Amanda Silvester Williams: President, Government and Politics Legal Society, Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School
by Mary Waldron
Growing up, Williams always noticed how fulfilled her father was by his career as a lawyer, but it was not until she was personally affected by an environmental dispute that she knew what she wanted to do. As Williams prepared for graduation during her final year of undergraduate studies, she realized that she was not done with school and that she was interested in working closely on environmental issues. At the time, she was working for the forest service, and their attempts to preserve one of the local canyons were under attack because of an ancient mining act. This experience inspired Williams to take action.
"I remember wondering how such a thing could even be, and I felt that law school might provide answers," she said.
When Williams began law school, it took her a year or so to really develop an eagerness and excitement for the general study of law. As she entered her second year, the challenge became more compelling, helping her to begin her growth as a law student.
"I love[d] that for the first time in my life, it [was] not my weaknesses that [were] being pushed, but my strengths that [were] being tested," she said. While excelling in law school, Williams has rounded out her initial interest in environmental and natural resources law by opening herself up to all different areas of law, such as domestic violence intervention, wills and estates, and constitutional law. "I think I learned that although I love the environment, I want saving people and their needs to be my work and saving nature to be my hobby," she said.
A large part of Williams' learning experience has been acquired through her considerable involvement in law school organizations and societies. Serving as the president of two societies, a lead dean's fellow of an academic program, a liaison for her student government, the submissions editor for a law journal, and a board member for two associations, Williams described her involvement in these groups as her "salvation," saying, "They have provided me with a way to stay focused and balanced, as well as opportunities to serve."
As President of the Government and Politics Legal Society, Williams contributes by delegating assignments, planning for future events, seeking out and gathering guest speakers, and coordinating with her other school associations, in order to get more law students involved. The society helps students "to explore current issues faced by attorneys in, or dealing with, the public sector." Each March, the society organizes the State and Local Government Conference, which aims to bring law students and professionals together to discuss and examine crucial issues within the areas of civil, criminal, and political law. They also organize a monthly "brown bag" luncheon and seminar, during which outstanding legal practitioners share their stories and experiences with law students. Williams values the experiences that her leadership positions have brought her, and through them, she has cultivated a series of relationships with students, professors, deans, and staff that will last her a lifetime.
For the past two summers, Williams has enhanced her background by interning at four different companies, located both locally and abroad. For her first endeavor, she traveled to New Zealand to assist at a mid-sized firm, Till Henderson King, and in the chambers of a solo barrister, Tom Sutcliffe. While interning in New Zealand, Williams was given the opportunity to work directly with clients and sit through an entire child abuse case from beginning to end, as well as other hearings and arraignments with a prominent sex-offender defense attorney. Later that summer, she returned to Utah to volunteer at the Utah Protection and Advocacy Agency's Disability Law Center, where she aided in research, education, outreach, and investigation and monitoring of federally funded locations for mistreatment of those with mental illnesses. The following summer, Williams continued her progress at the Department of the Interior's Office of the Solicitor, finishing up her summer at Utah Legal Services. Williams' work this past summer was kicked up a notch when she was given real assignments and clients, opening her eyes to what it is really like to be a lawyer. "I think it was the most satisfying experience from a legal perspective, getting the most exposure to the legal process" she said.
Williams' influences throughout her life have provided her with constant support, fostering her level of success. Shortly before entering law school, Williams married her husband, Matthew, who wholeheartedly supported and applauded her decision to pursue a legal career.
"As I have faced the challenges that law school inevitably brings, he has carried me through the stress and picked up the slack around the house where I was unable. He not only supports me but encourages me and reminds me that I am an intelligent, capable, and wonderful woman, even when the law school pressures might have led me [to feel] otherwise."
Williams' father's never-ending optimism and support have also instilled in her the idea that she can "always, always, always" accomplish anything that she puts her mind to. Her experiences in law school have affirmed what she was taught growing up—that she is competent and capable and can achieve anything she works for.
"I think most people want someone to be proud of them, and I know that my husband and my father are incredibly proud of me," she said.