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Why W&L Law: 1L Lizzy Williams Likes to Learn…A Lot

We asked several of our 1L students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Next up is Lizzy Williams, a graduate of Smith College from Austin, Texas.

I’ve always been a nerd. It is a mantel that I proudly wear. In second grade, I stayed up late every Thursday watching BBC mysteries with my mom. I was always late to school the next day, but that never mattered. In middle school, I called the school during the summer to debate with them what the most valuable elective courses to enroll in were. Fast-forward to a small liberal women’s college in the northeast, where intellectual activity was the primary activity. I then took my nerdiness elsewhere, learning German and spending time in Austria as a student and an English teacher. All of these required lots of learning, which I adored. But then came law school.

And, man, is there a lot of work in law school.

It is my first year here at Washington and Lee Law, and I couldn’t be more pleased that I chose to come do all the work here. Before applications, it wasn’t my plan. I’d intended to live in a big, cosmopolitan city with numerous Indian food restaurants to choose from. But I applied to W&L anyway because I knew of the great national reputation of the school, I liked the way the curriculum is divided between all three years giving each one a special purpose, and I’d always wanted to go to Virginia. As a history buff, I loved the idea of attending a school that President George Washington had given the foundational support to, as well as the honor and traditions that come from him and General Lee.

Picking W&L Law was a choice full of little ideas that built themselves up until I couldn’t not choose W&L. I applied to law school while living in Austria, which means I got a lot of acceptance e-mails and not a lot of letters. Washington and Lee sent me a hard-copy of every important piece of paper, in addition to an e-mail. My acceptance letter came via e-mail on a Wednesday night after a long, difficult day teaching English. Opening the attachment, I saw a hand-written congratulatory note, which later came in the mail. This was a small thing, but it illustrated to me the kind of attention and personal care that W&L gives to its students.

Not so long after that, I was contacted by a professor through email, and we made a phone call appointment. Of course, I converted the time incorrectly, so when she called my Austrian cell phone, I was heading home on the local country train, full of the high-school students I taught yelling back and forth to each other throughout the entire compartment. This served to make me anxious, but my anxiety was quickly dissolved by the friendly voice on the other end. As we spoke, every word worked to convince me that W&L was not like the horror stories of law school that I’d heard of from others; instead it was a place where professors had open doors, students were friendly, and opportunities were numerous.

There was a break in the Austrian school schedule, and I had already bought tickets to Massachusetts to visit friends. From Massachusetts, I drove eight hours to W&L Law to see Lexington, meet with professors and chat with students. It wasn’t long before I was sure this was the right place for me. Two professors took significant amounts of time out of their busy weekends to discuss everything W&L with me. I went out for drinks with a group of students and was relieved to see that I couldn’t imagine any of them telling a professor to kick you out of class, as happens to Elle Woods in Legally Blonde.

But in the end, it was the nerd in me that chose W&L. Classrooms are small, and classes are even smaller. My undergraduate institution was also small, and I couldn’t imagine how I’d pay attention in a class with more than 100 students. Here that is not a problem. My largest class, by far, has 68 people, and still somehow manages to feel intimate. There is an honor code here that treats students like responsible members of the community and expects students to be honest and behave with decency. These are important traits for all humans, but for someone going into the legal profession, they are even more valuable.

Using my German language skills is something that appeals to me for my future work, and a large number of the law faculty speak German. Possible venues for career and summer jobs in international law were suggested to me that made a vision of my future solidify from a vague grey haze to a brightly colored painting. Washington and Lee has the German Law Journal, which is one of the top journals on European law. There are professors here with such a wide variety of experiences and contacts to help students figure out what kind of law speaks to them. There are so many sub-fields in our future profession, and at W&L you will jump right in the first day learning the real basis for your legal career. After that, the possibilities are almost limitless.

I chose Washington and Lee Law, because the more I learned the more, I couldn’t not come here for my legal education. The professors, staff, and students are without exception kind, intelligent, open, and helpful.

You’re going to do a lot of work in law school. At Washington and Lee, you will be supported and encouraged. Your friends and colleagues will be smart and interesting, and your classes will not be scary, but instead stimulating and fun.