Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Externship Profile: Jessica Chapman (’11)

Photo of Jessica Chapman ('11)

Jessica Chapman ('11)

The Wake Forest School of Law’s Metropolitan Externship Program had a profound effect on Jessica Chapman (’11).

Collectively, the experience, which she called “amazing,” led her to a decision to pursue her career in the nation’s capital. Her resolve is based on a collection of factors that struck her on levels professional and personal, ever so slightly brushing on the ideas of family, contentment, ambition and the will to make a difference.

Chapman, who earned her bachelor’s degree at Vanderbilt University, worked for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Washington, D.C., and in Baltimore. As part of her externship, Chapman wrote, worked on policy and did research, highlighted by a project centering on the 14th Amendment and citizenship issues.

 “Anything the lawyers had on their plates got shifted to me, so I was very, very busy. I thought it was a great mix of policy and legal work. I’ve had an amazing semester,” she said while attending the externship program.

“I fell in love with D.C. as soon as I got here, partially because it gives you the experience of the big city, public transportation, hustle and bustle. But then you can go home to the suburbs … it’s just a great mix of the two. You can’t really do that in New York.”

The Wake Forest School of Law Program in Washington provides students with the opportunity to spend a semester in practice in the most diverse and vibrant legal environment in the world.

“It helps to differentiate yourself,” she said. “I think a program like this is not only going to allow you to meet people who will help you grow your network and potentially get a job upon graduation, but also it really helps you hone the skills you learned in law school. There’s nothing like practical experience, and this is essentially what that is.”

There’s a personal aspect, too.

“It’s like a little family, so you won’t be sad that you’re away from Wake Forest. The externship program is the perfect way to end my law school career … I would recommend it to anyone.”

The program includes both an externship component and a programmatic initiative that includes conferences, roundtables, symposia, and lectures.

In Washington, Chapman met NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, who happened to share the stage at the NAACP Image Awards with Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry.

“The networking opportunities were really invaluable, and I knew I could learn a lot this semester. It’s lived up to all my expectations.”

Chapman was sold on Wake Forest long before she arrived on the Winston-Salem campus. She pointed to Melanie Nutt, the former director of admissions and financial aid who spent more than 30 years at the school before retiring in spring 2011. “She was so responsive to my
application, and that let me know what kind of staff and faculty they have at Wake Forest,” she said.

She also pointed to Adjunct Professor David J. Gottlieb, who organizes the externship program. “He is a wonderful professor, and also just very caring about the students,” Chapman said. 

In her first summer at Wake Forest, Chapman spent time with GlaxoSmithKline. “I think that Wake definitely prepared me to be a great attorney who people will want to work with.”

 Wherever that work takes her, it started, at least in part, at Wake Forest. Chapman will often think about her experiences at the law
school. She’ll smile at the memories.

“It’s just been so amazing.”