Q&A with WLSO Presidents Thayer Case and Madeline Morcelle
Part of our ongoing series of Q&As with student leaders, Thayer Case and Madeline Morcelle, co-presidents of the Women Law Students Organization, discuss the importance of participating in activities outside the classroom and what WLSO has planned for the coming year. Learn more about WLSO at law.wlu.edu/wlso.
Q: How has being on the WLSO board shaped your law school experience? (e.g. did it help with finding a job, organizing time, learning to work more efficiently with other people, doing legal research).
Thayer: Everything I have chosen to participate in outside of class has shaped my law school experience for the better. In terms of helping with jobs, probably the only thing that doesn’t help is preparing for and going to class! Employers choose to care about different things and the person you’re interviewing with may relate to something you have done or not. The more you have to talk about besides what classes you’re taking, the better. Then again, don’t overload yourself if you can’t handle it. No one singular extracurricular experience will necessarily provide more opportunities than the other, so I personally like to focus on a few things that I really care about and I think that looks better to an employer than someone who spreads themselves thin.
Q: Is there anything you think students absolutely must do in their time at W&L Law? (e.g. take a certain class/professor, get involved in Moot Court, etc.).
Thayer: I really don’t think there is one thing that you must do – it’s important to figure out what is important to you, what interests you, what will further your career goals, and what will make you happy. Everyone has a really different law school experience and as soon as you can recognize that and understand that you don’t have to be exactly like your peers, the better off you will be.
Q: How do you find time to balance your different academic, extracurricular, and personal goals/demands?
Maddie: Dr. Stephen Covey compared a person’s time to a wide-mouth jar full of rocks, gravel, sand, and water. A lot can fit in a jar, but if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you will never have room for them. I balance my academic, extracurricular, and personal goals and commitments by figuring out what matters—for me, that is what is value added to my professional and personal development—and then prioritizing these things above the rest so that I can give them my all. When I do this, I find that the white noise—the stuff that gets in the way—clears itself from my schedule.
Q: What advice do you have for succeeding in law school (for new 1Ls and prospective students)?
Maddie: 1) Don’t be afraid to connect with upperclassmen. At W&L, they are frequently willing to give 1Ls the inside scoop about a class and share their outlines. Organizations like WLSO have mentoring programs that connect 1Ls with upperclassmen with similar interests, and host social events to help blow off steam.
2) Get to know your professors outside of class. Our faculty has an open door policy. They are eager to connect with students and are incredible academic and professional resources.
Q: It’s 3L! What will you miss most about W&L/Lexington?
Maddie: Washington and Lee has an incredible sense of place. It isn’t just the beautiful campus, the charming town that envelops it, or Lexington’s quirky history. It’s the community. I knew from the first time that I set foot on campus that to study at Washington and Lee meant to be a part of a community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni that care deeply for each other. It’s true that the community is small—you surrender any hope of anonymity when you move to Lexington—but that is exactly what makes it so great. We know each other. We would go to bat for each other. I know from conversations with alumni that these are relationships that will last for the rest of our lives. Even so, I will miss being here, in the thick of it all, surrounded by a community of bright, brilliant, courageous peers, teachers, mentors, and friends.
Q: We heard WLSO is starting a blog! Tell us a little about that.
Maddie: Forty years ago, the first class of women law students graduated from Washington and Lee. This year, WLSO is honoring their achievements by launching a new blog, Juris Sophia, which will feature articles addressing the advancement of women in the profession and how policy, law and events affect women. We hope that this blog will further WLSO’s mission of providing a forum for issues that interest, concern and affect women, advocating for the success of women in the law, and bringing an awareness of women’s issues to the W&L Law School community.
Q: Give us the best advice you’ve ever received, or the best advice you can give, about law school.
Thayer: Law school is not the end. (Advice from my grandfather who is 89 and sill practices law!)