December Legal Briefs News from Wake Forest Law

Cheslie kryst (JD/MBA '17) places among the top 10 at the 2019 miss universe competition

The following story is from the 2019 publication of the Wake Forest Jurist, the annual alumni magazine of Wake Forest School of Law.

Alumna Cheslie Kryst (JD/MBA ’17) makes waves on a national platform as the new Miss USA.

“I have five siblings, and when I was younger, I was always the one in the family representing my other siblings,” said Cheslie Kryst (JD/MBA ’17) during a phone interview just days after winning the 2019 Miss USA title in Reno, Nevada. “I was always speaking for my siblings, always speaking on behalf of my friends, and they always trusted me to represent them. So, it seemed sort of a natural progression to go from that to law school.”

A 28-year old civil litigation attorney, Kryst chose Wake Forest because she planned to practice law in North Carolina and wanted to attend a law school in the state. “And if I wanted to go to law school, I wanted to go to one of the best, and Wake Forest was clearly on that list.”

Her decision came after earning her undergraduate degree in business administration with a double major in marketing and human resources management while running Division I track at the University of South Carolina. She says visiting Wake Forest on Accepted Students Day sealed the deal for her.

“Wake Forest shaped who I was and am as an attorney, and as a person,” Kryst said. “I just grew so much and learned so much about me, about the legal profession, and about what I wanted out of my career, at Wake Forest.”

During her time at the School of Law, Kryst experienced just about everything. She participated in Moot Court, was a prominent member of the national championship-winning AAJ Trial Team, served as president of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society, and was the national parliamentarian for the school’s chapter of the National Black Law Students Association (BLSA). “Seriously, I could go on for days talking about my experience at Wake Forest,” she said.

As an associate at Poyner Spruill in Charlotte, N.C., Kryst also performs pro bono work with prison inmates. Her passion for this work was inspired by a speaker at the School of Law. Bryan Stevenson, the author of “Just Mercy,” is also a founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor and wrongly imprisoned.

“Dean Ann Gibbs said, ‘You need to read his book. That’s something you should do after the bar,’” Kryst said. “So after passing the bar and before starting work, I read his book, and it had a profound impact on me.”

“He talks a lot about some of the injustice in the justice system, and how the justice system tends to negatively affect minorities and people who can’t afford attorneys more acutely than it affects others. Because of his book, and because of my stepdad—he’s also an attorney who worked a lot with President Obama’s clemency project—because of those influences in my life, I decided I needed to help. Being an attorney, I am empowered to help, and I have the means to help, so that is what I do.”

Another influence on Kryst’s career? Her mother, who held the title of Mrs. North Carolina US in 2002. According to a 2019 Charlotte Observer article, Kryst said she learned the power of the pageant platform as a grade school student. “I remember seeing people paying attention to every word my mom said,” the story quotes Kryst.

When it was her time for the interview segment at the Miss USA pageant, Kryst’s answer on the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements gained approval in the news and on social media.

“I don’t think these movements have gone too far. What #MeToo and #TimesUp are about are making sure that we foster safe and inclusive workplaces in our country. As an attorney, that’s exactly what I want to hear, and that’s exactly what I want for this country. I think they’re good movements.”

During her year-long reign as Miss USA, Kryst plans to continue her advocacy for Dress for Success, an international organization empowering women to achieve economic independence through a network of support, professional attire, and development. Kryst worked with the Charlotte chapter before becoming Miss North Carolina USA. She has also relocated to New York City to prepare for the Miss Universe competition. “I’ll get to design my national costume and also my evening gown for the competition,” she said. I’m thrilled to represent the USA at the Miss Universe competition and excited to start prepping.”


Come from everywhere, go anywhere. Our alumni roots are far and wide, but no matter where members of our Wake Forest Law family come from, they have the skills and knowledge to go anywhere. Discover some of the big moments happening in the careers of #WFULaw alumni below.

  • Senior Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina W. Earl Britt (BS '56, LLB '58) receives 2019 North Carolina Award. Read more at wfu.law/d3c.
  • Gov. Roy Cooper appoints Rowan County Chief District Court Judge Charlie Brown (JD '92) to the Governor’s Crime Commission. Read more at wfu.law/a6y.
  • Ryan Dings (JD '05) named executive vice president and general counsel of Greentown Labs. Read more at wfu.law/a3c.
  • Leslie Johnson (JD '68) awarded Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Read more at wfu.law/c4g.
  • Forever 21 names Shannon Knupp (MSL '19) vice president of human resources. Read more in People Matters at wfu.law/bc5.
  • Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane appoints Bahati Mutisya (JD '15) to Raleigh Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. Read more at wfu.law/t7e.
  • André Mayes (JD '87) named general counsel of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Read more in the Charlotte Observer at wfu.law/c3a.
  • Gov. Roy Cooper appoints Jennifer K. Van Zant (JD '94) as public member of the North Carolina State Board of Certified Public Accountant Examiners. Read more at wfu.law/0g7.


Expungement Clinic featured in the Winston-Salem Journal

The Wake Forest Law Expungement Clinic, a perennial program offered through our Pro Bono Project, allows students to exercise the spirit of pro humanitate through community engagement. The Winston-Salem Journal featured the clinic in the article, "Legal clinic helps eligible people get second chance."

“It’s a challenge for the students doing this,” District Judge Denise Hartsfield (JD '91) told the Journal. “People who could use this can be transient or not in the same place all the time with consistency. It’s difficult.”


2019 Stanley Moot Court Competition winners announced

Congratulations to Elliott Riches (JD '21), the winner of the 2019 Stanley Moot Court Competition. He and Alexandria Montgomery (JD '21), the runner-up of the competition, argued an appeal on the matter of Aubrey Davidson vs. Clearwater Medical Inc. Judges Richard Dietz (JD '02), Joi Elizabeth Peake, and Michael L. Robinson presided over the arguments.

Sarah Traynor (JD '21) was named Best Oralist of the competition while Christopher Culbert (JD '21) and Marisa Mariencheck (JD '21) were named Runner-Up Best Oralists.

The Best Brief was awarded to Marisa Mariencheck. Mary-Kathryn Hawes (JD '21) was named Runner-Up Best Brief.

125 Years

Wake Forest Law celebrates 125 years of history

As 2019 and the last decade come to a close, we continue to celebrate our 125 years of history and service to legal education.

No matter which chapter of our story you choose to explore, you'll find a narrative that is uniquely human and enriched by a mission to develop successful citizen lawyers.

Faculty Highlight

Professor Marie-Amélie George earns second Dukeminier Award

Professor Marie-Amélie George earned her second Dukeminier Award for her Yale Law & Policy Review article, "Bureaucratic Agency: Administering the Transformation of LGBT Rights." The Dukeminier Award is conferred on authors of the country's most influential sexual orientation and gender identity scholarship.

Professor George earned her first Dukeminier Award for her Alabama Law Review article, "Expressive Ends: Understanding Conversion Therapy Bans."

Wake Forest Law to host executive education program on blockchain and fintech

“Blockchain, Crypto, & Fintech Law: Decoded and In Practice” will bring together nationally recognized experts for a daylong executive education program that includes courses on blockchain, cryptocurrency, and fintech. Designed and led by Wake Forest Law Professor Raina Haque, this event will focus on training and applying core concepts to multiple businesses that span industries.

The program will be held on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, at Wake Forest University Charlotte Center in Charlotte, N.C. Attendees will receive a certificate of completion. Seven N.C. and S.C. CLE credits are pending.