For David (’81) and Bettie Sousa (’81), Wake Forest law was the beginning of fulfilling careers and more

Photo of David and Bettie Sousa ('81)

For David (’81) and Bettie Sousa (’81), the School of Law was the beginning of fulfilling careers, and a whole lot more.

“Whenever asked how we met, we both respond, ‘We were trial partners back at Wake Forest,’ ” David said. “For us, in particular, there will always be a special attachment to the law school. It was what the law school asked us to do that brought us together.”

Back in 1981, the Sousas were the first School of Law team to compete in the finals of the National Trial Competition. They won their regional competition and were eliminated in the quarter final round in the nationals.

They cemented their partnership by marrying the next year.

They have forged strong ties to the school through a record of giving that stretches back to their graduation.

David chairs the Campaign Building Leadership Team and Bettie is a member of the Board of Visitors. They have also made a leadership gift to the building campaign. Their son, Michael (’10), kept them connected to the campus and enabled them to see the School of Law’s evolution in recent years.

“We’ve been so impressed with Dean Blake Morant and his wife, P.J.,” Bettie said. “He’s very dignified, but also very warm. We’ve been very excited with the efforts that he has put forth for the law school.”

The Sousas treasure what has made the School of Law special, even as it embarks on exciting changes.

For Bettie, a partner with Smith, Debnam, Narron, Drake, Saintsing & Myers in Raleigh, the School of Law would not have been possible without a student loan. She came to treasure the school’s scale and personal feeling.

“It was a much smaller setting than my undergraduate school, and that made it more interesting and more fun,” she said. “In law school, you’re around a lot of smart people.

“There’s an elevated level of humor in the shared misery.”

She still draws on what she learned in classes on contract law and business litigation. She has spent 31 years at her firm, where the founding partners are all graduates of the School of Law. This fall, Bettie is reinforcing her connection by teaching Business Litigation.

The School of Law has had a decisive impact on David’s career as well. He started law school thinking that he wanted to go into tax law and then fell in love with oral advocacy through his participation in moot court and trial court programs.

Early in his law school career, he had a crisis of confidence about his decision to become a lawyer. He remembers Professor Charley Rose for his determination to see that every student succeeded.

“Charley saw something in me, as he does in almost every Wake Forest student. He nurtured it and he encouraged me, and he made me feel that I was every bit as capable as anyone else there,” David said. “His support put me on the path to graduating and doing very well professionally.”

David practiced as a trial lawyer for 16 years and is currently general counsel and senior vice president with Medical Mutual Insurance Company of North Carolina, a company that had been a client of his for years.

“Anyone can give you the book smarts that go along with the JD,” he said. “It takes a different kind of institution to teach you to get out, and from day one, be a good, ethical and pragmatic practitioner.”

The Sousas are encouraged by the School of Law’s blend of personal attention, academic excellence and practical experience. Supporting the school is a vote of confidence for the education they received, and an assurance that the school will be there for the next generation of lawyers.

“To me, the whole transformation of the law school is about legacy,” David said, “leaving behind something that’s better than what we were given.”