North Carolina Business Court Clerk Profile: Derek Bast (JD ’15)

Photo of Derek Bast

Wake Forest Law is the only ranked law school in the country that is also home to a working business court. When the North Carolina Business Court heard its first case in January 2017 in its newest court located in the Worrell Professional Center, it came to light that Wake Forest Law alumni are currently working as clerks within each of the four state business court locations in Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro as well as Winston-Salem. Derek Bast (JD ’15) is the Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Louis A. Bledsoe III at the North Carolina Business Court in Charlotte. Bast, who is originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, studied Classical Languages Major, Religious Studies Minor at Vanderbilt University. A highlight of his clerkship so far has been getting to see a case through to a jury verdict. “Trials are remarkably dynamic compared to the measured process of motion practice,” he said. Following is an interview with Bast about his clerkship.

Why did you want to be a clerk in the North Carolina Business Court?

During law school, I knew that I wanted to secure a clerkship of some sort.  In the summer after my 2L year I interned with Judge James L. Gale in the North Carolina Business Court’s Greensboro chambers. Seeing firsthand the array of interesting issues that come before the Court and the talented lawyers who regularly practice before the Court quickly convinced me that a Business Court clerkship would be a terrific first step on my career path.

What is a typical day like?

My typical day involves a mix of substantive legal work and case management responsibilities.  I am always researching and writing, either in preparation for upcoming hearings or drafting orders and opinions on matters that are ripe for decision.  My day may also involve e-mailing counsel to discuss administrative aspects of the cases I oversee and discussing procedural or substantive legal issues in my various cases with Judge Bledsoe.

What are some of the most important courses you took in law school that you have found have helped you in your current clerkship?

One of the courses that best prepared me was the Appellate Advocacy Clinic with Professor John Korzen.  The Appellate Advocacy Clinic gave me the experience of sorting through a dense record to form an argument about how the law should apply to a specific set of facts.  Those skills are broadly applicable outside of an appellate practice, and I rely on them daily in this clerkship.  I took a fair amount of business, real estate and tax classes as well. It’s not necessary for this job that you take a lot of specialized courses, but being familiar with those areas of law certainly has made it easier.

What is one of the most interesting things you have had a chance to work on?

Some of the most interesting issues for me have been the discovery disputes that arise in complex business litigation.  For instance, during my clerkship, Judge Bledsoe has had two different cases, in which the Court reached different results, dealing with the circumstances under which a corporate defendant’s CEO or other high-ranking executive can be protected from deposition.  Discovery matters are less frequently the subject of binding appellate case law, so I believe their resolution in the Business Court is also helpful to the practicing bar.

What is the most surprising thing that has happened in your clerkship?

Getting to see a case through to a jury verdict.  A majority of Business Court cases are resolved through settlement or dispositive motions, and the number of civil jury trials in North Carolina’s state courts has decreased significantly in recent years.  I relished the chance to work for Judge Bledsoe on a seven-day trial last year in a case arising out of a failed real estate investment.  Trials are remarkably dynamic compared to the measured process of motion practice.

What do you wish you had known that you know now?

If I had known in law school what I do now, I would go back and take a course on Remedies.  Through this job I’ve learned that getting a favorable ruling from a judge can be a hollow victory if an attorney can’t translate that ruling into a favorable result for the client.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to try to get a clerkship in the Business Court?

First, focus on developing solid research and writing skills.  Second, don’t hesitate to reach out to alumni who have clerked for the Business Court.  From my perspective, current and former clerks are invested in the continued success of the Business Court, and part of that is ensuring that the judges continue to find talented law clerks.