their career development.

The atmosphere at the school is also impacted in a large way by the tradition and history of the institution. This manifests itself in the Honor System. There is little worry whether the laptop that you leave sitting on the table in the library will be there when you get back. The Honor System is one hundred percent student-run and maintained so students have a vested interest in its preservation. In my first week of school someone found a couple of dollars in one of the parking lots. The next day, that student posted a notice requesting that the person who lost the money contact him so that he could return it. You see this throughout the semester with sunglasses, jewelry, and other personal items. At any other school you would have little chance of seeing those items again.

Law school football is an example of where you can see the more social atmosphere of the school in action. Almost the entire school gets together to play football, socialize, and wind down from what can sometimes be a stressful week. The competition can be intense, but even students who don’t play come out just to have fun without the worry of when your next memo is due.

The final reason that I chose to attend W&L was the town of Lexington itself. Though Lexington is a small town, there is always something to do. There are wonderful restaurants, fantastic outdoor activities, the first non-profit drive-in movie theater in the country, wineries, a couple of micro-breweries, community festivals, and more. Everyone in town is friendly and you don’t have to worry about morning or evening rush hour. And if you miss a bigger city, Roanoke, Charlottesville, D.C., Richmond, and Charlotte are all within a couple of hours drive.

I selected W&L because of what the school had to offer me. I knew that a school with this kind of tradition, history, academic approach, alumni network, and collegiality would afford me the opportunities I needed to become a successful and respected member of the legal profession. I know that by coming to W&L I will get the most out of the three years that will jump start the rest of my life.

Why I Chose W&L Law, 2012 – #3

October 23, 2012

We asked seven of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Jasmine Brooks, a graduate of Baylor University from Memphis, Tennessee, takes on the question.

By Jasmine Brooks

Jasmine BrooksMany people have asked me this question: Why did you choose Washington & Lee Law School? My initial thought is Why would I not?

I knew that I wanted to become an attorney when I graduated high school. I went to Baylor University and settled on majoring in professional writing while minoring in Spanish and studio art. After taking the LSAT, my goal during my senior year was to apply to as many schools as possible. Washington and Lee captured my attention with an email advertising a “free application.” I vaguely remembered the name from a pre-law program advertised to high school students by the Rotary Club of Memphis, Tennessee. Thus, I began my research.

After viewing the materials of some of the schools that accepted me, I picked five to visit. Washington and Lee Law was the first law school that I visited. I knew from the moment that I entered the lobby of the law school that it was the best place for me. I was greeted with smiling faces of faculty, excited current students, and a hospitable environment. The lunch and dinner events were a great way to meet current students and gain advice and perspectives about the school. I also gained a best friend from the visit.

It was hard to visit other schools because of the high standard that W&L set during the open house event. I was constantly comparing certain factors to those factors at W&L. Finally, it came down to my decision. I had three schools from which to choose, and I had to make a list of the “pros and cons” for each.

For W&L, out of my many pros for the school—including ranking, location (close to great cities for opportunities in law), small class size, and classes and clinics for my specific law interests, job placement rate—there were two main factors that highlighted the decision: the admissions department and the third year program, respectively. The admissions department overwhelmed me with information about the university. They also added a personal touch with handwritten letters and directed emails. I felt like they really wanted me to be here and I was not just another prospective student. These factors were of high importance because it speaks volumes about the entire school. If the admissions department goes above and beyond, then it reflects the character of the faculty, staff and student body of the school.

The second important factor was the new third-year program. W&L places great value on this program, as it should. Prospective and current law students are discouraged by the current legal job market. Many lawyers complain of being “thrown into the field” without having much experience in an actual law firm. The third year program combats these issues. The practicums, clinics or externships, and skills immersion courses create practical experience for law students to feel comfortable and confident in their abilities to practice law. The school has live clinics, giving students the opportunity to work with actual clients and gain hands-on experience. During my research of law schools, several advisers emphasized to me the importance of that real-world experience.

Given all of these great factors of W&L, I made my decision to attend. Even during orientation, 1L students received positive words of encouragement and empowerment. We had the opportunity to network with alumni and professors before we began class. The professors were excited to meet the students and gain knowledge of their interests.

I believe that I made the best decision. I have met an amazing group of friends, kind and helpful professors, caring faculty and staff, and friendly citizens of Lexington. In the short time that I have been here, I have become more open-minded as I have been engulfed in the culture of W&L Law and the city of Lexington. It has been a great experience so far, and I am optimistic that it can only become better.

So again, if asked why I attend W&L Law, my answer still remains Why would I not?

Why I Chose W&L Law, 2012 – #2

October 18, 2012

We asked seven of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Garrett Rice, a graduate of Lafayette College from Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, takes on the question.

By Garrett Rice

Garrett RiceThe moment I exited Lewis Hall on the Friday concluding my first week of law school was the moment I knew without a doubt that I had made the correct choice in coming to W&L Law. As I walked out onto the patio, I was first greeted by the Assistant Dean who offered me an ice cream bar to cool down on what was a scorching afternoon. Upon acceptance of the treat, I made my way through the law school’s activities fair. I met several 2Ls and 3Ls who greeted me to the school and quickly convinced me to sign up for their organization’s email list and offered snacks as incentive. Finally, I made my way to the law school lawn. The first week of the Law School Football League games had just gotten underway, and I quickly found my teammates and starting warming up.

There are about 200 law schools in the United States. A great number of these schools, including W&L, are academically competitive, full of brilliant and talented professors, and highly ranked. But I feel confident that W&L is the only one where this kind of experience is possible.

I grew up on a farm a few miles outside of Mercersburg, PA, the classic American small town complete with two stoplights, a few pizza joints, and a single small grocery store. And although I’ve visited my share of major cities, small towns have always appealed to me. As I passed by W&L countless times while traveling to visit relatives in eastern Tennessee, however, I somehow never considered moving to Lexington for my legal education.

It wasn’t until I was going through my “Guide to Law Schools” book after receiving my LSAT score that I took real notice of what W&L had to offer. My initial attraction to the school came from the hard numbers. Namely, I took note of the small class sizes, student-to-faculty ratio, and outstanding career statistics. This was enough to entice me to send in an application. The first major impression the school made on me came a few months later, after I had been accepted. The W&L admissions staff made an unbelievable effort to answer my questions, put me in contact with current students, and help me with all aspects of the decision process. They made special arrangements for me to visit the law school on a day it wasn’t supposed to be open for visitors, and the Admitted Students Weekend (ASW) I later attended was beyond anything I could have imagined or experienced at other schools.

That weekend ultimately led to my decision to attend W&L Law. The students I met confirmed all I had heard about the school. First, I learned that Lexington is the perfect-sized town in which to go to law school. A lot of my classmates had concerns about spending three years in a small town in rural Virginia. Although I grew up in a town half its size and had no such fears, it didn’t take anyone long to realize that Lexington is small enough so that there are no distractions when you need to be studying but large enough that there are plenty of things to keep you occupied when you do have some free time. Lexington is quaint, quiet, and personal – the perfect atmosphere for studying law.

I also discovered during ASW that the Honor System really does work. During the application process, I had seen a great deal written about the W&L Honor System. I had read about how it gave both undergraduate and law students the rare trust of their professors and increased the freedom of everyone in the W&L community. Students told me that it really did work, even though no one would expect something like it to in today’s world. It wasn’t until I started at W&L did the system’s real effectiveness become apparent. I am able to leave my laptop, keys, and cell phone anywhere in the law building I desire and know without a doubt that they will be there when I return. A few weeks in to the semester, I lost my wallet, which was full of cash, credit cards, and gift cards. Within fifteen minutes of realizing I had lost it, I had an email from a fellow student informing me that he had found it and where I could meet him to pick it up. Such incidents speak to how the Honor System really does work and are just examples from my first few weeks at W&L.

The final thing I learned about during my ASW and that I can now attest to is that the professors at W&L Law are not only distinguished scholars, but excellent teachers who give their students unparalleled attention. One of my casebooks was written by a professor who teaches some of my fellow 1Ls. One of my own professors has four different law degrees. Another is so accomplished that his portrait already hangs in the law building and has had the peer mentoring program named in his honor. But I emphasize that these same people also take great care in making sure their students learn. During your first year at W&L Law, you have the same professor for one of your substantive classes and your legal writing course and these two “small section” courses are the only classes this professor teaches. I’ve already been to my small section professor’s office several times in the first weeks of the semester and can attest that she has taken a personal interest in making sure I learn the material. Knowing that my professors are approachable and willing to help has made my transition to law school so much easier than it otherwise would have been.

Many of the law students that choose W&L had offers from several top law schools. We chose W&L because we recognized all of the amazing things that are going on here, only a few of which I have been able to touch on. We chose W&L because we wanted an experience not offered anywhere else. I hope that my own experiences have helped you visualize what Washington and Lee Law is all about, and I hope you take the time to visit the school for yourself. You’ve already taken the first step by considering the school. Good luck with your decision.

Why I Chose W&L Law, 2012 – #1

October 15, 2012

We asked seven of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Hannah Shtein, a graduate of The University of Wisconsin – Madison from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, takes on the question.

By Hannah Shtein

Hannah Shtein

Hannah Shtein

I chose W&L Law because I feel at home here, and because I truly believe that this is a unique place.

I went to a large state school for undergrad, and while I had a great experience, the large class sizes and inaccessibility of some professors in my first two years sometimes felt overwhelming. While I enjoyed my time at a large institution, I wanted something more personal from law school. I wanted an environment that engaged me academically and socially, and I wanted to feel like something other than a point on a curve. W&L Law has exceeded these expectations tenfold.

My first glimpse of the W&L Law experience came when I moved to Washington, DC right out of college. My first roommate had just graduated with the W&L Law class of 2010, and I met several other alums in my two years in DC. The enthusiasm with which W&L alums recalled their time here was completely unparalleled by any other law school graduates I spoke with (and I gave every lawyer I knew the third degree). Most were still in touch with professors, had formed close friendships that remained years later, and fondly recalled Friday afternoons spent playing law school football. I wanted in.

Shortly after I was accepted, admissions staff put me in touch with a student who could answer my questions about the W&L Law experience, and made it clear that I could also raise my questions with the Office of Admissions itself. All of my questions (I ask a lot!) were answered immediately (most within no more than two hours), with thorough, personalized answers and a willingness to respond to any of my inquiries or concerns.

My Admitted Students Weekend (ASW) visit further confirmed all my good feelings about this school. The Dean of Admissions greeted me by my first name, despite the fact that I had never before visited, and my tour guide stopped to say hello and introduce our tour group to other students and professors as we explored campus. We also had a chance to have dinner and a night of live music with other prospective and current students, which was a perfect opportunity to ask the current students questions in a casual environment. Shortly after ASW, I returned home from work to find a handwritten note in my mailbox from my tour guide, thanking me for coming and letting me know that I could contact her with further questions.

As I get into the rhythm of my classes and meet more people, the congenial and supportive environment here is even more apparent. My professors are always willing to answer questions after class, during office hours, or by appointment, and have made a point of stressing their willingness be accessible to us. On my first week here, a second-year student noticed me with my clunky Contracts book at Lexington Coffee and asked me how I was settling in. When I went downstairs to find my carrel for the first time, Lawanda, one of the employees at the school’s Brief Stop café, stopped me to ask if I was new and introduced herself. I remember calling my mom and saying, “I can’t get over how friendly and forthcoming everyone is!” And we’re from the Midwest, so we know friendly.

It’s only been a little over a month, and I’ve already forged a connection with this school, Lexington, and, more dangerously, the amazing peanut butter cookies at the Brief Stop. It’s a good thing I still have almost three years here.

Why I Chose W&L Law – The Return – #8

November 8, 2011

by Randall Miller

We asked eight of our current first-year students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Randall Miller, a graduate of Mississippi College from Roseland, Louisiana, takes on the question.

While working for an attorney the summer before my junior year in college, I began to glance at the national rankings for law schools. Knowing that I would apply the following year, I quickly scanned the profiles of many schools in the top 50 and beyond. Taking into account national reputation and quality of life, I drafted a short list of schools where I might apply. I distinctly remember reading W&L’s profile for the first time and thinking, “Wow, a nationally recognized law school nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains with an Honor System that has been in place for more than 100 years, I need to remember this one!”

The following summer my law school search became less of a casual browse and more of an intentional, focused effort. When thinking about where to apply, I considered a lot of different factors. I analyzed job placement data, thought about the area of the country where I wanted to live for three years and considered the strength of various programs. At the end of the summer I shortened my list to five schools; W&L was one of the five.

There were a few different reasons why W&L made this list. The third year program at W&L was impressive. Current attorneys told me that law school was mostly theory, but it appeared that W&L was making strides to lessen the learning curve between law school and practice. I wanted to graduate from law school prepared to practice, and I saw W&L’s third year as an ideal way to ready myself for the challenges beyond the classroom.

The small class sizes also drew my attention to W&L. I knew from my undergraduate experience that I learned best in small classes, and the student to faculty ratio at W&L was really low. In talking with current students, I found they regularly mentioned being able to stop by a professor’s office without having to schedule an appointment. Several students credited this open door policy with allowing them the opportunity to seek advice from professors and build close relationships with them. They all emphasized just what great teachers their professors were and how professors at W&L truly wanted to see their students succeed both in the classroom and in their careers. I wanted to attend a law school where the professors were approachable and valued the success of their students, and it appeared that these characteristics were representative
of W&L’s faculty. 

The Honor System also stood out to me. I wanted to be a member of a law school community that valued personal integrity, honesty, and ethical decision making. I found these values at W&L. W&L was the only school where I heard students repeatedly describe leaving a laptop or other valuable in the law school over a weekend and return the following week to find it still there.

They also shared examples of professors viewing a student’s word as truth without probing further for validation. One student said his friend retold a true story of a dog eating his homework to one of his professors, and the professor did not question his honesty. The bond of trust that I noticed between the faculty, staff, and students was unique and admirable.   

Location was also important. Having lived in a small town for much of my life, I could relate to the way of life in Lexington and knew that the distractions existing in larger cities would be minimal here. Also, the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains created a peaceful backdrop for the law school. I recognized that law school would be demanding, and the ability to enjoy the amenities and views of the Shenandoah Valley resonated with me as a great way to find a peaceful escape when I needed to take a break from studying.

However, my Open House experience was what ultimately convinced me W&L was where I wanted to be. I visited the campus in August, and the impression from this earlier visit persuaded me to attend an Open House in March. Upon arriving at the Open House, the Director of Admissions greeted me by name! This thoughtful gesture was indicative of the general nature of the W&L community. From the onset, everyone was very open and friendly. Current students freely shared their experiences in Lexington, and staff members readily introduced themselves. It felt like a family. It was clear that the people truly made this law school different. They were engaging, caring, and honest.

Over the course of the weekend, it was clear the Honor System and pleasant atmosphere described online were realities that permeated every aspect of law school life. The Honor System created a community of trust that allowed students to leave their books and computers unattended at carrels, write an “IOU” at the Brief Stop (the café on campus), and have access to the law school 24 hours a day. Furthermore, it provided me with the assurance that I could trust my fellow classmates and everyone
at the University. The testimonies of students helping one another both in the classroom and outside of law school further convinced me that there was something different about W&L. This was the kind of law school I wanted to attend. I wanted to be in a place where my classmates and I would be held to high ethical standards and where students were willing to help one another.

I know the relationships I will form over the next three years will span far beyond the doors of Lewis Hall. I broke my right wrist (dominant hand) during the first week of law school. I was unable to write or type for two weeks. Thanks to my classmates and the willingness of professors to allow class recordings, I was able to survive classes without falling behind. Some classmates emailed me notes. Others baked cookies. Another made a peach cobbler. One of my classmates even chauffeured me to and from doctors’ appointments. I also spoke with some of my professors during office hours to discuss ways to adapt to this unforeseen challenge. I greatly appreciated their wise advice and words of encouragement. I can say without reservation that attending W&L Law has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made.