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Elon Law’s residencies-in-practice shape student knowledge

The opportunity to work full-time in a course-connected legal environment has already "exceeded expectations" of students in the Class of December 2017 whose experiential learning is unlike that found at other law schools.

What is it like to be second seat on a trial? To prepare a briefing for a congressional committee on voting rights? To draft memos and opinions on behalf of a federal magistrate judge?

Just ask Elon Law students in the Class of December 2017.

Elon Law’s first-of-its-kind residency program is sending second-year students around the world this year to learn how law is practiced and applied in the courts, private firms, government agencies, nonprofits, corporations and other law offices. The first two dozen students completed their residencies over the fall trimester in cities that included Washington, Charlotte, Richmond and Raleigh, as well as communities throughout North Carolina’s Triad region.

They worked for federal and state judges. The Transformative Justice Coalition. Legal Aid of North Carolina. The Piedmont Land Conservancy. The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office and other state agencies.


Guided by a faculty member, students immersed in a full-time residency said they now better understand how theories learned in the classroom are applied in practice. Interests in specific areas of law drive the placement process, enabling students to develop specialized knowledge and skills, while building credentials and networks that support their career goals.

“Elon Law’s residency program furthers our aim to be the preeminent school for engaged and experiential learning in law, and it makes law school exciting again,” said Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman. “Our students do things in these residencies that aren’t possible anywhere else. The feedback from students who took part in fall residencies is overwhelmingly positive, which tells us that our pioneering approach to legal education already is creating a new type of lawyer leader ready for the rigors of the profession from Day One of their career.”  

Read and watch what some of Elon Law’s 2L students involved in fall residencies had to say about their experience and lessons learned before returning to campus for the second half of their studies.

Rachel Stariha L'17

Creshenole "Nicole" Opata L'17 (right) with her residency supervisors, Andrew W. Kelly and Tawn Evans.
Christopher Winiecki L'17
Trisha Barfield L'17 with her residency supervisor, Mark York L'12
Rachel Stariha
Residency: U.S. Magistrate Judge David Novak in the Eastern District of Virginia
Richmond, Virginia

“Simply working in court and in the judge’s chambers allowed me to see the way in which the court functions on a firsthand basis, which is something that you simply cannot learn or experience by being in a classroom. You can learn about the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but it is an entirely different experience when you are able to see them at work in ‘real life.’  Participating in mediated settlement conferences with the judge also allowed me to observe an area of the judicial process that I would otherwise not have had the opportunity of learning by being in a classroom. I was able to observe and understand the dynamic between the judge, counsel, and the clients on a first hand basis, and see various interpretations of law, depending upon which side of the table you sat.”

Creshenole “Nicole” Opata
Residency: Legal Department (Office of the City Attorney), City of Greensboro
Greensboro, North Carolina

“The residency helps bring everything together. In the classroom we learn a lot of case law and theories. During my residency I was able to actually see how everything I am learning is applied in practice.

"When approaching my studies I will go deeper, beyond the theories and case law, and think about how I will apply what I am learning in practice.”

Christopher Winiecki
Residency: Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Lindsay R. Davis Jr.
Greensboro, North Carolina

“I have observed so many hours of trial that I now notice things that I never would have been able to notice before. I have talked to attorneys on both sides of criminal and civil and learned little practical lessons that would have taken me years and years to learn in practice. … I have a completely new outlook on the way I will approach my legal studies. I have come to the realization that the legal profession is one based on continued learning. I have watched attorneys who have been practicing for 30 plus years learn new things and present things in new ways. I now understand that what I am doing and learning in school will shape that way that I will practice law for the rest of my life.

Trisha Barfield
Residency: Carruthers & Roth, P.A.
Greensboro, North Carolina

“I had the opportunity to work with and learn directly from attorneys, developing valuable professional relationships. Coupled with my willingness to learn and accept new challenges, and the firm’s willingness and support to teach me, I researched various legal issues; drafted motions, filed memoranda, attended and observed depositions and preparatory sessions; and assisted an attorney in a four day Superior Court jury trial. Observing that jury trial will shape my future studies to focus on what will support the ultimate goals of my clients.”


About Elon Law:

Elon Law is the preeminent school for engaged and experiential learning in law. Its 2.5-year curriculum, introduced in 2015, positions students to excel in the rapidly evolving legal profession with better preparation, stronger professional partnerships, and exceptional value unlike any other American law school. Highlights of Elon Law's new program:

  • The first and only law school to ensure that all students benefit from full-time, course-connected residencies in the practice of law
  • Experiential learning integrated throughout the curriculum, with students earning more required academic credits through experiential coursework than any other law school
  • An introductory course for all students to develop skills essential for success in law school and the legal profession, including legal analysis, writing and professionalism
  • A four-person student success team for every student: a faculty advisor, a working attorney mentor (preceptor), an executive coach and a career consultant
  • A seven-trimester schedule in which students complete their studies in December, allowing them to take the February bar exam and begin law practice in the spring, six months before peers at other schools
  • A tuition 20 percent lower than the private law school average and guaranteed not to increase, plus substantial scholarship and fellowship opportunities

Learn more about Elon Law and apply now for admission in the entering Class of 2017.

Eric Townsend,
12/19/2016 8:00 AM