Important Things to Know When Transitioning to Law School

The transition from being an undergraduate to law school student is definitely not the easiest. Often, students are dealing with moving to a new town while trying to prepare for what will likely be the most rigorous academic program they have ever experienced. Even with these challenges, your first semester will be one of the most exciting times you will experience in law school. Exploring new ways of thinking, meeting new people from all over the world, and discovering things about yourself that you did not know makes this time unique.

With all of the new ideas, concepts, and people that were entering my life as 1L, I wish I had gotten some advice, especially during my first semester. Adjusting to law school can be challenging, so keep some of the following things in mind. I hope you find some of my advice helpful.

The Summer Before Law School

Be sure to use the summer before law school to treat yourself and do some of those things you enjoy, because it is likely that you will not have a lot of time for them while you are in law school. I recommend hanging out with friends and family and going to the beach or some other place you enjoy, because you will be spending a lot of your time in law school studying, writing and researching, and the library will become more familiar than home. Try to get into a routine that you can transfer to law school that includes exercise, eating well (learn how to cook!), getting enough rest, and taking mental health breaks. All of this will help you better handle the stress that comes with a law school education.

Read for leisure, but If you feel inclined to read in order to prepare for law school, I recommend reading Law School Confidential by Robert H. Miller. The book is known to be incredibly helpful in preparing students for what to expect when it comes to law school lectures, homework assignments, and even applying for jobs. Unfortunately I was blissfully unaware of this book until my 2L year, so I was not able to  benefit from it as a 1L.

During Your First Semester

Writing case briefs – It will take time to become efficient at writing case briefs. Do not get discouraged, even if you are still not exactly sure what is going on after spending two hours on one case. You will eventually start to get the hang of it. Reading cases can be similar to reading in a different language, so do not hesitate to read things more than once and take the time to look up words you do not know. It does not take a lot of time before it will all become second nature to you.

Handling stress – Be sure to take some time for yourself to do something you enjoy. This can be done daily, or once or twice a week. Whether it is working out, watching something on TV, hanging out with friends, taking a nap, or going to the law school tailgate party before a home football game, you will need a break from studying every now and then.

Reaching out for help – Most of the people you will encounter in law school have been in your shoes and almost all of them want to share their knowledge and help you.

Professors: Do not be afraid to go to a professor’s office to talk about a case you do not fully understand. All of them have office hours, many have an open door policy, and most do not mind meeting with students right after a class. All of our professors are incredibly friendly and most are willing to help students almost any time of the day. In my experience, they all reply promptly to e-mails and some even give out their cell phone numbers for emergency questions.

Research Center Staff: The Research Center is our law library, and it is staffed with people who are trained to help you. Not only will they help you find the resources you need for your research, papers, and classes, but they are also there to help you hone your research skills. Our law librarians also teach legal research courses within the curriculum at the College of Law and provide non-credit workshops (with lunch!) on various legal research topics during the fall and spring semesters.

Upperclassmen: 2Ls and 3Ls love to give helpful hints and are motivated to help you get involved in student organizations and clubs. They will also share information about classes, professors, and other things they have learned while in law school. Many will even share their course outlines and notes with you for the courses they have had that you are taking. You will also be in the legal job market one day and the better they know you, the more willing they will be to vouch for you or pass on a job tip.

Student Affairs Office Staff: The Student Affairs Office has many services that students may not even know about. Students should not hesitate to reach out to them if they need help adjusting to law school, handling stress, or even to get advice on handling outside pressures. They are also the office responsible for helping students who request various accommodations while they are in law school.

Career & Professional Development Center Staff: The individuals in this office will help you improve your resume, explore job prospects, and schedule mock interviews so you can be ready when you come across that job you really want. They are a great resource that you should start taking advantage of your first semester in law school.

Remember how far you have come! It is an incredible accomplishment to be accepted to law school, and especially to Florida State Law! So, if you ever feel overwhelmed during your 1L year, just remember the hard work you did to get to this point. You can do it, otherwise you would not have been admitted. Just remember to take advantage of the resources that are available to you and the people who are here to help you.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Abby Altman, Class of 2017

Florida State Law Offers Students Great Networking Opportunities

Besides completing your law degree and passing the bar exam, networking may be the single most important thing that a law school student can do to kick-start their legal career. While there is no specific formula for how to go about it, there is also not just one thing that a student must do to build their network. Therefore, a student must learn to recognize and take advantage of their opportunities, include networking as part of their career strategy, and look for ways to nurture the relationships that develop along the way.

Tallahassee: A Great Place to Build Your Legal Network

Catherine Lockhart, Class of 2017

The Florida State University College of Law has positioned itself as an active participant in the community and is located in a perfect area to provide students and alumni with countless opportunities to network. Law students often find themselves at networking events and functions in the hopes of meeting and impressing their dream employers. Home to the Florida Supreme Court, the Florida Capitol, and actively engaged private and non-profit organizations, Tallahassee has networking opportunities no matter what your interest or focus might be.

I have already mentioned the Florida Supreme Court, but Tallahassee is also home to the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida; United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Florida; Florida’s First District Court of Appeal; and Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit. Students have opportunities to meet justices, judges, and lawyers from these courts who visit the College of Law as guest speakers and as adjunct professors and who also offer opportunities for students to participate in internships and externships with them.

The annual legislative session brings not only the legislature, but also representatives from organizations highly engaged in public interest. Both legislators and notable figures from a variety of interest areas visit the College of Law to speak about their organizations, their work, and their issues. Many of these speakers come as guests of student organizations which provides students with opportunities to interact with potential employers, mentors, and future colleagues who share their interests.

While networking can often be intimidating it often involves your law school peers with more relaxed surroundings. It can also be as simple meeting at a restaurant or bar or having lunch with someone. To make networking even easier, the Career and Professional Development Center holds regular “Networking Nosh” lunch sessions where students can easily meet and learn from attorneys both inside and outside of Tallahassee. All in all, Florida State University College of Law makes networking as feasible and enjoyable as possible!

Networking Is What You Make of It

Laura Frawley, 3L

Before I started law school, I could list the number of lawyers I knew on one hand and three of them were because of their television ads. Once in law school it became apparent that to be successful I would have to expand my professional network to include more legal professionals and that there were many ways to accomplish this.

Mentoring: One of the easiest ways to start meeting lawyers is to find programs that match students with experienced professionals who have signed-on to mentor law students. Mentor/mentee relationships are great because your roles are defined in advance. Several of the College of Law student organizations can help match students with mentors and some can even match student with mentors in a specific area of law.

LinkedIn: It is amazing how many law students do not take advantage of the amazing networking tool that is LinkedIn. If you do not have a LinkedIn page yet, you need to create one, and if you have an account but do not use it, you need to start using it! Simply adding your fellow law students to your contacts list can vastly grow your network. There are also many interest groups that law students can join depending on the areas of law that interest them.

Networking Events: As cliché as it may sound, it really is all about who you know and networking events are a great way to meet people and build your network. These events can feature an experienced attorney in-person or via videoconference who will speak about a topical legal issue, how they got to their current position, and answer questions from students. Not only is this a great way to learn about different paths and meet people, but sometimes you can get a free meal in the process. After attending an event, I always ask to connect with the speaker on LinkedIn to thank them for taking the time to speak with the students. This simple act has helped me grow my professional network exponentially.

Justices and Judges and Lawyers, Oh My!

Marlie Blaise, 3L

Having access to so many accomplished justices, judges, and lawyers as we do in Tallahassee through the College of Law may seem intimidating, but having so many opportunities to meet them can be valuable, fun, and rewarding. They all love to talk with interested students and share their experiences and listening to what they have to say can be the first step to successful networking.

They also love to hear about what student’s professional interests are. This can be important because it can give a student some control over the direction of a conversation. If you are interested in learning about a certain area of practice, you can also target attorneys who practice in that area during a networking event. If you are simply interested in discussing contemporary legal issues, almost any legal professional will be willing to share their insights as well.

Most importantly, networking with justices, judges, and lawyers can lead to internships, job offers, and even mentoring opportunities. I have observed that students who establish and foster these relationships have an easier time landing a job opportunity directly and indirectly through these contacts.

I also believe that the more you are around experienced legal professionals, the more comfortable and confident you become over time. This will allow you to develop even greater connections, get more assistance, advice, and guidance, and expand your potential opportunities. Overall, a student can gain a great deal from networking with legal professionals and, as l see it, you have nothing to lose!

 Catherine Lockhart, Class of 2017

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Laura Frawley, 3L

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Marlie Blaise, 3L

Corporate Externship Program Provides Valuable In-House Experience

The Corporate Externship Program at the Florida State University College of Law is a 9-week summer program that places 10-15 College of Law students in the legal departments of corporations throughout the Southeastern United States. The program requires 20 hours per week of time in the office and a weekly conference call with Professor Benham and all of the other participating students.

Anyone interested in serving clients in businesses of any size should consider applying. The opportunity provides a great way to get business law-related experience early in your legal career. Not only will this experience provide you with college credits, but it can also be used to meet the practical experience requirement of the College of Law’s Business Law Certificate program.

While the work may vary depending on the company, participants also have some similar experiences as well. Substantively, students work in a variety of practice areas including real estate, corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, and compliance, but all assignments involve researching, reviewing, drafting document, having meetings with attorneys or outside counsel, and interacting with the company’s stakeholders. The work product completed by the students is actually used by the company. The weekly conference calls allow students to share their experiences and allow them to discuss a variety of common issues like employment law, intellectual property, contracting, and more. 

Ultimately, students also get the opportunity to see what a “deal” and litigation looks like from the inside of a corporation. Most law students do not have access to this type of hands-on opportunity and many practicing attorneys have to wait for years before they get to perform this type of work. So when it comes to looking for a job after law school, being able to showcase this type of experience can be invaluable.

Another benefit of the program is that each law student is surrounded by a large group of successful attorneys. This not only means that you are going to get a lot of attention, work, and feedback during the externship, but you are also going to form relationships as you network with these individuals. During and after the externship, they are only too happy to provide career advice and discuss job search strategies.

Overall, this program is tailored to provide a unique experience for anyone interested in pursuing business law. Not only will it stand out on a resume, but it also offers a very rewarding experience that can be drawn upon in a future career.

Seifter, Chris Chris Seifter, 2L

An Interview with Professor Courtney Cahill

Our interviewer, Marianna Seiler is a third-year law student at Florida State University College of Law with interest in corporate law. Courtney Cahill is the Donald Hinkle Professor. Professor Cahill writes at the intersection of constitutional law and sexuality and the law. Her academic writings reflect an interdisciplinary approach that draws extensively from moral/cognitive psychology and literary theory. Her current work focuses on law and the emotions, and specifically on law and the emotion of disgust. She is particularly interested in bringing a new perspective to bear on the legal and social debates surrounding same-sex relationships and reproductive rights by combining the insights of constitutional theory and cognitive psychology.

Marianna Seiler: What made you decide to attend law school?

Professor Cahill: A good friend of mine who was getting his Ph.D. in English was exploring the teaching market. I asked him how the market was and how the interview process was going and he responded, “It is not going. I have applied to law school.” I said, “Are you kidding me? Why would you do that?” He thought that the humanities had gotten insular and if he became a law professor he would be able to teach a wider variety of things. So, I envisioned myself having to teach big survey courses on literature, specifically English literature, and with a degree in Italian literature it seemed that that would have been hard to do. Law professors have a luxury of being generalists, so I started looking into law schools and the rest is history.

Marianna Seiler: What is your favorite topic to write, research and theorize about and what work are you most proud of?

Professor Cahill: My favorite topic is right at the intersection where constitutional law meets family law. The research I like best tries to use other disciplines like literature, cognitive science and social psychology to illuminate issues that conventional legal analysis might miss. In that regard, I have done some work on some of the rhetoric that surfaced in the debate surrounding same-sex marriage. For example, the rhetoric of the slippery slope argument related to same-sex marriage leading to something very bad. I have done some literary examinations of that metaphor and that is the work I enjoy doing the most.

Marianna Seiler: What was your favorite subject in law school? 

Professor Cahill: It may be surprising, but I loved evidence. It was mathematical in a way that appealed to me. Constitutional law and family law were not completely unlike literature. There was a lot of overlap in the way you think, like big picture ideas. But evidence was very elemental and that really appealed to me. The biggest regret I have in law school was never taking tax because I think that would have appealed to me as well. 

Marianna Seiler: Why did you choose to move to Tallahassee? 

Professor Cahill: I was fairly settled living in Rhode Island and teaching at Roger Williams University. My parents live in Rhode Island and it was nice to be near them. I had bought my dream house on a lake and had told myself that I was never going to leave that house. Then the Florida State University College of Law Appointments Committee called me in July one summer and asked if I was interested in a position. I was interested because I knew Professor Dan Markell, I knew that the faculty were seriously committed to scholarship and that Florida State was a solid law school. I thought this could be a great opportunity and I figured it would not hurt to interview. When I came I was so impressed by the students and the faculty, so now I am here.

Marianna Seiler: What do you like most about Florida State Law? 

Professor Cahill: The students are great and the administration goes beyond the call of duty to satisfy every constituency – the students, the faculty and the alumni. The faculty is extraordinarily committed to the same ideal of teaching and scholarship.

Marianna Seiler: What do you do in your free time in Tallahassee?

Professor Cahill: I love doing yoga. I love reading. I have two young daughters and I spend as much time as I can with my kids. I always tell my students that from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. weekdays I go dark and that is family time.

Marianna Seiler: Who is or was your favorite U.S. Supreme Court justice and why?

Professor Cahill: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. I met her once and was just blown away by her. She is so commanding, matter of fact, funny, charismatic and pragmatic. I met her at a law school event at the University of Toledo. We brought in a Supreme Court justice every year. One year we brought in Justice O’Connor and one year we brought in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is also amazing. I remember being drawn to Justice O’Connor. Her personality made a big impression on me. 

Marianna Seiler: What is one thing people should know about you if they know nothing else? 

Professor Cahill: I would say that my kids are my world. 

Marianna Seiler: If you had to commit a crime what would it be? 

Professor Cahill: Only because I teach this to my property students ad nauseam; I would trespass onto somebody else’s property to get something that was really valuable to me, like my Italian greyhounds. I actually have done this. In fact, I have trespassed onto Professor Shawn Bayern’s lawn to get one of my greyhounds.

Marianna Seiler: What is your best advice for a prospective or current law school student? 

Professor Cahill: Be flexible and open-minded in terms of your job, where you see yourself and what your life could look like five, ten years down the road. I am saying this because I am not always very flexible, but many times things in life can change. There are so many contingencies that come along in life. Whether it is kids, a partner or a new job opportunity; things happen that you did not expect, so be open to the possibility of changing your plan.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Marianna Seiler, 3L

Law professor Courtney Cahill. Courtney Cahill, Donald Hinkle Professor

Criminal Law Summer Clinics, Externships, and Internships Come in Many Different Packages

Students interested in criminal law have many different opportunities to gain experience while in law school. Many Florida State University College of Law students take advantage of these opportunities to make themselves more competitive when seeking employment after law school. Whether prosecution or defense, public organization or private law firm, many different options exist, even within the same organization. Each of these five students had completely different summer experiences, and three of them were within the same organization – the State Attorney’s Office, 2nd Judicial Circuit of Florida.

Abby Altman, 3L

During the summer following my 1L year I participated in the Florida State University College of Law Criminal Externship program as a legal intern with the State Attorney’s Office, 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, Florida working primarily on criminal appeals cases. Through the externship program I was able to immerse myself in the criminal law world while also establishing a professional relationship with my faculty advisor, Professor Krieger.

I was initially anxious about my externship because I was not really sure about what to expect. I quickly realized that my first-year courses had prepared me very well. Confidence gained at networking noshes and by participating in oral arguments in my legal writing classes allowed me to feel comfortable and prepared me immensely for this professional experience. The skills I learned also became immediately relevant. The attorney I was paired with assigned me to draft different motions and responses each day. He was also eager to help me develop different legal arguments in support of the State’s cases, allowed me to sit with him at the bench in court, and let me take advantage of opportunities to shadow other attorneys in the office and watch any case in court that interested me.

As part of the externship program I also submitted a weekly journal detailing my experiences as well as how I was feeling throughout the entire experience. Professor Krieger addressed every one of my journal entries and made sure that I was happy and comfortable with my placement. He also provided articles every few weeks that addressed different concerns in the work place as well as mental health issues in the legal world. I summarized the articles, detailed my personal experiences and submitted my responses. I truly appreciated the resource Professor Krieger was throughout the summer. I truly appreciated having a faculty member who was genuinely concerned about whether or not I was enjoying my externship placement and that I was getting to experience everything I wanted to during my placement.

Justin Schneider, Class of 2016

During the summer after my 2L year, I worked as a Certified Legal Intern (CLI) with the State Attorney’s Office, 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, Florida in the County Court, Misdemeanor Division. Being a CLI allowed me to do anything a practicing attorney could do as long as I was being supervised by a practicing attorney. This allowed me to speak to prosecute cases, speak to a judge on record, and argue my position in court. I chose the misdemeanor division specifically because it allowed me to argue cases in front of a jury and to speak on the record. I also had the opportunity to conduct all parts of a trial, which is uncommon, even for CLI’s.

Every day was a different challenge and was more exciting than the day prior. Four out of five days each week I spent some time in court. On a typical day I spent my first hour reviewing files and was in court with my supervising attorney by 9:00 a.m. as the judges would take the bench. While in court, I would present cases to the judge and defendant on behalf of the State of Florida and, when applicable, offer plea deals. On these days I presented anywhere from 30-50 cases and would then return to my office to work my files. On actual trial days, usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I would be in the courtroom during the proceedings trying cases against licensed attorneys which included arguing motions, arguing case law, and interviewing and cross examining witnesses. When trials were not scheduled, I would spend my time reviewing cases, researching legal issues and case law, contacting officers and witnesses, making plea offers, ordering and filing discovery and working with defense attorneys to get them to accept my plea deals.

A common misconception that people have regarding criminal cases is preparation time. Most people think that attorneys prepare for months or years for cases, which can be true. However, sometimes I was given a case set for trial with only a few hours to prepare. In these instances, the attorney would sit me down and go over the facts of the case with me. The licensed attorneys would have already done the preparation work for the trial and then they would let me try it. I also had my own cases that I had to prepare for as well, but because I was only there for the summer, I definitely did not have months or years to prepare. All in all, I got to try several jury trials and several bench trials. This experienced was unmatched and it really gave me an opportunity to use the skills I had learned and hone these skills for the future.

Betsy Whittinghill, Class of 2016

During the summer after my 2L year I was employed at a criminal defense law firm. I found the position through the Placement Office’s online job postings. During my time there I wrote numerous motions and pleadings and did countless hours of legal research. Because the firm was small, I also received personalized feedback and guidance on a regular basis and my supervisor was able to take on the role of mentor. I also had the opportunity to accompany my supervisor to several hearings, trials and depositions. This was a rewarding experience and I will be pursuing a career in criminal law.

Catherine Lockhart, 3L

I spent the summer after my 1L year interning at the State Attorney’s Office, 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, Florida. It was an absolutely wonderful experience. As someone who is interested in criminal law, and aspires to be a prosecutor, I could not have spent my summer in a more fascinating and informative way. I worked under an amazing assistant state attorney who was also the felony division head. I was able to view cases from an insider’s perspective through the prosecution of violent crimes that had occurred in the Tallahassee community. I not only gained additional experience in legal research, but also had the opportunity to view the criminal justice system up close.

The legal writing and research courses at the College of Law really helped prepare me for this experience and truly expanded the scope of my research skills. It taught me to be a faster and more efficient researcher regardless of whether or not I had a few hours, a day or two, or a month to prepare for a case. The best part of my internship was being able to work closely with my supervising attorney and with the other prosecutors in the office. They took time from their very busy days to show me their process and to answer all of my questions. I even had the opportunity to visit the Tallahassee Police Department and was able to interact with investigating officers in order to see how the legal process works before a defendant ever reaches the courtroom.

Being able to view evidence and interact directly with witnesses also helped me better understand the trial process. Much of my time was spent watching trials and observing how the prosecution and defense interacted with the witnesses, the judge, the jury, and how they each presented evidence. After observing everything from voir dire (the questioning of prospective jurors) to sentencing, I was able to piece together a more complete picture of the criminal justice system.

Shelby Loveless, Class of 2016

In February of my 2L year I was researching opportunities to gain work experience over the summer and received an e-mail from the Externship Office related to an available position with the United States (U.S.) Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee. While viewing their website, I was drawn to the “News” feed about criminals who had recently been sentenced and immediately proceeded to apply for the externship. Once I was accepted I sent in my application packet to the Department of Justice. After patiently waiting, I eventually received my Notice of Clearance and was ready to start my externship.

My first day was both exciting and intimidating. Walking into the Federal Courthouse, which is within walking distance of the College of Law, my heart began pounding as the security guards looked at me suspiciously. Upon arrival, my supervisor and I met, he took me around the office to meet everyone and he told me a little bit about each of the attorneys. This really calmed my nerves because the more people I met, the more I noticed how friendly everyone was.

Throughout the summer I worked on various aspects of a federal criminal cases. I researched topics ranging from interpretation of statutes to factual nuances. I drafted sample indictments and sentencing memorandums. I drafted an appellate brief dealing with amendments to sentencing guidelines. Overall, I received a well-rounded introduction into how diverse the position of an Assistant United States Attorney really is. My law school coursework prepared me for everything that was thrown at me. From Evidence to Criminal Procedure to Professional Responsibility, I realized all of the suggested courses I packed into my 2L year had been worth it and I would not have made it through this experience without them.

Another aspect of the externship that was invaluable was the easy access to court proceedings. The United States Attorney’s Office is housed in the Courthouse, so I could easily walk downstairs 10 minutes before each hearing. Over the course of nine weeks I saw multiple first appearances, bail hearings, probation revocation hearings, a trial, jury selection, sentencing and much more. Every time I entered the courtroom, I would see something an attorney did that I could learn from or something I knew I never wanted to say or do. All of the United States attorneys were consistently prepared, were wonderful orators and excellent advocates for the U.S. Government.

I had no idea just how rewarding this experience would be. I also never thought I would have so much autonomy with the assignments and feedback from the attorneys. I always had an attorney who would talk with me about an issue, let me sit in on a meeting or discuss law school with me. I came away from the experience with more knowledge about legal issues, more confidence in my abilities and a multitude of great professional connections. I highly recommend this externship to anyone who is interested in criminal law and the federal court system.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Abby Altman, 3L

Student ambassadors for the College of Law Justin Schneider, Class of 2016

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Betsy Whittinghill, Class of 2016

Lockhart, Catherine.jpg Catherine Lockhart, 3L

Loveless, Shelby.jpg Shelby Loveless, Class of 2016

An Interview With Professor Mark B. Seidenfeld

Our interviewer, Alex Sarsfield, is a third-year law student at Florida State University College of Law with interest in legislation, government, lobbying, litigation, international affairs and business. Mark B. Seidenfeld is the Patricia A. Dore Professor of Administrative Law and Associate Dean of Research. He is recognized as one of the country’s leading scholars on federal administrative law. Professor Seidenfeld teaches courses in administrative law, constitutional law, environmental law, law and economics and regulated industries. His prior legal experience includes clerking for the Honorable Patricia Wald of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and serving as Assistant Counsel for the New York State Public Service Commission.

Alex Sarsfield: What is your favorite thing about teaching at Florida State University College of Law?

Professor Seidenfeld: I think the academic community is unique and wonderful. My feeling, and I sense it is the feeling of others, is that the students, faculty and staff at the College of Law like being here and feel themselves to be an integral part of a wonderful place. Students often pop into my office and we discuss law, law school, and the world in general. My colleagues often meet for lunch and discuss similar topics. Everyone is ambitious, but not at the expense of others.

Alex Sarsfield: You were a physicist prior to attending law school at Stanford University. What brought you to law?

Professor Seidenfeld: I hit a point during graduate school when my Ph.D. dissertation was not working and I became disillusioned with physics as a profession. I then became a research physicist and engineer at Intel, where I was successful, but never really loved the applied work I was doing. I did not know what I wanted to do but many of my high school friends had gone to law school and their stories of their experiences were interesting. I have a patent that I got at Intel and I thought I would be a patent attorney, but when I got to law school I developed a keen interest in how government operates.

Alex Sarsfield: Why are you interested in administrative law?

Professor Seidenfeld: As noted, I became interested in how government operates and my limited knowledge of civics did not prepare me for the realities of the administrative state. So much happens in government that is not explicit in the structure of the Constitution and I am interested in why that is so. I think that the administrative state holds the best promise for government serving the public interest. Administrative law deals with how the law can and should be structured to fulfill that promise without falling into pitfalls of agency sloth, capture or abusive self-interested.

Alex Sarsfield: What are the biggest advantages that the College of Law has over other law schools in Florida?

Professor Seidenfeld: A phenomenal faculty and ethos that focuses on faculty teaching and serving the needs of students without dumbing down their courses. The faculty presents its cutting edge work to students who appreciate that the education they are getting will prepare them to think, and therefore be successful, in a quickly changing legal market. The education at Florida State University College of Law is on par with that provided by the best law schools in the country. In addition, for my interest in how government operates, Tallahassee, being the state capital of the one of the four largest states in the U.S., provides many opportunities to learn in a locale that is very livable.

Alex Sarsfield: How can attending Florida State University College of Law prepare students for jobs outside of Florida?

Professor Seidenfeld: A good law school does not teach students the law. It teaches students to think like a good lawyer. Florida State University College of Law excels at this task. These skills allow graduates to practice law anywhere, regardless of whether the legal doctrines and rules are the ones they studied in law school. We prepare students to practice not only in Florida, but in Atlanta, New York, Washington D.C., London, Europe, South America or virtually anywhere in the world.

Alex Sarsfield: What is the most important habit or trait for a person entering law school?

Professor Seidenfeld: To think critically!

Alex Sarsfield: What extracurricular activities do you recommend to maximize one’s experience while in law school?

Professor Seidenfeld: Whatever you like, as long as it is legal and does not hurt others.

Alex Sarsfield: Why did you decide on a career in academia rather than work for a large law firm in the private sector?

Professor Seidenfeld: I like to think about the big questions in law, to discuss them with others and to communicate my thoughts with students and colleagues. That not only led me to the legal academy, it is what has made me so happy to be at Florida State.

Alex Sarsfield: What advice would you give students upon graduation from law school?

Professor Seidenfeld: Try to find a job that you enjoy. Of course it has to pay enough to support the lifestyle the student wants, but life is too short to be stuck in a job for 40 years that one does not like just to make a few extra bucks.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law

Alex Sarsfield, 3L

Seidenfeld, Mark

Mark B. Seidenfeld, Patricia A. Dore Professor of Administrative Law and Associate Dean for Research

An Interview with Professor Kelli Alces Williams

Our interviewer, Beatriz Elizabeth Benitez, is a second-year law student interested in corporate law at Florida State University College of Law. Kelli Alces Williams is the Loula Fuller and Dan Myers Professor at Florida State and her scholarly work focuses primarily on corporate governance. She has taught at the University of Richmond School of Law, University of Iowa College of Law, George Mason University School of Law, University of Chicago Law School and is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law. Professor Williams teaches Property, Corporations, Securities Regulation, Bankruptcy and Contracts.

Beatriz Benitez: How did you originally get interested in business law?

Professor Williams: I started out in law school wanting to do child advocacy and one of our first legal writing projects was on divorce. After seeing what people do to each other in divorces, I figured that family law was not going to work for me and I really liked my business law classes like contracts and property. So, I took more classes in that area and enjoyed the types of questions business law posed.

Beatriz Benitez: Why Florida State? How did you end up teaching here and what has kept you here?

Professor Williams: This is one of the schools that I really liked from the beginning of my teaching career. The faculty has a strong scholarly reputation, it was in the southeast and I was familiar with the area. When I came to interview it felt like a good fit and it was a place I wanted to come back to. It was an up-and-coming school with a lot of potential. It was exciting, and still is exciting, to be a part of that.

Beatriz Benitez: What are some of the differences you have found teaching in a smaller town versus teaching in a big city like Chicago?

Professor Williams: Our students are great! They are very interested, engaged in class and interesting. Our students are more laid back than what I have seen of students in bigger cities, who tend to be a little more intense.

Beatriz Benitez: What advice do you have for students deciding to attend law school or in choosing a law school? What do you think are some of the important factors you considered or have found important in choosing a law school?

Professor Williams: I thought I went into law school knowing exactly what I wanted to do and I changed my mind. I was looking for what I thought I needed based on what I thought I wanted to do. I ended up choosing a school that gave me a well-rounded program and that ended up being a good choice. I have come to understand that all but a few law schools are largely regional schools. I had not realized how insular legal markets are and how hard it can be to break into a legal market without an alumni presence from your law school. You should think carefully about where you want to work when choosing where you want to go to law school.

Beatriz Benitez: What was your 1L year like?

Professor Williams: I was really anxious because I did not know how I was doing and at the beginning of my first semester I did not know what I was supposed to do. The hardest part was the uncertainty. Listening to professors’ questions and seeing if I knew the answer was my way of knowing whether I was on track. I really felt like class discussion was the only way I knew if I was getting what I was supposed to be getting out of the material.

Beatriz Benitez: Any key advice for what helped you survive the transition to law school and your 1L year?

Professor Williams: Try really hard to keep in touch with your closest friends and family even if it means you have to schedule times to talk to people. You really need a support network.

Beatriz Benitez: I know you always tell us in class to eat cake to get through tough the times, but what do you do during times of stress?

Professor Williams: Yoga. Walking. My dad is a law professor so it is great to be able to talk to him about work-related stuff. My best friend from middle school is great because I can always talk to her about anything else. Having the constant, steady support of my husband at home is comforting. Having people to talk to about work and other people to talk to about anything but work is a good strategy.

Beatriz Benitez: What are three things you cannot live without?

Professor Williams: 1. Decaffeinated tea–on vacation I take tea bags with me. 2. An afternoon nap–I am a napper since I do not drink caffeine. 3. Dark chocolate covered almonds–this is how I overcome my cake cravings.

Beatriz Benitez: If you got stuck on an island and could only eat two things for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

Professor Williams: Dark chocolate covered almonds and Cuban beef stew. The almonds are my little dessert vacation at the end of the day. The Cuban beef stew is delicious and healthy and comforting all at once.

Beatriz Benitez: What is your favorite season/holiday and why?

Professor Williams: Fall is my favorite season because I like the weather getting cooler and I am less allergic to fall than I am to spring. Christmas is my favorite holiday because my birthday is a week before, so it is just a fun, festive time of year. I get really excited about shopping for Christmas gifts for my friends and family and for less fortunate children in the community. It is fun to try to make magic happen for people at that time of year.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Beatriz Elizabeth Benitez, 2L

Williams, Kelli Kelli Alces Williams, Loula Fuller and Dan Myers Professor