Law Week for new William & Mary law students means opportunities for social interaction and intensive immersion into the legal world before classes start in earnest. For William & Mary’s J.D. and LL.M. Classes of 2016 it also offered a chance to meet with U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who was taking a week-long trip across the state to talk with constituents during the Senate’s summer recess.
Warner was on hand Wednesday, August 21, to help greet the law school’s newest students, as well as to make a special announcement about the Law School’s Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic.
“The news of the day is that the Department of Veterans Affairs has designated the William & Mary Puller Clinic as one of their ‘best of practice’ models, only the third institution in America to receive this designation,” Warner said. “The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and now the William & Mary Law School clinic model is an accepted community of practice, which means the VA will work with you in an official capacity to work more collaboratively to help assist veterans.”
The clinic is the first law school clinic in the nation to receive this designation. Warner has championed the Puller Clinic program as a national model to help solve the nation’s backlog of VA disability claims.
It was the senator’s third visit to the Law School in recent years. He previously spoke at the Law School on Veterans Day in 2010 at an event celebrating the naming of the Puller Clinic and later was invited by the graduating class to give remarks at the Law School’s May 2011 graduation.
“I hope as you think about your experience at the Law School that you will consider giving some time to the Puller Clinic,” Warner told the students. “It will make you a better lawyer, it will make you a better person, and you will do something for our country.”
Warner, whose career exemplifies both entrepreneurship and public service, remembered his own days as a student at Harvard Law School, where he admitted being “horribly intimidated.” He also recounted his post-law school ventures in a startup company and real estate, followed by his radical idea (for 1982) of going into the cell phone business.
“Who’s going to want a car telephone?” Warner remembered skeptics asking. But the resulting company in which he invested, Nextel, proved he was on the right track, and on the right side of a cutting-edge technology that has snowballed today.
Warner also spent nearly an hour answering students’ questions on a wide range of subjects from student loans to overcoming gridlock in Washington, D.C., to immigration reform. A champion of bipartisanship, he admitted to not having all the answers, but looked to the law students themselves as helping figure out the answers as they move forward.
“If you’re going to have the same kind of opportunity coming out of law school that I had, we’ve got to have a country that’s still innovative, that still invests in its future, still recognizes this is a competition for talent and capital, and still preserves the basic liberties that makes us different than the rest of the world,” he said.
After the question and answer session, Stacey-Rae Simcox, a 1999 graduate of the Law School, Army veteran, and the Puller Clinic’s managing attorney, presented Warner with the clinic’s challenge coin in recognition of his outstanding commitment to serving veterans.
The clinic's challenge coin recognizes and thanks individuals who have demonstrated outstanding devotion to veterans. Designed by alumna Diana Cooper ’12, the coin features the clinic’s name and the William & Mary cipher on one side. The reverse features a compass, symbolizing the clinic's commitment to helping veterans navigate the challenges they face after returning home. Circling the compass are the clinic’s motto, “Serving Those Who Sacrificed,” and its core values: “Selfless Service,” “Professionalism,” and “Heroism.”
“Military members carry a coin, a symbol of excellence,” Simcox said. “It’s not given lightly by any means, and it’s given because someone has gone above and beyond, and they’ve done an outstanding job.
“It’s truly an honor to work with Senator Warner in this cause, and we thank him for his support of the clinic.”