Elon Law students take leadership roles in summer employment

Experiences at the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, state and city attorney’s offices and a private business law firm are featured in part three of a two-month series spotlighting the work of Elon Law students this summer.

<p>Karizza Mendoza, second from left, is pictured with her summer 2015 supervising attorney, Adam Chester, USCIS Associate Counsel for the Office of Chief Counsel, Central Law Division; Mary Larakers, second from right (co-intern from St. Mary's School of Law); and Stephanie Lau, Paralegal Specialist for USCIS Office of Chief Counsel.</p>
Karizza Mendoza, Elon Law Class of 2016, clerked at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in San Antonio, Texas this summer.

“My clerkship with USCIS was an amazing experience,” Mendoza said. “I learned more about family-based immigration that will help me provide better service to any of my future clients. I was able to further enhance my immigration knowledge through interaction with my supervising attorney and through research and writing. Overall, I learned that immigration law is my passion.”

At Elon Law, in addition to taking courses in International Refugee & Asylum Law and Immigration Law, Mendoza has interned for Elon’s Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic. She co-authored an article about the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic for the Federal Bar Association – Middle District of North Carolina and participated in a spring break trip advocating for immigrant women and children in Karnes Detention Center. As a result of this work, Mendoza has spoken on Charlotte Talk, a program of NPR-affiliate WFAE radio.

In her clerkship, Mendoza drafted legal memos on topics ranging from special military naturalization provisions, good moral character with regards to naturalization and grounds of deportability. She attended several meetings with USCIS attorneys, USCIS District and Field Office supervisors, USCIS immigration officers, Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorneys, Customs and Border Patrol attorneys, an Office of Immigration Litigation attorney, Board of Immigration Appeals attorney, Executive Office for Immigration Review judge and attorneys, and non-profit attorneys. She also attended three naturalization oath ceremonies, one of which was for military members in Fort Sam Houston.

Danielle Prongay, Elon Law Class of 2017, worked at the U.S. Department of Justice throughout summer 2015.
Danielle Prongay, Elon Law Class of 2017, worked in the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ), Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties this summer in Washington, D.C.

“I have seen firsthand the differences between politics, policy, rulemaking and the law,” Prongay said. “Many people believe this is one concept, but each requires different skills.”

Prongay provided legal guidance for DOJ’s privacy operations and compliance with privacy-related laws and regulations. She assisted in developing DOJ policy on unmanned aircraft systems, social media, cybersecurity and incident response. She advised on data collection and aggregation, information sharing and other issues arising from DOJ’s law enforcement and national security efforts. Prongay drafted and revised reports to the White House, Congress, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, including a yearly report on cybersecurity information sharing, data mining activities and state and local law enforcement privacy resources.

Prongay is interested in Constitutional Law and higher education administration. At Elon Law, she is a Leadership Fellow, Dean’s Fellow, Student Mentor, Chair of the ‪#‎ElonDay committee, member of Phi Alpha Delta and a Research Assistant.

Caitlin Robinson, Elon Law Class of 2016, worked with the Anne Arundel County State Attorney’s Office in Annapolis, Maryland this summer as a Criminal Law Clerk.

Robinson assisted prosecuting attorneys with research for upcoming cases, specifically with violent crimes. She was the lead law clerk for a criminal rape trial, completed memorandum for the Violent Crimes Unit, and was able to have behind-the-scenes access to the process of the state prosecutor’s office.

“It was beneficial to be in a position where I could work with twenty plus attorneys within multiple areas of the law,” Robinson said.

Crediting many aspects of Elon Law’s criminal law and litigation curriculum, Robinson said, “I found that the skills I obtained from Trial Practice and Procedure helped me throughout all aspects of my summer employment. The course from Elon Law I used the most this summer was Criminal Procedure. The information in this course came up multiple times as I was working with the Violent Crimes Unit. Elon Law’s Legal Methods course taught me how to write a sufficient memorandum for the attorneys. I received very positive feedback.”

Robinson said the experience solidified her interest in criminal law.

“I looked into the different paths I could take as an attorney and decided my aspiration was to become a criminal prosecutor for the state, particularly dealing with violent crimes,” she said.

Elon Law students Casey Simmons, Class of 2016, and Sam Price, Class of 2017, interned this summer at the Greensboro Police Attorney’s Office and the Greensboro City Attorney’s Office, respectively, assisting in litigation, researching police practices and contributing to the development of standardized procedures.

“I have learned quite a bit about the actual practice of law from this internship,” Price said. “It has been nice to gain practical experience outside the walls of Elon.”

“I have been able to get a better grasp on how civil procedure and litigation work in the real world,” said Simmons.

The Police Attorney in Greensboro provides legal counsel to the Chief of Police with respect to police and procedure formation, rule revision and discipline administration. Simmons was able to work alongside the Police Attorney in these fields. She also had an opportunity to argue on behalf of the City of Greensboro.

At Elon, Simmons is actively involved with the Innocence Project and the Women’s Law Association. In the future, she plans to work in business law, with a specific interest in corporate in-house counsel opportunities.

Brinson White, Elon Law Class of 2016, interned this summer with Tucker Griffin Barnes PC in Charlottesville, Virginia, focusing on real-estate transactional law.

“It is a very fast-paced work environment that forces you to be organized and on your toes,” White said. “The experience thus far has given me insight into the entire real estate transaction process as well as the inner workings of a medium sized law firm.”

White was able to work directly with clients and help navigate them through complicated legal documents, closing sales and purchases. He traveled to various city courthouses and worked with other attorneys on documents associated with sales, purchases and refinances. White focused on banking law issues with a senior partner and assisted on several civil litigation projects.

With respect to the value of Elon Law’s curriculum and programs in support of his success at work, White said, “My legal writing courses have proved their importance when I am drafting anything from memos to emails in the course of my work day because I am able to effectively make my points and explain my reasoning, to clients, attorneys and staff, while maintaining a high level of professionalism. Also, Elon’s preceptor program enabled me to gain some experience in a law firm setting prior to working full-time during the summer. Because of this and past work experiences, I went into my summer employment already knowing the basics so I could hit the ground running.”

White said he welcomes the responsibility that accompanies helping clients with complicated transactions and enjoys learning the operation of a transactional attorney in the field. In the future, White hopes to return to Virginia, in the central or southwest region, to continue his work in real-estate and business transaction, and to explore work in wills, trusts and estate planning.

Part I of Elon Law’s 2015 student summer employment reporting series is available here.

Part II of Elon Law’s 2015 student summer employment reporting series is available here.