William and Mary Law School

Philosophy

It would be inaccurate to suggest that a single point of view animates the work and teaching of every member of the faculty of the College of William & Mary Law School. Law professors are intensely individualistic. Yet there are certain core values which are shared by the faculty as a whole. These shared values impart a cohesiveness and an intellectual unity to the educational experience at the Law School that we believe is unusual in contemporary legal education.

Intellectual distinction is a fundamental attribute of a good lawyer. Our admission process is sufficiently stringent to ensure that each of our students possesses the intellectual potential for success at the bar. Once enrolled, particularly in their first courses, every effort is made to ensure that the intellectual capacity of our students is tested rigorously and directed along professionally productive lines. In addition, early emphasis is placed upon the acquisition of essential practical skills.

While none can doubt the primacy of intellectual rigor in the training of a lawyer, our faculty firmly believes that the education of a complete lawyer must be more than training in the life of the mind. Most lawyers perform many functions in their professional careers. They are often advocates, counselors and community leaders. In the discharge of these functions, more is required than an able intellect. Traditional traits of character are equally important. Of course, no law school can create character, compassion or sensitivity to human needs. A law school can, however, make it clear to its students that these qualities, in common with intellectual ability, are important in the education of a lawyer who aspires to genuine professional excellence.

At the College of William & Mary Law School, we have tried to emphasize the human side of the practice of law. Members of our faculty consistently strive to provide this perspective in the teaching of their courses. We have also developed educational programs designed to show the student by example how very important sensitivity to the personal needs and problems of clients can be.

The law is a learned profession; its mastery, if attainable at all, requires a lifetime of diligent study and practice. No law school, however distinguished, would presume to claim that its students, immediately upon graduation, are competent to contend on an equal basis with lawyers of long standing and substantial experience. It is, however, the highest aim of this school to prepare each of its graduates for a life in law, which, if pursued with persistence and integrity, will be marked by significant legal achievement and unfailing adherence to the highest ideals of the profession.

Classes are often conducted by the "case method," which requires critical study and analysis of judicial decisions, statutes and other legal materials. The curriculum also offers selected courses conducted by the "problem method" and a number of performance-based and clinical courses as well. In addition, there are a number of programs designed to foster independent inquiry and the continuing development of close reasoning skills. These include Independent Legal Research, Independent Legal Writing, Directed Reading, the various for-credit law reviews and the Moot Court program. A combination of these varied approaches to learning will afford each student the opportunity to design a personalized program of study. Advice is available from administrators, faculty, upper-level students and alumni on the most effective ways in which to structure a course schedule to meet individual needs.