William M. Rollins ’12
Counsel for the Appellant
William M. Rollins ’12 would have been hard-pressed to find a legal externship better suited to preparing him for the final round of this year’s Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court competition than the one he currently holds at the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The hypothetical for this year’s competition is a criminal appeal before the 2nd Circuit—the same court that Rollins has been observing at close range as an extern to Judge Robert D. Sack '63. “It’s been a wonderful experience that timed really well with the competition,” says Rollins, who last year progressed to the Stone Moot Court semifinals. “I’ve watched a lot of appellate advocates before the 2nd Circuit, and I also read a lot of briefs. It was all really helpful in understanding what works as an effective argument in front of the judges. You have so little time up there that you need to know how to focus on a couple of issues.”
Rollins is no stranger to experiential learning projects. Along with helping to edit the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, the Los Angeles native last year externed at the Queens District Attorney’s Office under the domestic violence bureau chief, Scott Kessler.
Rollins was one of the first Columbia Law School students to take advantage of the program, and he sings its praises as a chance to gain real-world experience up to and including the trial level.“They let me take on my own misdemeanor case, start to finish,” he says. “My case didn’t go to trial, but if it did, I would have handled it. It’s a very cool opportunity.” Rollins, who majored in government at Dartmouth College, says the moot court competition has helped him understand the importance of oral argument as an aid to clearer thinking and writing. “Whenever you verbalize an argument, the issues gain clarity,” he says. “I’ve found that my brain works more effectively after a discussion about both sides. It’s a fast way to hone in on the issues that are most important, and it helps you understand the legal issues in the case in a more concrete way than if you just read them in books.”
A love of oral argument is one of the reasons Rollins is headed back to Los Angeles in September to join the business litigation firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, where he worked as a summer associate last year. He says he was drawn to the firm because of its reputation for appellate advocacy and its history of high-profile trial work. “I want to put my oral advocacy skills to use, in addition to writing,” he says.
Between college and law school, Rollins served in several capacities in the administration of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, including as deputy director of media operations, assistant press secretary, and special assistant to the deputy chief of staff.