November Legal Briefs News from Wake Forest Law


Jason Benetti (JD '11) featured on CBS News Sunday Morning

From left: Jason Benetti (JD ’11) and Richard E. Shaw

Jason Benetti (JD '11), a Chicago radio and TV sports broadcaster, sat down with NPR's Scott Simon to discuss his life with cerebral palsy as part of a CBS News Sunday Morning web extra. "I think everybody has the opportunity to effect people as they walk around the world," Benetti said.


Veteran Sam Metzler (JD '10) highlighted in Winston-Salem Journal

Photo of Sam Metzler (JD '10) (Source: Winston-Salem Journal)

In 2012, Sam Metzler (JD '10) was responsible for targeting, operational planning, and mission execution in Afghanistan. The former JAG is now back in the U.S. and dedicates time to N.C. veterans via the Veterans Treatment Court.

Thank you alumni!

Thank you to all alumni from near and far who joined us for our 2019 Law Alumni Weekend. We cherished having you on campus as we celebrated our #WFULaw family. You can view and download photos from this weekend by using the password 'wakeforestlaw'. #GoDeacs


Wake Forest remains among the nation’s best for trial advocacy

The Wake Forest National Trial Team ended its 2019 campaign as one of the top teams in the country after another historical performance at the 2019 National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) Tournament of Champions (TOC).

The team of students, which was coached by Wake Forest alumnus Mark Boynton (JD ’97), included Zachary Harris (JD ’20), Phillip Jester (JD ’20), Danielle Kunkel (JD ’21), and Andrew Shortt (JD ’20).

The competition was hosted by American University and held at E. Barrett Prettyman Federal District Courthouse in Washington, D.C. The event is an invitation-only trial advocacy tournament that selects the sixteen highest ranked trial advocacy programs in the country to compete for the champion’s title.

The problem for this year’s tournament was a real criminal case that involved the death of a 17-month old child caused by Fentanyl poisoning, resulting in charges of welfare endangerment and involuntary manslaughter against the child’s mother. Her live-in boyfriend, a convicted Fentanyl and heroin dealer acting as a confidential informant for the police, testified for the prosecution while her neighbor, the executive director of Positive Parenting Alliance, testified for the defense.

Every team tries the case four times during the four preliminary rounds with each team prosecuting and defending twice. Kunkel and Jester prosecuted while Harris and Shortt defended. Other coaches praised Wake Forest for their preparation, execution, acumen, and professionalism, according to Boynton.

Wake Forest ended the final preliminary round with a win over the University of California Berkeley, where Kunkel was unanimously named Best Advocate by the judges. The Demon Deacons ended the preliminary rounds with a 3-1 record, tying with Drexel, Loyola-Chicago, Harvard, Syracuse, Akron and Berkeley, but fell short of capturing enough ballots to move on to the final four round.

“Regardless of trophies, the admiration and respect of worthy adversaries outstrips all tokens of victory,” says Boynton. “These four students steadfastly and resoundingly honored and continued Wake Forest’s traditions of trial advocacy excellence as a blend of fierce preparation with unwavering integrity and professionalism. I am so proud of them, and feel privileged to coach them.”

The team was supported by other law students, faculty, and staff, including Coaches Don Pocock (BA ’97, JD ’00), Stephanie Reese (JD ’96), and Matthew Breeding (JD ’06) as well as trial advocacy alumni Zach McCamey (JD ’18) and Charlie Mellies (BA ’08, JD ’11).

Because the Demon Deacons won the 2018 NBTA TOC, defeating the University of Akron School of Law in the finals, Wake Forest University will host the 2020 competition.

Wake Forest is ranked No. 1 in North Carolina and among the top three schools nationally for Trial Competition Performance since 2016, according to the 2019 Fordham Law rankings. Since 2017, Wake Forest School of Law has brought home four national championships with the National Trial Team most recently winning the 2018 TOC. Wake Forest is the only law school to win the AAJ Student Trial Advocacy Competition, the National Moot Court Competition, the American College of Trial Lawyers National Trial Competition, and the Tournament of Champions in consecutive years.


Winners of 2019 Transactional Law Competition announced

The Wake Forest Transactional Law Board named Caitlin Becker (JD ’21), Ryan Madden (JD ’21), and Olivia Rojas (JD ’21) overall team champions of the 2019 Transactional Law Competition.

The Wake Forest School of Law Transactional Law Competition is a student-run competition, using a simulated business transaction in which student teams represent two sides of a corporate agreement. The competition allows participants to learn and practice the skills of contract analysis, drafting, and negotiation. For the 2019 Transactional Law Competition, students represented either a beverage distributor or a cider brewery in reaching a distribution agreement.

Award winners from the competition include:

Overall Team Champions

Caitlin Becker (JD ’21)

Ryan Madden (JD ’21)

Olivia Rojas (JD ’21)

Best 1L Overall Team

Jonathan Carter (JD ’22)

Anabelle Copeland (JD ’22)

Charlie Ellis (JD ’22)

Best Team Negotiators

Jaren Butts (JD ’21)

Corinne Spencer (JD ’21)

Manning Peeler (JD ’21)

Best Team Mark-Up

Makenzie Taylor (JD ’22)

Rachel Golden (JD ’22)

Sam Beckworth (JD ’22)

Best Team Draft

Caitlin Becker (JD ’21)

Ryan Madden (JD ’21)

Olivia Rojas (JD ’21)

As a part of the competition, the teams had the opportunity to draft their own distribution agreements, mark-up another team’s draft, and negotiate aspects of the agreement with another team. This year’s problem was designed by members of the Transactional Law Competition Board, which consisted of Chairperson Samantha Moench (JD ’20), Vice Chairperson Kate Kacsur (JD ’20), Problem Chairperson Thomas Cain (JD ’20), 2L Board Member Olivia Bane (JD ’21), 2L Board Member Golzar Yazdanshenas (JD ’21), and 2L Board Member Alex Hill (BA ’18, JD ’21).

Judges scoring the rounds represented many different firms across the N.C. including:

Womble Bond Dickinson

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton

Pittman & Steele

Poyner Spruill

Purrington Moody Weil

Payne & Associates

Ogletree Deakins

Duke Energy

Mayer Brown

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

Affinity Living Group

Highwoods Properties

Law Offices of Anne Keays

Waldrep Law

K&L Gates

The final negotiation round was held in the Law Commons of the Worrell Professional Center on Saturday, October 26, 2019. The negotiation round was followed by a reception for judges and participants.

Faculty Highlight

Professors Kami Chavis and Mark Rabil host discussion on criminal justice and storytelling with Sarah Koenig of the Serial podcast

Journalist Sarah Koenig, producer of the Serial podcast, joined Wake Forest Law for a panel discussion on criminal justice and storytelling. She was joined by law Professors Kami Chavis and Mark Rabil as well as journalism Professor Phoebe Zerwick and undergraduate student Samantha Smart. 

The panel discussed the case of Adnan Syed, the American courthouse, and the need for reform. Koenig also explained how Serial's three seasons changed her focus as a reporter.

It's important to walk the line between investigative reporting and advocacy, says Koenig. As she has grown with the story of Adnan Syed and the criminal justice system, Koenig gives herself more leeway.

She urged students interested in defense work to consider becoming a prosecutor.

"They have a huge amount of power. The prosecutor really is the most powerful person in any courthouse," said Koenig. "And so there are offices around the country that I think are looking for reform-minded young attorneys who would normally be drawn to the criminal defense side."

"Reform can happen anywhere on any level," Koenig continued, "and it can happen on the street from people just showing up and standing their ground and making a fuss, but obviously, if you can go to the most powerful part of any system and make change from there, you're like three-quarters of the way there."