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.
Beatriz Elizabeth Benitez, 2L
Kelli Alces Williams, Loula Fuller and Dan Myers Professor