Elon Law alumni who are excelling as attorneys in law and consulting firms, corporations and government agencies recently reflected on valuable aspects of their legal education, including small class sizes, students’ close working relationships with faculty, the breadth of professional networking opportunities offered at Elon and the law school’s emphasis on trial advocacy and communication skills development.
The careers and insights of seven Elon Law alumni are featured below and in four associated videos, as part of the law school’s ongoing alumni profile series. Additional alumni profiles are available here and news reports about the achievements of Elon Law alumni are available here.
Leslie Lasher ’06, L’09, an associate attorney with Teague, Campbell, Dennis & Gorham in Raleigh, North Carolina, has an active practice representing government entities, employers and health care providers before North Carolina’s state, appellate and federal courts. She also defends workers’ compensation occupational disease cases before the North Carolina Industrial Commission. She says the trial advocacy program at Elon has helped her to excel in her career.
“Looking back, the trial advocacy program at Elon over-prepared me above and beyond what I could have expected, especially knowing what I know now,” Lasher said. “Being here [in practice] and having the opportunity to really do the research, do all of the writing and then go make it happen in the courtroom, as some of my professors would have told me, really brings it full circle, lets me really trust that I was getting an amazing education.”
In addition, Lasher says she valued the Preceptor Program for the exposure it provided her to various dimensions of the legal profession.
“The Preceptor Program was really neat for me because my preceptor immediately exposed me to organizations in the community that I was not aware of: different local bar associations, meetings where I could go to meet other lawyers and figure out what kind of practices really are out there,” Lasher said. “I did not know these things when I began in law school, but being paired with someone in the community that was actively practicing, I felt as though I could ask all of the questions I needed to ask, not feel inferior to anyone and they were really exposing me to all of the different opportunities for what I wanted my practice to be and really got me thinking as to what I wanted to do with my career.”
Samantha Gilman ’08, L’11, a Research Consultant for The Lewin Group in Washington, DC, analyzes health care law and policy and advises states on options to meet their population’s health care needs while complying with evolving regulations. She says Elon Law’s emphasis on developing students’ writing and oral advocacy skills has been instrumental in her career success.
“The emphasis that Elon puts on communicating in a variety of ways has been the thing that I think has enabled me to be so successful so early on right out of school,” Gilman says. “Writing is critical right now. A lot of students are graduating from college, from law school, with the theoretical knowledge that they can write, but in practice it is just not effective writing. The ability that Elon has had to have those smaller class sizes and really have professors critically look at our writing and give us productive feedback has been the guide for me to become a better writer and has enabled me to make more of an effective impact in the workplace.”
David Morrow ’07, L’10, a regulatory attorney at BuckleySandler LLP in Washington, D.C., assists clients in the financial service industry. Through regulatory, transactional and litigation work, Morrow engages a range of banking and finance law. His client portfolio ranges from small financial institutions to some of the nation’s largest banks. Morrow says Elon’s emphasis on developing every student’s capacity to work skillfully in groups and in leadership roles has been instrumental in his success.
“Working in a large firm, I am always in groups. Actually, it is very rare that I work alone,” Morrow says. “At Elon, we spent a lot of time doing group projects, so I was prepared to deal with that type of dynamic. Looking back, beyond the ability to work in groups and to work with different types of people, I think that the leadership skills emphasized at Elon are starting to prove really beneficial.”
Jason Burton L’11, an associate attorney with Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP in Raleigh, North Carolina, specializes in litigation, complex business litigation and catastrophic injury cases. His business litigation practice includes clients ranging in size from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Burton says that networking opportunities offered at Elon were invaluable to his career success.
“The most important thing, I think, is the networking opportunities that Elon provides their students with,” Burton says. “I was able to build a lot of relationships during my time in law school that I have been able to take advantage of now as a practicing attorney. It is very nice to be able to step into the legal world and know who people are and be more than a name on a piece of paper, and Elon really provides that opportunity.”
Burton also valued the mentoring he received through Elon Law’s Preceptor Program.
“Being paired up with somebody from day one in the practicing legal community helps you, as a student, bridge the gap between the black letter law that you learn in law school and the application of that law in the practice of law,” Burton said. “So it was nice to be able to call on my preceptor and say ‘tell me how this relates to what I am going to be doing in the future,’ and they were able to do that and it was really a beneficial experience for me.”
Ashley Shelton ’07, L’10, a Staff Attorney for Clark Construction Group, LLC in Bethesda, Maryland, helps to manage a wide array of transactional legal matters for the construction services company with more than $4 billion in annual revenue. She says Elon helped her develop a capacity to envision expansive career objectives and to create a professional trajectory that fit her interests.
“Elon Law taught me not only how to be a lawyer, but how to expand my leadership skills, as well as skills such as public speaking, networking and negotiating my own future,” Shelton said. “Elon made clear that I could chart my own path and that a legal career did not have to be boilerplate in one area of law or another.”
Annie Nastasi ’07, L’10, Compliance Manager in the Office of the Chief Compliance Officer at American Express in New York, NY, assists a global financial institution in responding to requests for information and documentation from external agencies and regulatory bodies, as well as managing compliance for state-by-state money transmitter license requirements. Nastasi says that the focus on experiential learning at Elon Law prepared her to excel in an alternative legal career.
“A lot of the Elon legal program is about interactive learning. You are always getting up on your feet and you are always practicing what you learn in the classroom,” Nastasi said. “A lot of times, folks leave law school and go into more traditional legal careers. Even when I applied to law school, I knew that I wasn’t going to practice law. I knew that I wanted to learn a lot of skills that I could transfer into various careers. When I graduated I then started to explore different fields and I found that compliance was a great way for me to use all of the skills I learned in law school, but not necessarily practice.”
Nicole Patterson L’10 is a labor and employee relations specialist at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in Rockville, Maryland. Her office manages, maintains and ensures compliance with collective bargaining agreements involving grievances and arbitrations with bargaining-unit employees. In addition, her office advises managers and employees on their rights and responsibilities regarding performance, conduct, leave and attendance in addition to serving as agency representatives. Patterson says she has relied on skills developed in trial advocacy programs at Elon Law for every position she has held since law school, including positions within the U.S. government as a Presidential Management Fellow.
“The hands-on learning was helpful for me,” Patterson says. “[The Moot Court Program and the Trial Advocacy Program] put me in a place where I was forced to advocate for my case or my client and really learn oral advocacy skills. I can think of every job that I have had since law school and I have used these skills. They are skills that you use every day in the practice of law, and so I think they are beneficial, and that everyone should participate in them, even if you are not planning to do litigation or go into the courtroom.”