Genevieve Jenkins is a proud alumna of William & Mary Law School. Her interests have taken her many places -- from Montreal, where she earned her undergraduate degree at McGill University, to Williamsburg for J.D. studies, to London for an LL.M. degree, then to San Francisco to practice law. Today, she is in South Africa, working as a clerk to Justice Johann van der Westhuizen on the country's Constitutional Court. She acknowledges the myriad opportunities at the Law School that made this possible.
"I think the wide availability of international law courses at William & Mary, and the intellectual seeds planted by its many excellent professors, were what most shaped my career ambitions," Jenkins says.
During law school, she was a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Team and the Moot Court Team, president of Students for the Innocence Project, and a member of the William & Mary Law Review. She calls herself "one of the lucky people who can honestly say 'I loved law school.'"
Courses and extracurriculars at William & Mary were not the only components of her legal education. She was able to secure an international internship in Australia in the field of environmental law the summer after her 1L year, thanks to the assistance of the Office of Career Services. She later was selected as the Drapers' Scholar for her class, an honor that gave her the opportunity to earn an LL.M. in England.
"Undoubtedly, my life would look quite different right now -- and I would likely not be in South Africa -- if I had not been given the opportunity to study in London," Jenkins says.
She earned an LL.M. in Public International Law at Queen Mary College of the University of London, focusing on environmental law and human rights. During her studies there, she became interested in South Africa and its Constitution.
After she returned to her native California, she worked for the San Francisco office of Latham & Watkins. She practiced law there for almost three years before journeying to South Africa.
"I had always known that I would not be long in the private sector, and my preference for pro bono work at the firm confirmed this knowledge," Jenkins says. "In April 2012, I applied to be a clerk on the South African Constitutional Court, and within a few months, learned that I had a clerkship beginning in January 2014."
Jenkins hoped to get more experience in the South African legal system in fall 2013, so she applied for positions with non-governmental organizations. She was able to work with the Environmental Rights Programme of Lawyers For Human Rights, an independent human rights group in South Africa, while she waited for her clerkship to begin.
Jenkins relishes the opportunity to expand her knowledge through her clerkship. "My expectations for the clerkship are that I will gain more in-depth knowledge of South African law, as well as of the social intricacies of the country that inevitably contribute to legal rulings," she says.
She adds that a William & Mary education helped to lay the foundation for her work there today. "At William & Mary, my career path was shaped by the courses I took, the professors who taught, encouraged and challenged me, and the friends who helped me maintain sanity throughout the three years," she says. She also cites the importance of being able to intern abroad and the availability of Public Service Fund money to subsidize some of the costs of working internationally.
Jenkins acknowledges that international jobs are difficult to secure immediately, but advises that students remain persistent and focus on getting experience where they can to prepare themselves for work when it comes.
"The skills necessary to work as a lawyer, in the U.S. or elsewhere, are transferable, so no one should feel stressed if they are working close to home after graduation," she says. "You can always move into the international realm later on when you have honed the skills that law firms or NGOs seek. "
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.