J.D. Program Information
While law schools have traditionally taught all students in the same way for all three years, at W&L Law, you will encounter a sequence of learning experiences rooted in the basic assumption that each year of law school should present new and different challenges while pushing you further along the continuum from beginning law student to lawyer-to-be. This allows the School to produce lawyers who are better positioned to provide valuable service to their clients and employers from the outset of their careers.
The First Year
At W&L Law, we strive to create a first year experience that is not only challenging, demanding, and stimulating, but also personal, collegial, and humane. We work hard to create a friendly and supportive environment where students are free to pursue their intellectual curiosities and questions in and out of the classroom. Our dynamic and distinguished professors are accessible, and learning at W&L is a collaborative and shared experience. The cutthroat competition so often associated with law school is simply not a part of life at our law school. Students work together as they grapple with the challenging legal problems and issues they encounter in their first year courses. If students still have questions, our faculty are here to help. With an excellent student to faculty ratio, there is no arm's-length teaching at W&L.
During your first year, your largest class will be approximately seventy-five, and you will have a small enrollment class of around twenty-five where you learn a substantive area of the law. Students also have Legal Writing and Research requirements in their first year. Legal Writing is a comprehensive year-long course taught in concert with Legal Research. This curriculum focuses on real world skills that students will be expected to have mastered, and in a way that replicates actual practice. Many law students wonder what courses they will take in their first year. At W&L, the required first-year courses are: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Contracts, Property, Torts, and Transnational Law. These courses will give the student a broad perspective of legal issues and create a shared, collaborative, and intellectual experience during this first year of law school.
The Second and Third Year
Just as the first year lays the foundation upon which the remainder of your legal education will build, the second year and third year at Washington and Lee require students to engage in an even more advanced and challenging course of legal study. During these years, students will identify and pursue their own interests in particular areas of the law.
Washington and Lee offers a "liberal arts" approach to legal education and at no point during your three years at the law school will you be expected to pick a track, specialization, or commit to the intensive study of only one area of the law. However, our upper level offerings are extensive and comprehensive, allowing students to tailor the curriculum to suit their career objectives.
In addition to delving deeply into specific subject areas, students also begin taking classes in our innovative experiential curriculum during the second year. Blending traditional classes with practice-based offerings like practicum classes, legal clinics, and externships, allow students to create unique opportunities to learn in context, speeding the transition from law student to legal professional.
Washington and Lee University School of Law has witnessed many changes in the years since its founding in 1849. In the law school's earliest days, Judge John White Brockenbrough was the sole faculty member, and the course of study was short. Yet the Law School made a difference in the life of the nation almost immediately, educating Governors, State Supreme Court Justices, a Supreme Court Justice and Solicitor General of the United States, ambassadors, cabinet members, legislators, and distinguished members of the bar.
Though the profession and legal education have changed over the years, the law school today remains a vital part of the national scene. Our graduates sit on federal and state benches throughout the nation, practice law in large corporate firms and small family practices, prosecute and defend criminal cases, represent the government at the national, state, and local levels, lead businesses, advise corporations, advocate on behalf of public interest groups, and serve in a myriad of ways that lawyers have aided society since the beginning of our nation.
One of the greatest things about a law degree is that you can do many-and very different-things with it. As a student at W&L Law, your job search will benefit from the expertise, support, and guidance of the law school's Office of Career Strategy (OCS). Staffed by career planning professionals with legal backgrounds, OCS assists students with the logistics of the job search, such as preparing resumes and cover letters, honing interview skills, and developing a search strategy. They also work to educate students about the variety of practice options. OCS understands that searches are individual, and at Washington and Lee, students meet one-on-one with an OCS professional to match the hundreds of available opportunities with their goals, interests, and qualifications. Since the program is not "one size fits all," the students set the agenda, and we provide the help. For more information, visit the Office of Career Strategy's webpage.