Elon Law students excel in summer employment
Work experiences in U.S. appellate and district courts, and in N.C. district attorney’s and public defender’s offices are featured in part six of Elon Law’s student summer employment series.
John Dow, Elon Law Class of 2016, served this summer as a judicial intern for U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in Utica, N.Y.
“This summer was a chance to test my abilities as a writer and researcher,” Dow said. “Elon did a great job of teaching me how to effectively research the law. My research abilities were part of what earned me my distinguished service award. Though it was a challenge to meet Judge Hurd's high standards for writing, I was able to grow to meet his needs, in part because I was able to quickly and accurately find relevant cases and statutes to build a decision from. That base allowed me to focus on mastering the specific, thoughtful, extremely detail oriented way of writing required of attorney's practicing within the federal court system.”
Dow also authored the article “Maybe in My Back Yard,” an analysis of state energy laws and policies, published in Environmental News, North Carolina Bar Association (June, 2015).
In summer 2014, Dow worked as a legal intern for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in Albany, N.Y. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. He has been recognized at Elon Law with a Public Interest Law Grant and a Pro Bono Exceptional Service Award.
“Elon Law’s innovative approach makes it a launch pad for student success,” Dow said. “The school’s hallmarks, for me, have been exceptional courses, excellent professors and extensive law practice opportunities that match my career interests.”
At Elon Law, Dow is an Oaks Scholar and N.C. Guardian ad Litem program volunteer. As the founder and primary officer for Elon Law’s Environmental & Animal Law Society, Dow participated in Elon’s 2015 announcement of its new JD/Master of Environmental Law and Policy dual-degree program in partnership with Vermont Law School.
Marissa Kuzbyt, Elon Law Class of 2016, worked this summer in the Davidson County District Attorney's Office in Lexington, N.C.
“I was in a courtroom every day, advocating for victims and bettering my courtroom skills,” Kuzbyt said. “Since I had my practice certificate, I was able to call the calendar in District Court, do different types of pleas and motions in District Court, try bench trials in District Court, and do probation violations in both Superior and District Court. I also assisted the attorneys in preparation for trial including, but not limited to, research, review of files and calling of witnesses and officers.”
“My experience at the Davidson County District Attorney's Office was the best of my life,” Kuzbyt said. “Every attorney in the office was so helpful and enjoyable that it made this summer incredible. Any question I had was answered immediately. Anytime an attorney had something they thought would be interesting for me they would hand me the file. The attorneys in this office were extremely welcoming and made every day better than the last. Not only were the attorneys in the office excellent, but the assistants and staff members also were. It was such a wonderful experience to be able to be in an office where I was comfortable with everyone and every day was filled with laughter and hard work. Further, I was very lucky to be in a courthouse where everyone from the defense bar to the clerks to the bailiffs were just as helpful and friendly.”
At Elon Law, Kuzbyt is a member of the Moot Court Board, vice-president of Phi Alpha Delta and co-chair of Lawyer on the Line. She has previously been involved in North Carolina Advocates for Justice and the Innocence Project.
“This summer it was very exciting to see the things I learned in Criminal Procedure and Evidence really worked into everything I did,” Kuzbyt said.
Mackenzie Myers, Elon Law Class of 2016, was a law clerk this summer at the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office in Birmingham, Alabama.
"During my time there I was able to prosecute several misdemeanor bench trials and a DUI jury trial that I sat first chair on,” Myers said. “I was also able to sit second chair on a felony drug case and conduct both a bond hearing and a preliminary hearing. I helped prepare a child physical and sexual abuse case for trial in addition to a capital murder case. I was able to go on a search warrant with the Birmingham Police Department, go through a VirTra 300 Firearms Training Simulator with the U.S. Marshals and observe numerous autopsies at the coroner's office."
At Elon Law, Myers is a part of North Carolina’s Guardian ad Litem program, president of Innocence Project and a member of the Moot Court Board and Trial Advocacy Team.
"The support of several faculty members and my ability to create a schedule that has allowed me to gain as much practical experience as possible has been beyond beneficial," Myers said.
Ragan Riddle, Elon Law Class of 2017, interned for the first half of summer with Judge James A. Wynn, Jr., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and for the second half of summer with, Justice Paul M. Newby, N.C. Supreme Court.
"To say that these experiences have been valuable would be an incredible understatement," Riddle said. "I have learned more in my time at both my internships than I ever imagined I would. They have allowed me to take the fundamental skills that law school provided and expand on them immensely by gaining practical experience. This has given me an opportunity to develop my writing and research skills, learn about areas of law beyond what is taught in the classroom and engage in work that impacts lives."
During her first internship with Judge Wynn at the U.S. Court of Appeals, Riddle researched issues within opinions and dissents. Using that information, she was able to draft memos regarding those specific issues. Her second internship with Justice Newby at the N.C. Supreme Court allowed her to review cases and provide insight on whether they should be placed on the oral argument calendar for the justices to hear.
At Elon Law, Riddle is a Leadership Fellow, student mentor, treasurer of the Women's Law Association, Student Bar Association representative for second-year law students and a Lawyer on the Line representative.
"I am thankful that Elon Law encourages students to seek these opportunities," Riddle explained. "By helping me connect to these internships, Elon Law has helped me to learn and grow in so many ways. I believe that Elon's desire to see its students succeed really enabled me to experience incredible summer internships."
Diamond Zephir, Elon Law Class of 2016, worked this summer with the Durham County Public Defender's Office in Durham, N.C., representing defendants charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes.
“My summer employment with the Durham County Public Defender's was an amazing experience. I conducted numerous client interviews, tendered plea agreements with the Court, served as a mediator between victims and defendants, negotiated with prosecutors, argued to the Court that cases should be dismissed and served in three trials,” Zephir said. “I gained a deeper level of understanding about aspects of my future career as a defense attorney, such as learning how to create a legal defense theory for a client's defense and how to use North Carolina law in favor of our clients. Working closely with many defense attorneys, both public and private, has opened many doors for me in the development of my legal career.”
“The courses Trial Practice and Procedure, Criminal Pretrial Practice, and Evidence were especially helpful in my experience as a Defender intern,” Zephir said. “Those courses, as well as other courses that required students to debate legal issues, have prepared me for what it would feel like in a real-world courtroom and with professionals.”