Our People

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Meet Anna Alieksieieva (LLM ’22)

At Wake Forest Law, we pride ourselves on welcoming students that come from anywhere and go everywhere. But very few come so far to be with us as our international LL.M. students. We sat down and talked with Anna Alieksieieva, a fresh graduate from the Class of 2022, about how she got here and where she’s going. Continue reading »

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“Redemption” for a Wake Forest Law Veterans Legal Clinic Client

Due to the efforts of Veterans Legal Clinic students Allison Spears and Walker Helms, under the supervision of Clinic Director Eleanor Morales, a clinic client now has an Honorable discharge and veteran status under the law. Continue reading »

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Faculty Highlight: Sarah Morath

Professor Sarah Morath is an expert on legal writing pedagogy who also teaches and publishes on a wide range of topics related to environmental law, food law and policy, agriculture, and natural resources law, among other subjects. Her scholarly contributions to the field of legal writing are extensive. Her recently published book, Our Plastic Problem and How to Solve It, was created from her expertise in both writing and environmental law. Continue reading »

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Wake Law Professor Stratos Pahis wins coveted Francis Deák Prize from the American Journal of International Law and the American Society of International Law

Wake Forest School of Law Professor Stratos Pahis was awarded the prestigious Francis Deák Prize by the American Journal of International Law and the American Society of International Law. The prize is awarded annually to honor a younger author who has made “a meritorious contribution to international legal scholarship.”

Professor Pahis was awarded the prize for his article, titled “BITs and Bonds: The International Law and Economics of Sovereign Debt,” 115 Am. J. Int’l L. 242 (2021). In the article, Professor Pahis demonstrates that applying international investment treaties to sovereign debt threatens to raise the overall cost of sovereign debt for creditors and States alike. He proposes an interpretative solution to this problem that leads to the equal treatment of creditors.

“It’s a huge honor, and I’m grateful that the ideas in the paper are being recognized,” said Professor Pahis when asked about his award. “We appear to be heading for a series of debt crises around the world – because of COVID and the war in Ukraine, among other reasons. The human toll of these crises threatens to be enormous. What I point out in the paper is that international investment law may end up making things worse, not better. There’s a solution, but first we need to recognize there’s a problem. I hope the award helps to bring the problem to greater light.”

The prize has been awarded annually since 1973 for the best scholarly article written by a younger author published by the American Journal of International Law. The Board of Editors of the journal voted to give Professor Pahis the Francis Deák Prize at their annual meeting on April 12, 2022.

Professor Pahis’ article can be downloaded here.

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Wake Forest Law student Darrien Jones receives Smith Anderson Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service

Wake Forest University School of Law student Darrien Jones has been honored as the recipient of the 2022 Smith Anderson Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service for his passion, creativity, dedication and commitment to serving people in need.

Smith Anderson, the largest business and litigation law firm based in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, funded the Smith Anderson Office of Community Outreach establishment eight years ago at Wake Forest Law, which houses the pro bono project and expungement clinic. Since then, Smith Anderson has honored a superb law student annually with the Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service.

 

“Darrien’s commitment to community service and justice reflects well on the entire law school, and we applaud his exemplary dedication to pro bono work,” said Gerald Roach, Smith Anderson’s chair and immediate past chair of the Wake Forest University Board of Trustees.

Among his pro bono service, Darrien is the co-coordinator of the law school’s expungement clinic. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he helped transition the program to an online/call platform. This year alone, volunteers completed 175 criminal record reviews and expunged the criminal records of 50 people.

 

“Pro bono work isn’t just an afterthought at Wake Forest Law,” said Jane Aiken, dean of Wake Forest Law. “It is a fundamental part of a solid education for future members of the Bar, and Darrien is the epitome of what it means to use that education to help others.”

Darrien has served as vice president of the Student Bar Association. While he was vice president, the Greater Community Committee was created. Each week, the committee highlights a minority-owned and small business, and Wake Forest Law students, staff and faculty are encouraged to support and visit that business. While in law school, Darrien also tutored his fellow students in Torts and Constitutional Law and volunteered as a kindergarten teaching assistant.

 

Darrien accepted the award on April 23 at the law school’s Pro Bono Honor Society dinner.

“Pro Bono presents unique opportunities to make people’s lives better,” Darrien said. “It may allow people to obtain a job, to buy a house, to receive custody of their children, keep their business open another day, or, at the very least, make them smile – for moment, a day, a time in their life may be better. That is always worth it.”

 

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

  • Be a Pro Bono Honor Society member (society members are students who 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

  • Through a written nomination the recipient exhibits the 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 Wake Forest Law Marketing and Communications at lawcomm@wfu.edu.

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American Bar Association survey shows over 96% employment rate for Wake Forest Law in 2021

The American Bar Association (ABA) recently released the law school employment results for 2021 graduates from law schools across the country. Wake Forest Law ranked No. 3 out of 196 law schools in the number of graduates employed in full-time, long-term positions requiring a bar license or for which the JD is an advantage. As of March 15, 2022, 96.53% of Wake Forest Law’s 2021 graduates have employment in these “gold standard” jobs.

The class of 2021 has made its mark at the Wake Forest University School of Law. Graduates play an integral part in the institution’s future. When students come to law school, they have the reasonable expectation that they will pass the bar, get a meaningful job and not have enormous debt. Wake Forest Law is meeting those expectations. Being ranked No. 3 further confirms that a Wake Forest Law education propels students forward.

“These positive outcomes certainly reflect the quality of our students and the education they receive, but it is also a result of the investment of the law school in working with students from their first year of law school on the formation of a professional identity: understanding the career options available, internalizing the character qualities of a lawyer, and having the right tools to seek out and obtain the opportunities they want” said Francie Scott, Assistant Dean for Career & Professional Development. “We have a highly professional staff that provides key industry knowledge, maintains strong relationships with alumni and other stakeholders, and is deeply committed to seeing each student succeed.”

The ABA employment ranking is just the latest news involving Wake Forest Law’s outstanding reputation. On March 29, 2022, U.S. News & World Report ranked Wake Forest Law No. 37 out of the top 50 law schools in the country, tying with Boston College (MA), Fordham University (NY), University of California–Davis, University of California–Irvine, and University of Utah (Quinney). While the school consistently ranks among the top-tier law schools, this is the second rise in the rankings in the last two years.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Wake Forest Students are getting wonderful jobs. They are smart, strategic, collaborative and, despite all their talent, do not act as if they are entitled,” said Dean Jane Aiken. “The class of 2021 shows that what we are doing at Wake Forest Law is working!”

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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Marie-Amélie George

Professor Marie-Amélie George went to law school to become an advocate for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. After spending time in court as a domestic violence prosecutor at the Miami State Attorney’s Office, Professor George realized she needed to approach the problem differently. She started asking herself: How could she prevent these cases from happening?

That led her from the courtroom to academia, where she has become a leading expert in LGBTQ+ civil rights and family law. She received her Ph.D. in history from Yale in 2018, and since then she has researched the history of LGBTQ+ rights in America. What sets her work apart is her use of original historical records, which she collects by traveling to archives around the country. As a result, she can tell the story of LGBTQ+ rights in a way that no one else can.

“Although many documents are accessible online these days, the pieces of information I am looking for are not being digitized,” says Professor George. “I am reviewing original documents, listening to audio recordings of speeches that no one wrote down, and watching videos of commercials and films that are otherwise impossible to access.” Professor George additionally interviews those who were involved in LGBTQ+ rights litigation and legislation to fill in the gaps in the historical record.

Thanks to her painstaking efforts to uncover LGBTQ+ legal history, Professor George has become a leading expert in LGBTQ+ rights. As of late, prominent news organizations like the Washington Post, The Skimm, and the Houston Chronicle have asked for her comments and opinions. She also recently led a Legal Workshop for Harvard Law School.

Professor George is a recognized thought leader. The UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute recently awarded her the Michael Cunningham Prize for her 2019 article entitled “Framing Trans Rights.” She also received the Emerging Scholar in Gender and Law Award from Pace University for “Exploring Identity,” which she published in 2021.

Professor George continues to promote Wake Forest Law’s mission of educating the public. She is currently writing a book, Becoming Equal: American Law and the Rise of the Gay Family, based on her research. It will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2024.

For more updates on Professor George’s research and media appearances, please follow Wake Forest Law on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. You may also follow Professor George directly on Twitter, where she often shares other research and articles related to LGBTQ+ rights, family law, and more.

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Alumni Spotlight: Angelia Duncan (JD ’10)

For Rose Council Chair Angelia Duncan (JD ‘10), Accepted Students Day of 2007 solidified her choice to become a Legal Deac. She remembers sitting down for lunch with her father, looking around at the other accepted students, and taking in the moment. Since then, Duncan has taken on the legal world and its challenges head-on.

Duncan currently resides in Charlotte, NC, and practices with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. She focuses on commercial litigation. She says that every day is a chance for her to learn something new and have a unique experience.

“No two days are the same,” said Duncan, “No matter how long I practice, there is always something to learn.”

Duncan was on the Wake Forest Law campus for the Spring Board and Council meetings held on March 31 and April 1. Being back on campus, even though it had changed quite a bit, felt like home. Her experiences with faculty and staff stay at the forefront of her memories.

“I think the fundamentals that I learned shaped who I am as a lawyer. We had such good Legal Writing Training. When I got to the firm, I already had these fundamental basics that would make my first year practicing easier.”

Along with her service on the Rose Council, the young alumni council, Duncan has some advice to share with the Class of 2022:

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” urges Duncan to the graduating class, “Odds are that someone else has gone through a similar case and people are around to help you.”

Law School Deconstructed  |   Friday, February 18, 2022  |  View the Full Photo Gallery

Law School Deconstructed: Addressing Our Biases Together

Students who come to law school from historically underrepresented backgrounds often experience incidents stemming from unconscious bias, and even acts of conscious prejudice that they are all too often unable to adequately address in a constructive way. This inability to express their concerns has a negative impact on their ability to learn and perform in the demanding academic environment of a law school setting. On February 18, 2022, the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) of Wake Forest Law, aided by the school’s faculty Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, hosted Law School Deconstructed: Participation and Performance, an event designed to address these sensitive dynamics through thoughtful, open discussion.

The Friday lunch hour drew an overflow crowd made up of the entire law school community, where the hosts guided students, faculty, and staff through an exercise that highlighted to everyone in attendance just how pervasive, and often seemingly innocuous these instances can be. Presenting anonymous testimonials from members of the law school community, everyone in attendance — many standing in the back of room 1302 — got together to read, reflect upon, and discuss the submissions of people who had experienced harmful situations and encounters due to their socio-economic status, race, sexual orientation, or personal identity.

“Once we got the people in the room, I thought it would be a challenge to get people to engage,” said Cedric James, president of BLSA. “This was my biggest concern that turned out not to be a problem at all.”

As the room filled, James’ more immediate and pressing concern became supplies: there weren’t enough handouts with the testimonials to go around. Running out to print more sheets, and with late arrivals still having to huddle together in the back and around the doorways to share one, he expressed being overwhelmed with emotion about the turnout. The enthusiasm and openness with which the community engaged in the exercise and following discussion was heartening.

“The most meaningful thing was that faculty showed up,” said Kristy Abd-El-Malak, Secretary of BLSA, some of whom reportedly interrupted their Sabbatical or traveled from out of town to attend.

The exercise grouped attendees together at random for the initial discussion, which ensured that students, faculty, and staff read and discussed the testimonials together. Having to reflect on the impacts the incidents have on those who experience them with members of the community who don’t typically engage in these types of discussions together was key to the success of the exercise.

“We can’t be afraid to have these conversations” said Breanna Miller, Community Service & Social Justice Chair of BLSA. “These conversations are tough to have, but they need to happen.”

And the conversations will continue to happen. The attendees in the room were so engaged in the discussion that the hour was not enough to cover all of the different topics touched upon by the testimonials. BLSA is already working on a second installment of Law School Deconstructed to pick up where this event left off. And just as they did for this first one, they are working together with student organizations like LLSA, OUTLaw, WIL, and others to continue to offer these platforms for the community to come together.

The event is part of a concerted, intentional effort by students, faculty, staff and administration to foster a law school culture that actively addresses issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in productive and constructive ways.

The Honorable Denise Hartsfield (JD ’91), retired Forsyth County District Court Judge and Adjunct Professor of Law at Wake Forest Law, was in attendance. She raised her hand to speak at the end and delivered an important message to everyone in the room.

“I want to congratulate you for putting this together. Just know that these issues don’t go away when you graduate law school,” she said. “You will face them in your professional and personal lives going forward. What’s important is that we continue to have these conversations and continue to learn how to be better for one another together.”

Look out for the announcement of the next installment of Law School Deconstructed: Participation and Performance later in the Spring of 2022.

Wake Forest Law alumna and Board of Visitor member Cheslie Kryst (JD/MBA ’17) (right) with Alison Ashe-Card (left), Associate Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Wake Forest Law, at the 2018 Black Law Student Association Banquet.

Wake Forest University’s School of Law and School of Business mourn the passing of Cheslie Kryst (JD/MBA ’17)

Wake Forest University School of Law and School of Business alumna and Law Board of Visitor member Cheslie Kryst (JD/MBA ’17), an attorney who fought for social justice, the 2019 winner of the Miss North Carolina and Miss USA pageants, and television host and correspondent, passed away on Jan. 30 at the age of 30.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Cheslie Kryst, who was a treasured friend, classmate, and mentor to so many in our Wake Forest Law community,” said Wake Forest Law Dean Jane Aiken. “She was a persistent advocate for social justice, and her kindness, generosity, and inspiring spirit left a lasting impact on all those who had the privilege of knowing her. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Cheslie’s family and loved ones.”

While a student at Wake Forest Law, Kryst concurrently pursued her MBA at Wake Forest School of Business and was involved in a variety of organizations, including the Black Business Students Association.

“While in the MBA program, Cheslie was an engaged student, a committed teammate, and a bright light,” said Sherry Moss, the Benson Pruitt Professor in Business. “Her passing is beyond tragic and our hearts go out to her family and friends. She will always be remembered as a person who made a difference in the world.”

As an alumna, Kryst generously supported the law school and its students, including by serving as a member of the Law Board of Visitors.

During her first year in law school, Kryst won the 1L Trial Bar Competition, and later went on to become a member of the Moot Court Team, a member of the law school’s first national championship-winning AAJ Trial Team, and president of the Sports Entertainment Law Society.

“I remember Cheslie from her first day of law school in my contracts class,” said Dean and Professor of Law Emerita Suzanne Reynolds, who served as dean of the law school from 2014-2019. “She always brought out the human side of the cases we studied, a gift that led her after graduation into pro bono work on death penalty cases. I grieve with her beloved family, classmates, and the thousands she touched, especially for the pain she must have endured before we lost her.”

Photo credit Poyner Spruill LLP

Photo credit Poyner Spruill LLP

As the coach of the 2017 AAJ Trial Team of which Kryst was a member, Matthew Breeding (JD ’06) recalled that her incredible advocacy skills were matched by a deep sense of compassion.

“More than her charm and wit, her intellectual agility, and her effortless beauty, the one trait that exemplifies her the most is compassion,” said Breeding. “She loved her classmates without fear or shame, she fought for her teammates with every breath she could muster, and she showed actual, genuine empathy to everyone fortunate enough to cross her path.”

Kryst was also an active member of Wake Forest Law’s Black Law Student Association, and was awarded a scholarship from the organization in both 2015 and 2017. She also served as National Parliamentarian for the National Black Law Student Association from 2015-2016. Throughout her career, Kryst continued to support Wake Forest Law’s BLSA by speaking on panels, mentoring students, and facilitating connections between current students and other alumni.

“Cheslie was not only a brilliant person, but she also had a pure heart. She made it clear that we can do whatever we set our mind to,” said Cedric James (JD ’22), the current president of Wake Forest Law’s BLSA. “She consistently used her voice to speak up for those ignored and silenced. She was steadfast in her support of women and used her platform to uplift those around her.”

After graduating from Wake Forest in 2017, Kryst worked as an associate at Poyner Spruill in Charlotte, NC, where she practiced complex civil litigation and provided pro bono legal services to incarcerated people. In 2019, she won the Miss North Carolina pageant and went on to become the first attorney to win the Miss USA pageant. After serving as Miss USA, Kryst became an entertainment news correspondent and host for ExtraTV.

“Cheslie’s spirit was as bright as the torch she carried during the Miss Universe competition. She cared deeply about her community, and she used her platform to speak out on social justice issues and to bring light to causes about which she was passionate,” said Alison Ashe-Card, Associate Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Wake Forest Law. “Cheslie often returned to Wake Law and served as a mentor to many students. Her light and legacy will live on through those whose lives she touched.”

Wake Forest offers support and counseling services for all students, faculty, and staff. The Counseling Center may be reached at 336-758-5273 and the Chaplain’s Office at 336-758-5210. For faculty and staff, there is also the Employee Assistance Program at 336-716-5493. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255.