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William & Mary Law School

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In 1779, when Thomas Jefferson was governor of Virginia, he urged William & Mary to begin their legal education, thus starting the first law school in the United States. William & Mary's website states that ''Jefferson believed that aspiring members of the profession should be trained to be citizen lawyers—passionate legal advocates and honorable human beings.'' Several prominent historical figures gained their education here, including John Marshall, the fourth chief justice of the United States. Located in Williamsburg, Virginia, William & Mary Law School provides unique opportunities to its students, including an award-winning, two-year Legal Skills Program which gives students grouped into faux law firms ''hands-on experience in every facet of the legal profession from research to closing arguments.''

Center for Legal and Court Technology

Another huge benefit offered by William & Mary is their Center for Legal and Court Technology (CLCT). This is a joint project of William & Mary Law School and the National Center for State Courts. CLCT is best known for the Law School's McGlothlin Courtroom, which is ''the world's most technologically advanced trial and appellate courtroom. CLCT's primary mission is to ‘improve the world's legal systems through the appropriate use of technology.'''

CLCT offers vast opportunities to law school students, and offers the only technology-oriented summer school for law students. In this unique atmosphere, students gain experience by conducting experimental or ''laboratory'' trials annually. These laboratory trials ''test the innovative use of technology for dispute resolutions.''

A Personable Faculty

William & Mary offers professors who are personally invested in their students' education and success. ''The goal is to educate the whole student, something that won't be accomplished through lectures alone.'' Law professors also act as faculty advisors. They are personable and make themselves available to students for review sessions and advice.

The Honor System

One of the law school's ''oldest and most important traditions'' is its honor system, which is administered by students, and which dates back to 1779. The honor system ''requires that students conduct themselves honestly in all matters related to student life.'' This system give students more freedom and flexibility than they would have in other schools. Exams are not proctored. Students are free to take them anywhere in the building, and are also allowed to use their laptops. The core of the honor system if trust in the students to follow the guidelines that have been set for them. This has helped to build an atmosphere of loyalty and trust among the student body and the faculty.

William & Mary Statistics (2008–9)

  • Tuition and fees (Virginia residents): $20,146
    Tuition and fees (nonresidents): $30, 346
  • 51%/49% male-female ratio
  • 21% students of color (self-identified)
  • Student body holds baccalaureate degrees from 242 colleges and universities
  • 220 students enrolled from 4,585 applicants
  • Median LSAT score: 164 (90th percentile)
  • Median undergraduate GPA: 3.64


Degrees Offered

  • Juris Doctor (J.D.): full-time, three-year program
  • LL.M. in the American Legal System: full-time, two-semester program for lawyers trained outside the United States
  • Joint degrees: J.D. - M.B.A. (Master of Business Administration), J.D. - M.P.P. (Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.) or J.D. - M.A. (Master of Arts in American Studies)



  • The McGlothlin Courtroom is the most technologically advanced in the United States
  • The Wolf Law Library—completed in 2007, the new library has a collection of 380,000 volumes and vast electronic resources
  • Furnished, air-conditioned, on-campus graduate apartments with full kitchens

About Harrison Barnes
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Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

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Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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