Professors, students and alumni engage in Business Law Program’s innovative in-house counsel course

In fall of 2015, upper-level Wake Forest Law students had the opportunity to participate in a new course, “Practical Introduction to the In-House Counsel Role,” offered as part of the law school’s new Business Law Program.

The course was taught by Professors James Dinnage and Omari Simmons. Professor Dinnage is currently Special Counsel with Eckert Seamans and formerly a Corporate Counsel at DuPont. Professor Simmons is director of the Business Law Program and formerly worked as corporate counsel with two multinational corporations. Simmons and Dinnage are former colleagues.

The pair also collaborated on an article titled, “Innkeepers: A Unifying Theory of the In-house Counsel Role.”  One of the recommendations in that article highlighted the need for more law school coursework to enhance student knowledge of the in-house counsel role.

Dinnage told the students during the last class of the semester, “Building trust is probably the greatest skill you need as in-house counsel.”

As part of the new course, students engaged in exercises that simulated real legal and business problems in-house counsel address. Students worked in groups and frequently gave in-class presentations simulating briefings made to business clients. Students received candid feedback on their presentations. The course also utilized technology to remotely engage top-flight guest lecturers, who were subject matter experts in a number of substantive legal areas.

Guest lecturers included:

  • Chic Krukiel, Of Counsel, Dunlap Codding and former Chief Patent Counsel, Invista
  • Mary Jo Anderson, Corporate Counsel – Benefits and Employee Relations, DuPont
  • Larry Rickles, Member, Eckert Seamans and formerly Trademark Counsel with Johnson & Johnson
  • Luke Mette, Partner, McCarter & English, formerly Assistant General Counsel, Global Litigation, AstraZeneca

In addition to these innovations, the capstone moment of the course was an up close and personal visit from Thomas Sager (JD ’76), former General Counsel of DuPont Co., and current partner at Ballard Spahr LLP.  Mr. Sager was a strong and early proponent of diversity in the legal profession and helped pioneer the DuPont Convergence and Law Firm Partnering Program, or DuPont Legal Model, an industry benchmark that has received national acclaim for its innovative approach to the business of practicing law.  During his visit, Mr. Sager discussed the challenging issues facing today’s general counsels and provided advice to the students about building successful and rewarding legal careers.

“Don’t be afraid to take on assignments you may not be comfortable with or that make you stretch,” Mr. Sager advised the students. “They can help prepare as you think about the practice of law. Don’t shy away from difficult assignments. It will enhance your capability.”

Professor Simmons says, “Wake Forest Law students received a rare opportunity at the conclusion of the course to engage with a former Fortune 100 General Counsel. And we are especially proud he is a Wake Forest Law alumnus.”

Learn more about the Business Law Program here.

Thomas Sager (JD '76)

Thomas Sager (JD ’76)