For William & Mary Law School’s Fourth Annual Leadership Conference, “Making Things Happen, Getting Things Done,” the second time was the charm.
Originally scheduled for January 22, but canceled by a winter storm, the day-long conference was held on a balmy March 18 in Williamsburg. Nineteen alumnae returned to campus to discuss their careers with students and guests.
“We have a rich array of alumnae who’ve come back to talk about their experiences,” said Dean Davison M. Douglas in his welcoming remarks. “This conference is really for the students; I encourage them to ask questions and get to meet the alumnae.”
Conference organizer Jayne Barnard, James Cutler Professor of Law, Emerita, said the original January roster of participants stayed remarkably intact despite the need to reschedule the event.
“We lost a couple of speakers to busy work schedules, but many were still able to make it and share their invaluable expertise with our students,” Barnard said. “And others stepped in when asked to complete our panels.”
Panel discussions were held in simultaneous breakout sessions in two of the Law School’s large classrooms. Topics included everything from “Winning a Big Case” to “Pivoting Away from the Law” and from “Becoming (and Being) a Judge” to “Rising to the Top in Management.”
In keeping with the event’s theme of accomplishment, Audra A. Dial ’98 gave a lunchtime talk on “How I Went from First Year Associate to Wife, Mom & Managing Partner.” Dial, the Managing Partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP in Atlanta, shared how she has been able to balance a thriving legal practice with community service—and, as she emphasized, having a life.
Also making a lunchtime appearance—albeit electronically---was Linda Klein, president-elect of the American Bar Association.
The conference is the fourth in a series of annual events that feature women in law. The first, “Women in Big Law,” was held in 2012 in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the graduation of Virginia Mister, the first woman student at William & Mary Law School.
“That first conference was great for our students to meet with alumnae, and for our alumnae to meet each other,” Douglas said. “It was intended to be a one-time gathering honoring Virginia Mister, but it was so successful we decided to do it again.”
Subsequent conferences included “Lawyers in In-House Practice” in 2013 and “Lawyers as Leaders” in 2014.
For many panel participants, the event brought back great law school memories.
“I enjoyed meeting the people on my panel and other attendees at the conference, as well as some of the new William & Mary Law team members, not to mention the law students with whom I enjoyed lunch,” said Karen C. Bifferato ’94, a partner at Connolly Gallagher LLP in Wilmington, Del. “William & Mary Law is such a special place, and I was so happy to get back in touch with it.”
Anne C. Foster ’86, a director at Richards, Layton & Finger in Wilmington, Del., likewise praised her experience, especially getting to meet today’s law students.
“I really liked having the two law students shadowing me,” Foster said. “It gave me more insight into what is going on with the Law School, and I enjoyed speaking with them.”
Students themselves came away from the information-packed event with a lot to think about.
“As a current student, the most important takeaway for me was the fact that these very successful, and very busy, alumni took time out of their schedule to travel across the country to come speak at their alma mater,” said Alex Kalyniuk’17, managing editor of the William & Mary Business Law Review. “That not only speaks to their personal dedication to William & Mary Law School, but also attests to the quality individuals that this school attracts.”
Kalyniuk particularly enjoyed the practicality of the discussion topics.
“Unlike other law school events that center around more abstract legal theories and topics, the discussions at the Leadership Conference were practical and based on personal experiences,” Kalyniuk said. “As a student, that form of practical advice is harder to come by, so it was great to spend a day listening to the speakers talk about their experiences in the field.”
Although she retired in from the field of teaching in May 2015, Barnard, who is also serving as Coordinator of Academic Events for 100 Years of Women at William & Mary, is glad to keep the conference in motion.
“It’s wonderful to get together each year with our alumnae, and inspiring to see our students network with some incredible leaders,” Barnard said.
The event was sponsored by William & Mary Law School, William & Mary Business Law Review, The William & Mary Journal of Women & the Law, Black Law Students Association, Business Law Society, Women and the Law Society, William & Mary National Trial Team, Office of Career Services, and the Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship Legal Society.
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.