Class of 2013 Tours Colonial Williamsburg, Learns About Law School's Historic Roots

In the early evening of September 2, 2010, William & Mary Law School Class of 2013 enjoyed a guided tour of Colonial Williamsburg to learn about the history of the nation's first law school. 

Students were led through the streets of Williamsburg, stopping at historic sites to hear about the town's rich history.  After the tour, students gathered in the Wren Building, where Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas spoke about the citizen lawyer concept, an idea incorporated into the law school's founding mission by Thomas Jefferson. The night's events concluded with a reception, where students continued getting to know their classmates and traded stories about the first weeks of law school.  

Tour leader Tom Patton, program coordinator for the Jamestown Historical Society, recounted the timeline of Williamsburg's roughly 300-year history, including details about the Law School and its relationship with the town. 

"The history of law is thick here in Williamsburg," Patton said. "You're now living in the preeminent living history museum in the nation." 

Students visited the house of George Wythe, the first law professor in the country.  An historian in full colonial attire related stories from Wythe's life, including his tutelage of Jefferson and his role in the birth of William & Mary Law School. 
Outside the courthouse at the center of Market Square, students learned about the criminal justice system during the time of Wythe and Jefferson.  They heard stories about the centrality of the courthouse in colonial life and the many important events that took place there. 

In a dimly lit classroom where three presidents of the United States had once attended classes, Dean Douglas traced the history of the citizen lawyer ethos and explained its significance in modern America.  He encouraged students to embrace the notion of service to the public good, regardless of their ultimate role in the legal world.

"The citizen lawyer ethic is broader than political leadership," Douglas said.  "Many of our alumni serve as citizen lawyers in the nation’s top law firms, in business, and in many other fields."    

Douglas challenged students to incorporate the ideals of the Law School early on in their legal education. 

"You will be engaged in the law in a hundred different contexts.  Tonight I urge you to think about living your lives as citizen lawyers," Douglas said. 

"I think it's important that we know the history of the law school, and how the school's ethics grows out of that history," said Alexa Roggenkamp, ‘13.  "If it weren't for Thomas Jefferson and George Wythe, we wouldn't have the concept of the citizen lawyer that is so integral to the law school."

"I walked away feeling closer to both the school and my new friends at William & Mary," said Aaron Jones, ‘13.  "I feel more like a part of the school and its rich history.  It's an incredible institution and I am honored I get to spend the next three years here."