Cultivating mentors and champions. Developing essential soft skills. Building an authentic personal brand. These are just some of the things law students have to consider as they begin their careers.
And consider them they did, and more, at the Law School’s Fifth Annual Leadership Conference on Friday, January 27.
The day-long event—entitled “Intentionality & Serendipity: Creating a Career and a Life”—saw 15 alumnae return to campus to share advice, strategies, and career wisdom with students and guests alike.
“It’s not a traditional conference where all day long you listen to a bunch of people speak,” said William & Mary Law Dean Davison M. Douglas during his welcome remarks. “This is a conference that is highly interactive.”
Panel discussions were held in one of the Law School’s large classrooms and the McGlothlin Courtroom. Attendees could learn strategies for becoming either a BigLaw partner, an entrepreneur, or an in-house counsel, and could delve into ways of using law skills to do good works and seek elected office.
Twelve breakout sessions also allowed alumnae and students to dig deeper into issues of common concern, and to learn from each other. Among the many questions addressed were “How Does a Newcomer Make Small Talk With Partners and Clients?” and “How are Summer Associates Really Judged?”
The lunchtime keynote address was provided by Amy Greer J.D. ’89. A partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Greer discussed the intentionality and serendipity of “getting from here to there” in a career that has taken her from a big firm to her own firm to a regional firm to the government and then back to Big Law.
“You need to be sure what your skills are, you need to work hard, and you need to reap the benefits of that hard work,” Greer said.
As one of many students who attended the conference, Ana María Matías J.D. ’17 said she enjoyed getting to meet “incredibly talented, brave, and successful” William & Mary Law alums.
“It was reassuring to hear that although the legal arena is so expansive, staying true to yourself and your values will ultimately allow you to find the career path that’s right for you,” Matias said. “Hearing these inspiring women made me feel optimistic about my future.”
Kristin Hopkins J.D. ’18 was equally positive in her assessment.
“This year’s Leadership Conference was nothing less than exceptional!” Hopkins said. “Having the opportunity to be one on one with of the Law School’s most distinguished alumnae was not only inspiring, but also fruitful because I was able to get advice and make lasting connections with women who were in my shoes not too long ago.”
The conference is the fifth 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.
Subsequent conferences included “Lawyers in In-House Practice” in 2013, “Lawyers as Leaders” in 2014 and “Making Things Happen, Getting Things Done” in 2016.
The event was sponsored by William & Mary Law School, Office of the Dean, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, Office of Career Services, William & Mary Business Law Review, William & Mary Journal of Women & the Law, Student Bar Association (SBA), Black Law Students Association (BLSA), Latino Law Students Association (LLSA), Public Service Fund (PSF), William & Mary Women’s Law Society, and the William & Mary National Trial Team.
“We are really grateful that 15 of our alumnae are with us today,” Dean Douglas said. “We’ve been doing this for five years, and what’s interesting is that each year we bring in a new group for the most part…. We have such a fantastic number of alumnae who are eager to participate.”
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.