In praise of an Elon Law mentor

To honor a local attorney's unwavering support of her legal studies, student Wendy Smith made a gift to Elon Law that was celebrated June 7 with the unveiling of a plaque recognizing G. Steve Crihfield for his commitment to encouraging students who are pursuing a career in law.

Elon Law hosted a special “Coffee & Conversation” this month with the unveiling of a plaque that honors the contributions of a longtime North Carolina attorney who has mentored dozens of students since the law school’s founding in 2006.

G. Steve Crihfield visited Elon Law for a casual mid-morning gathering on June 7, 2017, where faculty, staff and students surprised him with the plaque now affixed to a study table in Cemala Commons. It’s a table where the preceptor emeritus is often found reading and counseling students about the law and their studies.

The plaque, created “in recognition and appreciation for continued support and encouragement given to the students of Elon Law,” followed a gift made to the school by a student who graduates in December 2017.

“Forever you will have an impact on who I am, and for this reason, I honor you and the school honors you,” Wendy Smith said at the program, describing her uncertainty in the earliest days at Elon Law when she questioned her decision to switch careers from nursing. “I know that if you had that impact on me, you’ve had the impact on so many others.”

After the plaque was unveiled, Crihfield spoke of the need for mentors in the legal profession, and that mentoring has “lost its meaning” in today’s practice of law. For that reason, he said, he wants to do all he can to help students prepare for their careers.

“I enjoy your company and I enjoy being here and I hope we’ll continue to see each other into the far distant future,” he said.

Elon Law’s Preceptor Program is one of the school’s distinctive features. Each fall, more than 50 experienced lawyers from a broad range of practice settings mentor first-year law students, observe them in classes and provide feedback. Preceptors also invite students to accompany them to observe trials, client interviews, depositions, and mediations.

While primarily involved with first-year law students, preceptors regularly interact with second- and third-year law students, as well as with alumni of the law school.

Associate Dean Faith Rivers James likewise praised Crihfield at the unveiling.

“This is really a special occasion in the life of Elon Law school. It’s an opportunity for us to thank and acknowledge one of our founding preceptors who has been with us since the beginning,” Rivers James said. “By sharing lessons from his own experience, he gives our students an opportunity to learn, give back, and to grow.”