Batten Alumni Spotlight: Brynna Gaffney

Brynna Gaffney


As a pre-law Batten student, I am always looking for insight from alumni on how their Batten degree prepared them for their studies. In particular, as I make the decision on whether to take a gap year between law school and undergraduate studies, I have sought advice on the law school timeline from Brynna Gaffney. Brynna Gaffney graduated from UVA in 2021, majoring in Public Policy and Leadership in the Batten School and minoring in Global Education Studies. She is currently a 2L student at Georgetown University Law Center, deciding to go to law school immediately after graduating from UVA. I interviewed her to gain insight on her path as well as her Batten experience in relation to law school.


How was your experience going directly to law school after undergrad? Did you face any hardships in your transition?

“It is no secret that the vast majority of my peers who worked before law school are more mature and professional than my peers who went from college to law school. There are just things I won't truly understand about professionalism until I have a job and there was nothing Batten could have done to change that. However, I felt prepared to write emails to colleagues at my summer internship and network with potential employers from some of the skills I learned in Batten.”

What skills that you learned in Batten do you feel prepared you for law school? Do you have any advice for Batten students who hope to follow the same path that you did?

“Batten does a great job of teaching students about how the government actually works, which is primarily through the administrative arm of the executive branch. For a lot of students coming straight through from undergrad, the administrative state is a very nebulous, very confusing thing. As someone who goes to school in DC, many of my peers took time off between college and law school and worked for the government. They automatically had a leg up in classes like administrative law and constitutional law. However, in comparison to my peers who came to law school from college, I felt vastly more prepared to learn about the legality of the administrative state because I actually knew the general outline of how it worked. Batten also does a fair job of teaching students about the interaction between legislation and the economy. Unfortunately, that's not super relevant for law school courses. Depending on your goals for your career in the law, a law student may need to know about the structure of corporations that participate in the economy and how their accounting and tax procedures work. This is outside the realm of anything Batten touches, and Batten students looking to go to law school should explore supplemental coursework on the basics of corporate tax and accounting if they are looking for a head start.”

How does the workload of law school compare to the workload you experienced at UVA?

“The most important thing someone preparing for law school can do is to read actively, efficiently, and frequently. You need to know what the key takeaways are, what the deciding mechanisms were, and how this concept might apply to future hypothetical scenarios. The best preparation for this was Paul Martin's class on Political and Institutional Context. Not only did he assign an amount of reading of the sophistication level I think is appropriate for a law student, but his response papers require the level of thinking law students should have about each reading for each class before they walk into the classroom. I feel so adamant about this that I emailed him last year to thank him for persevering with those assignments despite constant gripes and groans from students. Furthermore, Professor Martin's lecture style is most similar to that of law school professors. There are no visuals in law school -- you don't get powerpoints or quirky videos or even pictures in textbooks. You get a really smart person sitting in the front of the room talking to you. If you are a pre-law student in Professor Martin's course, I beg you to treat his class like a law school course. Prepare for class ready to engage with his dialogue and take notes that build on your understanding from the materials you already possess.While reading is the most important thing a pre-law student can do, the most important thing a lawyer does is write well and write quickly. Every law student will be taught to write like a lawyer, but not every student is prepared to research and write with conciseness the way Batten students are through the memo curriculum. This is one of the most valuable parts about the Batten curriculum for pre-law students in my opinion.”

How does the law school community differ from the community at UVA? How does the Batten community differ?

“I think Batten culturally resembles law school more than undergraduate programs at UVA in size, community involvement, and social opportunities. Law school is funky because you're with a smaller pool of people than you were in college (a few hundred per incoming class). For many, their peers are the only people they know in a new city. Studying in groups is essential for success. Familiarity with those around you is advantageous not only for your grades but also for your disposition. The willingness to get along with one another by nature of a small cohort of different but brilliant people was great preparation for thriving socially in law school.”