Citizen Lawyers

  • The Law School has deep and enduring roots, reaching back to 1779. William & Mary was the first academic institution in the country to teach law in a university setting. Thomas Jefferson had the original idea, believing that university-trained lawyers could provide leadership for the new nation.
  • The Law School honors that ideal though its dedication to educating citizen lawyers who will serve with distinction in their communities, the nation and the world.
  • William & Mary’s Honor Code is an enduring tradition at the university with a history that dates to 1736. It seeks to preserve a community of trust. An Honor Council composed of students from each class adjudicates instances of Honor Code violations.

Our law school was founded in the middle of the American Revolution in 1779. At that time, there were no law schools in America. We were founded by Thomas Jefferson for a very specific purpose, to train young lawyers who would take leadership in the new nation.

Here at William and Mary, we're really taught how to be citizen lawyers. And so we're very involved in our community. Citizen lawyer is rooted in the concept of service. By reaping the benefits of being a citizen, you also have an obligation to get back. And as a lawyer, I think you have a special obligation to better the world.

We have a number of our graduates who serve in Congress, who serve in state legislatures. But that's just one aspect of being a citizen lawyer. There are others as well, serving your community in the private sphere as well as the public sphere.

The Honor Council is really special. It was the first in the country.

It is a commitment made by students to be honorable people. And if there are problems with a student's performance, it's adjudicated, not by the faculty, and not by the dean, but rather by other students. We encourage our students to use their legal talents for the greater good to help society in some way.

The William and Mary students that I encounter are so bright. And they really do care about making the community a better place.

Everything that we can do is because lawyers have fought for us to be able to do it. We have the power to bring about change in the entire world. Laws run the world. If you have the power to do good, then you have the responsibility to do good. And that's definitely what I've learned here.