March Legal Briefs News from Wake Forest Law

#WFULaw Alumni Spotlight

Kimberly Stevens (JD ’92) shares her story during a ‘Conversation With’

Kimberly Stevens (JD ’92), one of only three capital resource counsel in the U.S., joined Professor Mark Rabil for the first “Conversation With” event of the new year. She discussed her experiences working as defense counsel in numerous high-profile federal death penalty cases, navigating small-town prejudices, and the lessons she learned while litigating in a biased environment.

Stevens emphasized the significance of professionalism and compassion in legal practice.

“We are all attorneys," Stevens said, "we are all trained professionals, and we can be gracious and we can be friendly to each other even when the stakes are at their highest.”

She shared that empathy was one of the cornerstones of her practice, saying that deeply understanding a client’s story has allowed her to build rapport with the people involved in a case – a crucial requirement for developing a solid defense in federal capital cases.

In addition to her stories about past trials and overcoming prejudice, Stevens talked about the struggles and threats she faced throughout her work, noting that it taught her how to deal with partisan bias in an emotionally charged situation and even how to work with people with radically different beliefs and experiences. This has allowed her to persevere in her practice.

“If you can get back up, you’re wiser,” Stevens said, “You’ve seen and you’ve felt and you understand.”

Annual Fund at Work

Wake Forest advances to National Trial Competition

The Wake Forest University School of Law National Trial Team was named the Region 5 champions of the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) National Trial Competition. The Demon Deacons will travel to the 2020 TYLA National Trial Competition in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Our law students have a well-established reputation for trial advocacy,” said Jane Aiken, dean of Wake Forest School of Law. “Their judgment, integrity, creativity, and narrative skills may be developed in the classroom, but the hours of hands-on experience practicing and honing their communications abilities sets them apart in competition.”

The regional competition was held February 7-9, 2020, in Columbia, South Carolina. Eighteen teams tried the case three times in two days. The field was whittled to eight with two regional champions—Wake Forest School of Law and the University of South Carolina School of Law—reigning over the competition. Both schools head to the national championship in April.

“These students fought on their ground and tried their cases not only with ferocious advocacy but with Wake Forest’s hallmark professionalism and congeniality,” said Mark Boynton (JD ’97), who serves as trial team coach. “They honored and demonstrated the School of Law’s tradition of excellence in all facets of trial advocacy. Fellow coach Sonny Haynes and I could not be more proud of these students.”

The squad of second-year students, which included Dani Kunkel (JD ’21), Dakota Baccus (JD ’21), and Amanda Manzano (JD ’21), did not lose a single ballot and swept every round to the finals, according to Boynton. They ultimately toppled the University of South Carolina, last year’s regional champions, in a 3-2 victory. Boynton noted that this team defeated the same Gamecock squad that knocked Wake Forest out of the regional competition the previous year.

A second squad, which included Andrew Shortt (JD ’20), Shameka Rolla (JD ’20), Phillip Jester (JD ’20), Jon McLamb (JD ’21), and Blake Svendsen (JD ’21), ended their campaign during the semi-final round of the competition.

Since 2017, Wake Forest School of Law has brought home four national championships, making it the only law school to win the AAJ Student Trial Advocacy Competition, the National Moot Court Competition, the American College of Trial Lawyers National Competition, and the Tournament of Champions in consecutive years.

The TYLA National Trial Competition began in 1975 to strengthen student’s advocacy skills through competition and networking with members of the bench and bar. The national championship team’s school receives $10,000 and commemorative plaques for each team member.


Wake Forest Law to host LGBTQ+ Legal Services Clinic

Wake Forest School of Law will host a legal services clinic for members of the LGBTQ+ community on Saturday, April 4, 2020, in the Worrell Professional Center Commons.

The clinic program, which is co-sponsored by North Star LGBTQ+ Community Center as well as Wake Forest Law’s OUTLaw organization and Healthcare Advocacy Pro Bono Project, will offer several legal services, including name changes, gender marker changes, living wills, and healthcare power of attorney services.

  • When: 10 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, 2020
  • Where: Commons, Worrell Professional Center at Wake Forest University School of Law

Individuals under 18 accompanied by parents or guardians may be eligible for name change or gender marker change services.

Wake Forest Law students will be supervised by multiple licensed attorneys as well as staff from the North Star LGBTQ+ Community Center. For more information on this clinic, contact Caden Tague (tagucg18@wfu.edu) or Michael Johnston (johnmr18@wfu.edu).

Annual Fund at Work

Winners of Zeliff Trial Bar Competition Announced

Blake Svendsen (JD '21) and Kelsey Rector (JD '22) were named champions of the 2020 Zeliff Trial Bar Competition. Agustin Martinez (JD '20) and Scott Harvey (JD '20) were named runner-up of the competition. Judge David Hall, Superior Court Judge of Forsyth County, presided over the final round of the competition.

The Zeliff Trial Competition is an annual competition at Wake Forest Law that began in 1981 in honor of the late Cynthia Zeliff (JD ’73).

Support our Public Interest Law Organization (PILO)

The Wake Forest Public Interest Law Organization (PILO) is fundamental to training lawyers who can serve their clients as well as local and state communities. Throughout the year, PILO raises money to support first- and second-year law students who pursue unpaid public interest positions during the summer. These PILO grants give Wake Forest Law students the opportunity to practice the spirit of pro humanitate through experiences that enable them to provide legal advice, guidance, and representation for not-for-profit organizations and persons without means to hire private law firms. Our students learn lessons that are essential to a comprehensive legal education.

If you believe in the value of public service and the need to have skilled attorneys practicing law in the public interest, please make a gift today to the PILO Beth Hopkins Pro Humanitate Grants.

Faculty Highlight

Professor Luellen Curry receives Legacy Award

Professor Luellen Curry was named the recipient of the Legacy Award at the 35th Annual Black Law Student Association (BLSA) Scholarship Award Banquet. Professor Curry is an associate professor of legal writing, having served Wake Forest School of Law for over 30 years.

This event, which was lead by Katherine Eschels (JD '21), focused on "2020 Vision: Remembering the Past, Treasuring the Future." Several students were awarded scholarships, including: Kendra Barr (JD '22), Alexandria Hill (JD '22), Britteny Junious (JD '21), and Nia Doaks (JD '22).

The Wake Forest School of Law BLSA Scholarship fund was established by alumni in 1984 and is supported by law firms, faculty, staff, and alumni to assist law students with the cost of tuition. The BLSA Banquet was established in 1985 and remains a cornerstone of BLSA’s legacy in raising scholarship funds for students.

Wake Forest Law students to help detained asylum seekers in Texas

Six Spanish-speaking Wake Forest Law students will help mothers in detention prepare for interviews that allow them to apply for asylum. These sessions are called credible or reasonable fear interviews which involve a screening with immigration officials that determine if there is a significant possibility that they will qualify for asylum.

These students — Raquel Gonzalez-Padron (JD ’21), Natalia Nino (JD ’22), Kenya Parrish (JD ’20), Alejandro Ramirez (JD ’21), Jenell Scarborough (LLM ’20), and Aaron Walck (JD ’21) — will travel to Dilley, Texas over spring break as part of a pro bono project to help these detained mothers and children.

This effort has been over a year in the making with student coordinators Sophia Pappalardo (JD ’20), Andrea Schwehr (JD ’21), and Raquel Gonzalez-Padron taking on leadership roles to organize the project. The group has raised more than $3,000 to pay for travel expenses.

There are opportunities to support this project. If you would like to support these students, you can make a monetary donation to the Dean’s Discretionary Fund.

Save the Date for Law Alumni Weekend: Nov. 6-8, 2020

Our 2020 Law Alumni Weekend is happening in conjunction with Wake Forest University's Homecoming and Reunion Weekend for the very first time in history! In addition to a Law School-only celebration, you'll be able to enjoy all that Homecoming has to offer, including a variety of events and kid-friendly activities that celebrate Mother So Dear!

No matter how long it's been since you visited us last, we look forward to celebrating you and your Wake Forest memories. In addition to celebrating our whole Wake Forest Law family, we'll recognize reunion classes. If your Wake Forest Law class year ends in a 0 or a 5, it's your time for your class reunion! If you would like to help contact classmates to encourage their attendance, please contact Megan Ratley at ratleyml@wfu.edu.

Stay tuned for more information on registration and #GoDeacs!