Five UVa Law Traditions for the Incoming 1L

Eric Hall (he/him/his) '18
Managing Editor

Welcome to Charlottesville, and the happiest law school on earth. Despite the brief but ugly appearance of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, this town remains as vibrant, multicultural, and tolerant as ever. Nowhere more so than the law school. Generations of Virginia Law students have fostered bonds of friendship that transcend race and political ideology thanks to a set of traditions, some of which date back to the days when Robert Mueller or Antonin Scalia walked the halls. These traditions promote collegiality and trust, core tenets of what Dean Faulk calls “the Virginia Way.” As political division reaches a fever pitch and the nation reels from the deplorable events in #Charlottesville, we need these traditions now more than ever. 

Peer Advisors

The first tradition you’ll encounter may be the most important to the Virginia Law culture. To my knowledge, no other top ten law school places as much emphasis on mentorship as UVa does with its Peer Advisor program. By now you will have met your six Peer Advisors, or PAs, and hopefully had the chance to spend some time with a few of them. Although I may be biased, being a Peer Advisor is a tremendous honor, for the law school entrusts them with tremendous responsibility. Each sextet of PAs is carefully curated to represent every facet of law school life and, as well as possible, reflect the section they serve. Whether you’re conservative or liberal, came straight through from undergrad or took time off, are from the East Coast or the West, you can find a PA to identify with. 

But the PAs do more than look the part. They’re also some of the law school’s most successful students. In academics, extra-curriculars, and (most important) personal well-being, the 60-odd PAs have figured out how to do law school right. It’s a competitive process to become a PA, which speaks not only to the eagerness of UVa students to mentor 1Ls, but also to the quality of the group that makes the cut. 

Think of the PAs as a first-line resource for all things law school. They’ve taken your professors and done well. They’ve secured 1L summer jobs in interesting places. They know the best haunts in town and will take you to them.  You need only ask. They can also help with more personal problems. Struggling in class? Problems with one of your class mates? Your PA can either help or help you find the resources you need.  

Dandelion

 1996 Section G rides atop a "hand-made" E30 BMW float at the Dandelion Parade. Photo courtesy of archives.law.virginia.edu.

1996 Section G rides atop a "hand-made" E30 BMW float at the Dandelion Parade. Photo courtesy of archives.law.virginia.edu.

You probably heard it mentioned in passing before you heard it explained. Dandelion, which is happening September 1st at 5 PM in The Park, is nominally the official start of the softball season, although actual section-on-section softball games won’t happen until a few weeks later.  When it was invented 33 years ago, 1Ls made brightly-colored floats and paraded through Grounds handing out Tootsie Rolls to undergrads on their way to the softball fields . . . or something like that. The origins of Dandelion are admittedly hazy. Today it is still tied to softball, although no one thinks about softball when they recall Dandelion (if they recall anything at all). In place of floats and marching 1Ls, Dandelion is known more for its entertaining, occasionally outrageous musical “skits.” 

Here’s what happens: Drawing inspiration from its letter designation, each section and the LLMs devise their own skit, almost always set to music, which highlights the talents (or absence thereof) of members in the section. Successful past entries include the LLMs thoughtful (read: raunchy) depiction of the American presidential election, and 2016 Section F’s arcane, pun-on-a-pun Fairly Odd Patents routine. Indeed, some parts of the modern Dandelion tradition remain inexplicable. A panel of judges representing the North Grounds Softball League scrutinizes each section’s skit for technique, form, creativity, and “extra”-ness. The “winning” team will then play a ceremonial exhibition match against a team hastily assembled by NGSL. They will lose. 

Our advice: shoot for second. Seeding in the 1L tournament is determined by placement at Dandelion. So, while you don’t want to come in first and face NGSL’s best pitchers at their least coordinated, you also don’t want your first game of the tournament scheduled at 7 AM. One final word of wisdom: don’t throw food at the audience. It will be thrown back. 

Softball

 2016 Section E, the Legal Eagles, smile after a devastating loss. Photo courtesy of Facebook.com.

2016 Section E, the Legal Eagles, smile after a devastating loss. Photo courtesy of Facebook.com.

Is it required? No. Should you play anyway? Absolutely. There are few of us at the Law Weekly who are any good at softball, and I am not among them. Notwithstanding, I maintain that softball is a valuable component of the “Virginia Way.” Even if you stand a snowball’s chance in hell at getting tapped for NGSL (i.e. you’re not a competent player), you should make softball a part of your 1L experience. Softball brings sections together over beer, walk-up songs, and light friendly competition against other 1L sections. No one will remember the time you struck out or broke both your arms the week before finals. Some professors even get in on the action. One year, Professor Hynes assigned cold calls to the losing half of his two-section class. 

Traditionally, 1L teams find a sponsor, (usually a local business or a law firm), to pay for and slap their logo on a set of jerseys. Softball captains, after assessing their section’s enthusiasm, will typically hold a few practices before and between games. They’ll also coordinate with other sections to schedule games and draft a gender balanced batting order. If you’re not your section’s softball captain, all you need to worry about is choosing a walk-up song and bringing a glove (we recommend inheriting one from a 3L PA or—worst case scenario—Play-it-Again Sports down 29).

Foxfield

Foxfield, or more accurately the Foxfield Family Day Races, happens every year on the last Sunday of September. To the rest of Charlottesville, Foxfield is a day to swathe your family in bowties and pastels for a day spent cheering on your favorite thoroughbred. But don’t be fooled. Most law school attendees never see a horse. And if you stumble into a family, you’ve likely strayed from the quarantine pen where they keep the law students (apologize, and then follow the noise coming from somewhere near the dumpsters). We do, however, obey the dress code. Splashy big hats, Vineyard Vines, and Lilly Pulitzer tie-dye the field. If it’s rainy, expect a stampede of Bean Boots. If you weren’t sure which of your sectionmates came from Southern privilege, an un-ironic Foxfield outfit should clue you in.

 3Ls dress absurdly at Foxfield 2016. Photo courtesy of content Facebook.com.

3Ls dress absurdly at Foxfield 2016. Photo courtesy of content Facebook.com.

Garish gussets aside, Foxfield is also one of the few early events at which 1Ls, and 2Ls, and 3Ls have cause to interact. 1L sections pair up, two per plot, inside the race track. Each pairing typically offers a food item (BBQ sandwiches and mac n’ cheese were favorites in past years) and a beverage, housed under a rented or borrowed shelter. Sections are also responsible for paying the fee for a Foxfield plot out of their section fund. Getting to Foxfield can be a bit tricky. Luckily, SBA runs a series of buses from the law school, but you’ll have to buy tickets at their table near ScoCo. Tickets to the race are separate and—even though this is 2017—can only be purchased in person at select local businesses. Most people go to Greenberry’s in Barracks Row. 

Carter Mountain Sunset Series

 Revelers ogle a sunset at Carter Mountain. Hope you kept your eclipse glasses. Photo courtesy of content ChilesFamilyOrchard.com.

Revelers ogle a sunset at Carter Mountain. Hope you kept your eclipse glasses. Photo courtesy of content ChilesFamilyOrchard.com.

As UVa traditions go, this one’s just a newborn. Every Thursday from May to October, gaggles of 1Ls make the pilgrimage up Carter Mountain’s twisty roads to sit toe to toe on too-small picnic blankets, and watch the sun set to a townie band cover of Wagon Wheel. Neither the overcrowded mountainside nor the overpriced Bold Rock can sully the glorious view from atop Carter Mountain. Each week features a different local musical act, and every week features the Chiles family’s fabulous hot cider donuts. Our recommendation: go early, sample a flight at the Bold Rock (cider) or Prince Michel (wine) tasting room, then hike up the hill and bag a bushel of ripe peaches and apples before the crowds arrive. 

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ech8vm@virgina.edu