Law students in action
Elon spotlights the summer work experiences and professional insights of five law students as part of two-month weekly series.
ShaKeta Berrie, Class of 2016, worked primarily on domestic violence cases and family law matters this summer with Legal Aid of North Carolina. Legal Aid is a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services to low income people in civil matters. While working with Legal Aid, Berrie conducted interviews with clients, drafted motions and orders for her supervising attorneys, and assisted with preparation for litigation.
“This experience has been extremely valuable to show me how the system really works,” Berrie said. “I never would have thought I would feel confident enough as a student to try a case, but my supervising attorneys have been so immensely patient in teaching me how to advocate for my client that I am sure I will be prepared to go to trial. I have observed the importance of evidentiary rule compliance, learned that procedure really counts, and noted the overall respect due to the court.”
Berrie is a member of the American Bar Association Fourth Circuit Law Student Division, serving as Lieutenant Governor of Nontraditional Students, as well as the Black Law Students Association at Elon Law.
Mark Funkhouser, Class of 2016, interned this summer in the litigation department of Rossabi Black Slaughter, PA, working on cases ranging from complex business disputes, to employment law, to negligence claims. He also had the opportunity to work in the firm’s domestic and real estate departments.
Funkhouser was involved in many courtroom procedures, mediations and arbitrations. With a third-year practice certificate, he had the opportunity to argue three different motions in superior court.
“Working at Rossabi Black Slaughter was a great chance to experience work in a private firm, and it acted as a great counterpart to the public interest work that I have done in the past,” Funkhouser said. “It allowed me to see how a private firm runs its business, as well as how to serve a vast range of clients - from larger corporations with complex litigation all the way to individuals on a pro bono basis.”
At Elon Law, Funkhouser is the Articles Editor of the Elon Law Review, the President of OutLaw, the Public Relations Coordinator of the Pro Bono Board.
With respect to aspects of Elon Law’s curriculum that proved beneficial in his summer employment, Funkhouser said, “I found that my legal writing class from 1L year prepared me exceptionally well to write great memos, briefs and other legal documents, as well as to have some initial exposure to oral arguments. Additionally, I might not have been offered the opportunity to work at the law firm if not for my involvement in school organizations and the community at Elon Law. The leadership experience from those roles has helped me immensely.”
Meghan O’Keeffe, Class of 2016, worked with the Guilford County District Attorney in Greensboro practicing criminal law and focusing on litigation. She had the opportunity to experience both Superior Court and District Court, working with fraud cases and criminal trials. At both levels, O’Keeffe was able to try cases personally, and a significant amount of her time was spent preparing cases for jury trials in superior court. Specifically, O’Keeffe worked on two jury trials, one of which resulted in a plea agreement and one of which proceeded to a full jury trial. At the jury trial, O’Keeffe was successful in defending her client’s appeal, thus winning the case.
Apart from trial work, O’Keeffe worked directly with clients and witnesses for the state.
“This has been an invaluable experience,” she said. “I get non-stop trial work and litigation practice.”
O’Keeffe commented on the value of the curriculum at Elon Law, noting, “Professor Catherine Dunham’s summer trial advocacy course was the best prep in the world. It has helped me to hold my own in court with other experienced attorneys.”
Courtney Pine, Class of 2016, worked with Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program this summer. As part of her work, she coauthored an IP-Watch article that makes the case for laws that foster faster innovation in the development of biologics used to treat medical conditions. The Intellectual Property Watch (IP-Watch) article, titled “Decision Time On Biologics Exclusivity: Eight Years Is No Compromise” was authored by Pine, a member of the Class of 2016 at Elon Law, and Dr. Burcu Kilic, legal counsel in Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program.
In her summer experience with Global Citizen, Pine’s work has involved international trade agreements currently being negotiated (Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). Pine has analyzed the intellectual property chapters that have been leaked by various sources. She has been examining how these provisions could impact access to affordable medications in developing countries that are members of the trade agreements, such as the Philippines and Vietnam.
“With international law and intellectual property law intermingling more and more, I feel like my experience working with these mega trade agreements has prepared me to be on the forefront of IP law in the U.S.,” Pine said. “I feel like my intellectual property law courses prepared me for my experience this summer because I had a well established understanding of patent law and could readily apply my knowledge.”
Pine is the 2015-2106 president of the Intellectual Property Society at Elon Law. Her career interests include IP litigation.
Jason Pruett, Class of 2017, is working in the North Carolina Attorney General’s office this summer, contributing to the development of insurance and bail bondsmen regulations.
“My internship has enabled me to use my research and writing skills gained in 1L year in a practical way by discovering answers to real-world insurance issues,” Pruett said.
Pruett’s work in the insurance department of the Attorney General’s office has involved bank-owned life insurance, reciprocity of insurance agent licenses, and bail bonding. His experiences in this position include meeting directly with Attorney General Roy Cooper and participating in private tours of the North Carolina Central Prison, the North Carolina Women’s’ Prison and the North Carolina Crime Lab.
“This experience has allowed me to see the challenges and struggles that an attorney working for the government faces,” Pruett said. “The most vital lesson I believe I have gained this summer is an immense appreciation for Civil Procedure.”
A member of the Class of 2017, Pruett is a Leadership Fellow and a Dean’s Fellow at Elon Law. He is a former Randolph County Public School Teacher, specializing in English. In the future, Pruett will be working at the Alamance County District Attorney’s Office, pursuing the type of placement he hopes to obtain long-term.
Commenting on aspects of Elon Law’s program of study that were beneficial in this placement, Pruett said, “Throughout 1L year, I struggled to grasp and see the bigger picture of Civil Procedure, but this practical experience has enabled me to put what Professor Dunham taught me into practice. I have also used concepts and lessons from my Contracts class and would be lost without the knowledge gained from Contracts.”
This is the first in a two-month weekly series spotlighting student summer employment experiences and professional insights.Law student Jocelyne Riehl contributed to the development of this article.