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Graduates from the Wake Forest Law classes of 2020 and 2021 listen as Dean Jane Aiken delivers remarks at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 17. (Photo credit Robert Ross)

Classes of 2020 and 2021 called upon to meet future challenges as “the lawyers with heart”

Following a law school experience that was unlike any of the classes before them, the Wake Forest Law graduates of 2020 and 2021 were called upon during this year’s commencement ceremony to remember the unique skills they developed from learning and living through a global pandemic and the nation’s renewed reckoning with race, and to use that knowledge to help advance justice.

“Because of these experiences, you are meeting this moment of historical uncertainty with strengths suited to meet the challenges of the moment: to not just reopen the old world, but to remake it,” said Wake Forest Law Dean Jane Aiken in her opening remarks.

Aiken urged the graduates to remember their deepened appreciation for justice, that they can make transformation happen, and that they already had through the various ways they adapted to the challenges they faced throughout their law school career. She also recalled how the classes of 2020 and 2021 maintained and created community ties at a time when they could no longer rely on having a community emerge just from physically being in it.

“[These skills] are likely to make you more effective, more compassionate, more creative — in short, a better human being and a better lawyer,” said Aiken. “This adversity has forged you into people who can take informed risks, be courageous, have an appetite for meaningful, real, and lasting change. And most of all, you can bear the weight of commencing this new world.”

Wake Forest Law alumnus and North Carolina Court of Appeals Judge Richard Dietz (JD ’02) was the distinguished speaker for this year’s commencement ceremony. As the first person in his family to attend college, Dietz earned his bachelor’s degree from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania before attending Wake Forest Law, where he graduated first in his class and served as research editor of the Wake Forest Law Review. After graduating from law school in 2002, Dietz served as a judicial law clerk for judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the U.S. District Court in Virginia. He was also a research fellow at Kyushu University in Japan, where he studied comparative and international law issues. He went on to practice at Covington and Burling in Washington, D.C., and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton in North Carolina before he was appointed to the court in 2014.

In his remarks, Dietz underscored the ways in which Wake Forest lawyers are particularly well-suited to meet today’s legal needs, and not simply because of their legal skills.

“There’s something about Wake Forest that does more than just train skilled lawyers,” said Dietz. “It’s in the bones of this place. We’re trained to be lawyers with heart, and that’s what we need right now more than ever.”

Dietz recalled how he personally experienced the kindness and compassion of Wake Forest Law students during his time in law school. When Dietz’s mother was diagnosed with cancer while he was a law student, he returned home to be with her. His first week at home, he unexpectedly received a package containing a stack of VHS tapes and another stack of papers. Unbeknownst to him, his classmates had coordinated with one another and the faculty to record each of his classes, photocopy the notes of the students with the best handwriting, and send it all to Dietz in Pennsylvania. The packages continued to arrive every couple of days, and at the end of the semester Dietz, who initially feared he would have to drop out of law school, was instead able to sit for his end of semester exams.

“I imagine a lot of you, hearing this, are not surprised by the kindness of my classmates,” Dietz said.

It is this kind of lawyer that the world needs now more than ever, he told the graduates, as people recover from unemployment and economic instability because of the pandemic, grapple with new technologies, adapt to transformed economies and workplaces, fight for racial justice, and seek to reform the justice system.

“This is our time to show up as the best of what the legal profession — and this is our profession now, this is you — the best of what we represent,” said Dietz. “And what we need most is not just people who show up with legal skills. With all these people in crisis, all these causes that need champions, we need the lawyers with heart, and that’s you.”

Student Bar Association President Hank Niblock (JD ’21) and Professor Rebecca Morrow were also selected by the class of 2021 to address the graduates in recorded remarks.

Morrow reminded the graduates that while faculty members wanted them to understand the content they learned in the classroom and develop their legal skills, they also had another goal in mind: for students to become braver learners and braver lawyers.

“Not only has your success in law school made you braver, more capable of learning new and difficult things, and better able to see that your capabilities exceed your expectations, your bravery is needed,” said Morrow. “It’s not that I want you to feel responsible for having all of the answers — you aren’t — or worse that you have to fake it to make it, you don’t. Instead, I want you to see that you learned something new and very difficult and very valuable, and you can do it again and again.”

Niblock encouraged his classmates to remember their strong legal education and, most importantly, to be themselves when tackling the varied legal issues they will face in their careers.

“Wake Forest lawyers are team players, work together, and help each other,” said Niblock. “You have all the tools necessary, and in a world that is obsessed with bigger and better, you are enough, and you always will be.”

Watch the commencement ceremony, held May 17 at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and remarks from each speaker on the Wake Forest Law 2021 commencement website.


The mission of Wake Forest Law is to advance the cause of justice by creating knowledge and educating students to meet the legal needs of the world with confidence, character, and creativity. We instill in students a respect for the law, a devotion to the ideal of service, and a commitment to professional values. We educate students from around the world in a richly diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. Learn more at law.wfu.edu, and stay up to date on what’s happening in the Wake Forest Law community by following us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Tyler Parent has joined Wake Forest Law as Assistant Director for Law Enrollment in the Office of Admissions & Financial Aid.

Wake Forest Law welcomes Tyler Parent as Assistant Director for Law Enrollment

Wake Forest Law is excited to welcome Tyler Parent as the new Assistant Director for Law Enrollment in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. In this role, he will serve as the primary recruiter for the law school’s Juris Doctor program and develop programming for prospective and accepted students, as well as colleges and student groups.

Previously an admissions counselor at Arizona’s A.T. Still University and Bryan University, Parent said he is most looking forward to learning from and building relationships with Wake Forest Law’s faculty and staff, as well as interacting and establishing connections with prospective students and their families.

“When I applied to law school, I relied heavily on admissions personnel to help navigate the application process,” said Parent. “It’s important to me to draw upon my past experiences and serve as a resource for applicants and prospective students.”

As a 2018 graduate of the University of Toledo College of Law, he was actively involved in the Public Interest Law Association, Environmental Law Society and Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity.

At Wake Forest Law, Parent will advise students on the admissions process, programmatic opportunities, and financial aid and scholarships. Part of his role will also focus on expanding efforts to support a diverse and inclusive recruitment and enrollment process at Wake Forest Law.

Parent will also oversee prospective student tours and visits, and the admissions ambassadors program, which engages current students with accepted students to strengthen relationships within the Wake Forest Law community. Parent recalled that his own exposure to student affairs and admissions stemmed from his involvement as a law student ambassador, and grew from there through his work as an admissions counselor.

“My evolution as a professional ignited when I began to broaden my exposure to other graduate programs. Over the past several years I’ve gained substantial experience working with graduate health science students, which has helped make me a more well rounded and knowledgeable admissions professional,” he said.

As a Detroit native and University of Michigan alumnus, Parent is a fan of the football teams of both, and regularly attends Lions and Wolverines games with his family. And after spending three years in the Arizona desert, he is looking forward to exploring the local trails and hiking in destinations like Pilot Mountain State Park and Hanging Rock State Park. Since his move to North Carolina, Parent said he is enjoying living in downtown Winston-Salem, though as a self-proclaimed “pizza snob,” has promised to continue to advocate for the famed deep-dish delicacy of Detroit.

“Regular pilgrimages back to Detroit for pizza at Buddy’s will always be a requirement for me,” he said.

However, his passion for pizza was outmatched by his long standing passion for the law school experience and culture.

“After completing law school, it was important to me to not only absorb as much as possible about admissions and student affairs but to demonstrate my commitment to higher education,” he said. “I hoped to eventually return as a professional if I found the right fit.”

And Wake Forest Law, he says, was exactly the fit that he was searching for.

Welcome, Tyler!

The nine winners of the 2021 Transactional Law Competition at Wake Forest Law on Zoom.

Transactional Law Competition Board names winners of fifth-annual competition at Wake Forest Law

Wake Forest Law students Walker Abbott (JD ’23), Michael Riedl (JD ’23) and Maya Wiemokly (JD ’23) were named the overall team champions and the best 1L overall team of the 2021 Transactional Law Competition. Now in its fifth year, the student-run competition challenges participants to draw upon the contract analysis, drafting and negotiation skills learned in their law school courses to represent two sides of a contract in a simulated transaction.

In this year’s competition, students represented either an actor or a film company in an actor employment agreement. The 52 students who participated worked in 18 teams to draft an actor employment agreement, mark up another team’s draft and negotiate aspects of the agreement with an opposing team.

Other award winners from the competition included:

  • Madison Boyer (JD ’23), Shelby Gilmer (JD ’23) and Karen Surian (JD ’23), who were recognized as the best team negotiators.
  • Abbie Hibsch (JD ’22), Emily Solley (JD ’22) and Aidan Williams (JD ’22), who were recognized for the best team mark-up and best team draft.

The competition took place throughout February and March, and the final negotiation round was held on March 20 over Zoom. It is run by the Transactional Law Competition Board, which includes President Olivia Bane (JD ’21), Vice President Golzar Yazdanshenas (JD ’21), Problem Chair Alex Hill (JD ’21), 2L Board Member Natalia Nino (JD ’22), 2L Board Member Samatha Jenkins (JD ’22) and 2L Board Member Jordan Mock (JD ’22).

Professor Hal Lloyd, who serves as the faculty sponsor for the competition, said that it continues to provide excellent transactional law and negotiation experience for both the students who compete and for the board members who oversee it.

“With such a competition, Wake continues its good example of adding transactional balance to legal education,” said Lloyd. “Each year, I’m thrilled to see both the hard work and the sheer fun the competition inspires in everyone involved, including the judges to whom we’re always deeply indebted.”

Each round of this year’s competition was scored by 20 volunteer judges.

“We really appreciate all 20 practicing attorneys who volunteered their time to serve as judges, providing valuable feedback for our students through all three rounds of the competition,” said Olivia Bane, president of the Transactional Law Competition Board and a third-year law student.

The judges included Wake Forest Law faculty, as well as individuals from various law firms and companies in North Carolina and across the country, including:

  • ALG Senior
  • Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
  • Collins Aerospace
  • Davis Mangum
  • Hagan Barrett
  • Highwoods Properties
  • Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs
  • K&L Gates
  • Law Office of Anne C. Keays
  • Parker Poe
  • Purrington Moody Weil
  • Robinson & Lawing
  • Womble Bond Dickinson
Wake Forest Law student Henna Shah (JD ’21) stands in the Worrell Professional Center Commons.

Wake Forest Law student Henna Shah receives Smith Anderson Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service

Wake Forest University School of Law student Henna Shah (JD ’21) has been chosen as the recipient of the 2021 Smith Anderson Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service in recognition of her outstanding pro bono service to the Winston-Salem community. Now in its seventh year, the award is given annually to a Wake Forest Law student who demonstrates a passion to serve people in need, and whose pro bono service has a positive impact on the community and increases access to legal information.

Shah provided nearly 600 hours of pro bono work while a full-time student at Wake Forest Law, where she has also served as the executive director of the Pro Bono Project, community outreach director of the Public Interest Law Organization, president of the International Law Society, communications director of the Environmental Law Society and a member of the editorial staff of the Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy.

“Pro bono work is absolutely essential, and Henna’s work is reflective of Wake Forest University School of Law’s commitment to instilling its importance in each of our graduates so that they will continue to help those in need throughout their law careers,” said Wake Forest Law Dean Jane Aiken. “Henna sets an exceptional example of leadership for all of our students.”

The Triangle’s largest law firm, Smith Anderson, funded the establishment of the Smith Anderson Office of Community Outreach at Wake Forest Law, which houses the Public Interest Law Organization — a student-run organization that works in collaboration with Wake Forest Law to train future lawyers to serve both their clients and their communities — and the Pro Bono Project. Through the Pro Bono Project, students have the opportunity to provide assistance to attorneys who offer legal services at no fee or at a substantially reduced fee to individuals in need, fostering a life-long commitment to pro bono work among Wake Forest Law graduates.

“Pro bono work has taken on an added significance in the past year,” said Gerald Roach, Smith Anderson’s Firm Chair and Wake Forest University Board of Trustees’ Chair. “The pandemic created many needs, and Smith Anderson applauds Henna’s extraordinary dedication to serving others in these extraordinary times.”

In her application for the award, Shah described how the pro bono experiences she has had while at Wake Forest Law have been pivotal in her decision to pursue a career focused on pro bono work.

Of her time leading the Pro Bono Project, Shah said the experience she was most fond of was creating the Protesters’ Rights Project, which seeks to develop awareness around the legal rights of assembly and protest while building connections between law students and the community. In addition to that project, multiple others were established during her leadership, including the COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance Project, the COVID-19 Housing Eviction Project and the Driver’s License Restoration Project.

“During law school, I had the privilege of serving my community through pro bono legal work and services both in and outside of the courtroom,” said Shah. “It is an honor to be named the recipient of the 2021 Smith Anderson Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service.”

Eligible candidates for the Smith Anderson Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service must:

  • Be a Pro Bono Honor Society member, which requires students to complete 75 hours of pro bono service over a three-year period or 50 hours in one year;
  • Have 100 or more pro bono hours within three years or 75 hours or more within one year; and
  • Exhibit passion, creativity, dedication and commitment to serving those in need in a way that results in demonstrated impact or increased access to legal information among an underserved population.

For more details about the award, contact Bill Cresenzo, Communications and PR Coordinator for Smith Anderson, at wcresenzo@smithlaw.com or Amelia Nitz Kennedy, Director of Marketing, Communications and Public Relations for Wake Forest Law, at nitzkea@wfu.edu.

Wake Forest Law Dean Jane Aiken gives remarks at the presentation of the Kay Hagan Award to law student Katharine Batchelor (JD ’21), fourth from the right, on Thursday, April 29, 2021. (WFU/Ken Bennett)

Inaugural Kay Hagan Award presented to Wake Forest Law student Katharine Batchelor

Wake Forest Law student Katharine Batchelor (JD ’21) received the first-ever Kay Hagan Award on Thursday in recognition of her achievements in the law school’s State and Local Government course. Established in August 2020, the award honors the late United States Sen. Kay Hagan (JD ’78), who passed away in October 2019.

“Kay Hagan is a model of what we would hope would happen with Wake Forest Law students,” said Wake Forest Law Dean Jane Aiken during the award ceremony. “If you look at all of the things she did, this is a woman who was courageous and took strong positions on issues — and that’s important.”

Sen. Hagan, a Wake Forest Law alumna, served for a decade in the North Carolina General Assembly as a senator representing Guilford County before being elected to one term in Congress as the state’s first Democractic female senator.

During the ceremony, Sen. Hagan’s husband, Chip Hagan (JD ’77), described his wife’s passion for service at both the state and federal level.

“She was very interested in trying to do things to make our state a better place to be,” said Hagan. “For us to be able to recognize the people that do well in state and local government, and recognize the importance of it, and to have Kay be a part of honoring that is to me exactly what she would have wanted.”

Batchelor is the first recipient of the award, which will be given annually to the best student in the law school’s State and Local Government course taught by Adjunct Professor Don Vaughan (JD ’79).

Vaughan is a former North Carolina state senator who was elected to fill Sen. Hagan’s seat when she became the state’s U.S. senator. He also served seven terms as a member of the Greensboro City Council.

“I’m proud that we get to honor our friend Kay Hagan, who meant a lot to this school and meant a lot to me personally,” said Vaughan.

Batchelor’s final paper for the course — “The Echo of Silent Sam: How the Fall of UNC’s Notorious Confederate Monument Illustrates Complex Questions of Authority in North Carolina State and Local Government” — led to her selection for the award.

“I attended UNC-Chapel Hill for undergrad, so I enjoyed examining the various government actors involved in the Silent Sam controversy through a legal lens,” said Batchelor. “Furthermore, as a native North Carolinian and a law student pursuing a public interest career, it is particularly meaningful to receive an award that honors a woman who dedicated her life to serving this state and its citizens.”

During her time at Wake Forest Law, Batchelor has also been managing editor of the Wake Forest Law Review and executive director of the Public Interest Law Organization. In August, she will begin clerking for Judge Darren Jackson on the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Members of the award selection committee also attended the ceremony, including Mike Fox, partner at Tuggle Duggins and chairman of the North Carolina Department of Transportation; Paul Mengert, chairman, Piedmont Triad Airport Authority Board of Directors and an alumnus of Harvard Business School; Nancy Vaughan, Mayor of Greensboro; A. Grant Whitney (’76, JD ’79), partner at Parker Poe, et. al., and former chairman, North Carolina State Board of Elections; and Brad Wilson (JD ’78), executive-in-residence at Wake Forest University and former chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

All five members of the selection committee have been lecturers in the course over the past seven years, bringing real-world experiences into the classroom for Wake Forest Law students.

Christopher Martin Joins Wake Forest University School of Law as Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs

Chris Martin, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs

Chris Martin, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs

 

Chris Martin is the new Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs at Wake Forest Law. He comes to this position from Northwestern University where he served in the same role. At Wake Forest Law, he will oversee the academic policies and procedures for all its academic programs, including the JD; international LLM, SJD, and visiting researchers; and MSLs. He is also responsible for managing the Registrar, developing initiatives that contribute to the strategic priorities of the school, and helping us evaluate and streamline academic processes in areas such as advising and degree requirement, course scheduling and exams, program and curriculum review, learning and outcomes, committees and academic events, enrollment, and registration.

While at Northwestern, he also taught several courses as Assistant Clinical Professor and served as faculty advisor for many years in an International Team Project that took him all over the world, including Morocco, France, Argentina, Chile, Turkey, Thailand, Myanmar, Peru, and Tanzania. When asked to share some memorable experiences from his travels, he began, “ITP is more like investigative journalism than traditional research.” Then went on to recall the work his students did in Argentina researching a statute that required children of the “Dirty War” of the late 1970s and early 1980s to submit DNA samples to try to identify their birth parents. It was a dark period in Argentina’s history, when about 30,000 Argentines disappeared after being abducted by the military. Women who were pregnant at the time of their abduction were kept alive to have their babies, who were then given to friends of the military. His students were able to interview many of the people affected, including Miriam Lewin, a woman who disappeared at 18. They learned her story of survival in captivity, which was only possible because her fluency in English was useful to the government.

It also happened that Wright Thompson, from ESPN The Magazine, was in Argentina at the same time. The ESPN journalist was so impressed with them that he took the group under his wing and facilitated interviews all over Buenos Aires, including one with Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, a group of women who had been marching weekly demanding to know what happened to the children of their children who had disappeared. It was “a very emotional interview,” Chris recalls.

During these trips, they sometimes paired countries that shared long borders for their studies. On the Argentina/Chile trip, for example, he says, “I was struck by the differences … Legally, legislatively, and culturally, the countries are so different.” In spite of their shared border, Argentina was battling corruption, economic instability and political disarray, while its neighbor Chile had the best and most consistent economy in South America and a strong democracy.

As he reflects on what drew him to Wake Forest and his new role, he shares, “I did not know that much about the school until my oldest son decided to enroll in the fall 2020 first-year undergraduate class at the University. Through the process of getting him on campus during a pandemic, I was extremely impressed by how the University worked with its students and their families. There is a sense of community that is very strong.” It was this connection to the people he encountered during the interview process—faculty, staff, and a group of about 15 students he met in October—that sealed the deal for him. “Of course, Winston-Salem winters compared to Chicago didn’t hurt!”

He is settling well in his new city, milder winter and all. He has already been hiking in Pilot Mountain State Park, which left him excited to explore North Carolina’s fantastic State Parks. “I’m looking forward to exploring them all,” he exclaimed. And on a foodie note, he shared, “I also grew up in Kansas City, so I am already comparing and contrasting North Carolina BBQ with what I had growing up. So far, so good!”

When asked how his philosophy as an educator and administrator has evolved, he shares: “Over the past 15 years, I have changed the perception of my role as an educator from one who stands in front of students lecturing to one of collaboration with students as I play a role in getting them to where they want to be. I find myself asking a lot more questions, and doing quite a bit more listening.”

The students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest Law are lucky to have him.

Welcome, Chris!

view of residential buidings, a street scene

Wake Forest University School of Law Contributes to National Study on Housing Loss

Forsyth County highlighted in a groundbreaking report released today from New America

(Winston-Salem, N.C. – Sept. 9, 2020) – Nearly 5 million Americans lose their homes through eviction and foreclosure each year, and the numbers this year are expected to be higher as tens of millions lose jobs due to COVID-19 and the economic downturn. The Future of Property Rights Program at New America, in partnership with Wake Forest University, Wake Forest University School of Law, and Winston-Salem State University have been conducting research to understand where housing loss is most acute across the nation, with a spotlight on Forsyth County to determine who is most impacted and why.  Continue reading »

Outside of a United States Bankruptcy Court

Wake Forest Law Helps Small Businesses

(Winston-Salem, N.C., September 8, 2020) — Small businesses face unparalleled hardships in the current economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of them may even face bankruptcy for the first time. Continue reading »

Students in law classroom watch as prof Don Vaughan and Dean Jane Aiken announce the Kay Hagan Award

Kay Hagan Award established

Students in Wake Forest Law’s State and Local Government in a Federal System class face a 20-page paper at the end of the fall semester. But thanks to generous donors, one student will take home the Kay Hagan Award and an honorarium for the best paper in the class.
Continue reading »

Mattresses and household goods piled against garage door, illustrating eviction

Wake Forest Law prof urges Congressional action to halt eviction crisis

The United States may be facing the most severe housing crisis in its history, a new report published today finds. Wake Forest Law Professor Emily Benfer and her co-authors say without swift and significant federal intervention, the ripple effect of this unprecedented catastrophe will harm generations. Continue reading »