Our People

Professor Meghan Boone

Interview with Professor Meghan Boone

When I ask Professor Meghan Boone, a fourth-generation Floridian, whether she misses Florida, she smiles. “In February,” she says, while wearing her maroon sweater. But any other time of year, she’s content. Winston-Salem is home now that her family is within an hour and a half radius. It’s also where she serves as an associate professor at Wake Forest Law.

It’s not difficult to figure out the two most important things to Professor Boone: her family and her career. Her face lights up when she talks about them. 

Despite her extensive publications and awards (including Faculty Member of the Year, American Association of Law School Scholarly Papers Competition Winner, and Women Who Make a Difference, which she notably chose not to talk about during the interview), Professor Boone exudes humility. She’s also compassionate, which shows in the way she talks about her students and how she relates to them. And she has a quiet wisdom about her.

Professor Boone earned her bachelor of arts degree from Trinity College. She attended law school at American University Washington College of Law and, after graduating, earned her LLM from Georgetown University Law Center. Her academic appointments included a fellowship at Georgetown University Law Center a, professorship at the University of Alabama School of Law, and a visiting professorship at Washington University School of Law. Professor Boone was a visiting professor at Wake Forest Law before joining the faculty full-time in 2020.

And now that she has tenure, she plans to continue her research, which centers on topics related to the state regulation of the physical body, often focusing on the rights of pregnant, birthing, and parenting individuals. Professor Boone is an expert on matters related to lactation law, reproductive rights, family law, and gender equality in the workplace. 

Learn more about Professor Boone—professor, attorney, and person—in the interview below.

What was your favorite subject in school?

Starting in seventh grade, most of my classes were theater classes—performance classes, musical theater, and costuming and stage design. That’s what I thought I was going to do.

How did you decide to become a professor?

I knew I wanted to go to a small liberal arts college just because I liked that feel of that small, close-knit community. That’s what I did. I ended up stumbling into a women, gender, and sexuality major. I wanted to write and think and talk about those issues. Halfway through college, I started thinking about law school with the aim to be a public interest attorney, and particularly working on issues of gender equality. 

Graduated, clerked, and then got a job at a firm—a plaintiff-side, public interest firm. I was mostly litigating big, nationwide sex discrimination class actions—cool, righteous, impactful litigation. And I thought, great, dream job. And I hated it. Litigation and me just don’t mix. I’m not an adversarial person. I didn’t want to work those sorts of hours. I knew I wanted to have a family one day. The idea of trying to have young kids and keep up that level of facetime in the office was really intimidating.

I started casting about for what else I could do because I was in this weird position of having gotten the dream job and then realizing that the dream job wasn’t a dream, and not really having a backup plan. I applied to a couple of different things, but one of them was this clinical teaching fellowship at Georgetown in their civil rights litigation clinic. This was still public interest litigation, and I’d be able to do individual client work as opposed to these huge, class action cases. Very quickly after arriving at Georgetown, I realized teaching—not litigating—was what I wanted to do forever.

What’s one thing you wish you knew in law school?

That professional trajectories are not linear. And that’s okay. I wish I could go back and tell that version of me not to worry so much about staying on this path where I could see all the steps, knowing that the path was going to be a little bit windy but I would end up in an ok place. 

You are an expert on civil rights and anti-discrimination laws, constitutional law, employment discrimination, family law, reproductive rights, and sex discrimination. Are there any accepted “truths” about any of your areas of expertise that you disagree with? If so, what’s your viewpoint, and what evidence or experience supports it?

Fighting the premise of the question, I always think it’s really interesting to declare oneself an expert in anything. I don’t know that I am an expert in anything. And I’m hyper-aware of how much there is to learn and know. 

I will use an example: I wrote an essay called “Expecting Violence: Centering the Experience of Violence in Pregnancy” for the Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law. In it, I talk about pregnancy as an inherently violent experience. At the workshop where everyone who wrote for the issue was sharing drafts and talking about it, I got a lot of pushback from people in my field who I respect, and who have been writing in this field for a long time. They said, “Unwanted pregnancy is violent, right? Forced pregnancy is violent?” And I said, “No, all pregnancy is violent. The fact that it is wanted or unwanted, forced or unforced adds an additional layer of potential violence, but the physical experience of pregnancy is violent.” And the reaction in the room from some people was, “You cannot say that.”

The generation of feminist scholars at the level above me rejected the idea that all pregnancy was inherently violent. And then the people who were more at my level, the junior level, many of them came up to me after I had this public exchange and said, “I agree with you.” I didn’t walk into the room thinking that part of my paper was going to be controversial. And I haven’t changed my mind about it. But it has been interesting to realize that my thinking about that is so different from the thinking of people that are foundational in my field and who I respect very much.

Roe v. Wade helped make huge strides for reproductive rights. In recent years, it’s like we’ve taken giant leaps backward. What do you think is the future of reproductive rights? How can we get there?

The protections of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey had already been deeply undermined by the time the Dobbs decision came down. Obviously, Dobbs is a watershed moment and changes the landscape hugely as far as access to reproductive healthcare, but it’s not as if in the years before Dobbs, it was a rosy picture for reproductive justice. In many ways, Dobbs was reflective of a negative trajectory that had been occurring for at least 15 years before the decision came out. I think that Dobbs woke a lot of people up who thought abortion was always going to be available—people from privilege, people within a certain geographic area, and other people as well. It’s been interesting to talk to my students about it. I think their whole vision of themselves and their place in the world was developed at a time when they could choose whether or not to be pregnant. And the idea that that choice has been taken away from them is really jarring. If there’s a silver lining to Dobbs, it has brought an intention and an awareness to the importance of this fight. More people are getting involved, raising their voices, voting, and showing up to advocate. I think there is hope that within my lifetime we will be back to a place where abortion is protected as a matter of national right. 

What is one thing you learned through your scholarship that people should know?

I co-authored a piece with Benjamin McMichael, who is a former colleague of mine at Alabama who does empirical work. The article is about a Tennessee law that criminalized women who used drugs while they were pregnant. The laws are designed to protect fetal and infant life. So the state is going to criminalize prenatal drug use in order to protect fetal and infant life. What the empirical analysis shows is that the effect of the laws is actually to undermine fetal and infant life. More pregnancies are lost and more babies die when we criminalize pregnant people. I think there are a lot of people out there who legitimately care about pregnancy and about babies, and they want to criminalize pregnant people, or outlaw abortion, or take all these steps to protect what they see as a vulnerable life. What they don’t understand, which I have seen in my own scholarship, is that many of these laws end up doing more harm than good. If we could work together to do the things that actually supported women, pregnant people, babies, and families, we would do so much more to protect those vulnerable groups than by criminalizing pregnancy, reproductive healthcare, et cetera. 

What has been your biggest win since you began your research and what did the win teach you?

I think recognizing that I have something unique to say and that is true even if the thing I have to say isn’t perfectly polished or perfectly footnoted or exactly right in every respect. I have a unique perspective to offer and I should offer it even when I am unsure or struggle with imposter syndrome or feel like it’s not ready. I’ve finally gotten to a place in my scholarship where I feel comfortable with that.

What is the biggest challenge you are facing in your role and area of expertise and how are you tackling it?

There’s just so much happening—the laws being passed and cases being litigated in the post-Dobbs landscape—that I feel torn between keeping up with the day-to-day on-the-ground stuff because people want to know about it and they want me to talk about it. But I want to think slowly and carefully about big ideas. I want both of those things. You can’t do both. 

What is a common myth about your job as a professor? As an attorney?

The biggest misconception is that the vast majority of my time is spent in the teaching part of my job when in reality, it really is a third: a third scholarship, [a third] service, [a third] teaching. And I am not off during the summer. Although I would like to be!

What is the biggest professional challenge you have had to overcome?

Balancing having young kids and doing my job the way I want to do it. And it’s a positive challenge because I really love my kids, and I really like being a mom, and I really like my job. I could give all of my time to my kids and family, and I could also happily give all of my time to my job and work. I want to do both of those things simultaneously. And obviously, that’s not possible.

What’s your top strategy for success?

Some version of “do it before you’re ready,” or “fake it until you make it.” I think we all have to fight against the sense that if something is hard or difficult, it means we’re bad at it and we shouldn’t do it. When I look back at my life and the things that have been really worthwhile and the successes I have had, it is because I have gone through a period where I feel uncomfortable—where it is hard, where I feel unsure, where I’m going out on a limb in some way. I feel like I still look for opportunities to make myself uncomfortable because that’s where growth occurs. 

What does your morning routine look like?

My morning starts bright and early with usually some combination of a 7-year-old to 4-year-old and a small hound dog climbing into bed to tell me things or demand waffles or who knows. This morning I had an extremely in-depth conversation about the varying skill levels of Pokemon characters. The morning routine is getting everyone their preferred breakfast carbohydrate, packing lunches, making sure everyone has what they need in their backpacks, and then rushing out the door. It’s a bit chaotic. My 7-year-old, for Christmas, got a Nintendo Switch, which he had been asking for every day for six months. The deal is that if he gets all of his homework done, if he’s dressed, if he’s eaten his breakfast, brushed his teeth, everything—then he gets to play his Nintendo Switch until we leave. It’s really helped incentivize good behavior!

How do you want to be remembered?

As someone who cared a lot and tried hard. I don’t think I’m going to be remembered as the most brilliant person in the world, but I want people to know that I care deeply about them and their happiness and success.

What is a book you would recommend and why?

I will say, I think reading is important. I think it actually doesn’t matter that much what you read. And I will say I have extremely highbrow and extremely lowbrow tastes in what I read. I think it’s all great and people should read what they want!

A book that really blew my mind is called Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. She is a Professor of History and the philosophy of Science, and she walks through all the brain science we have on gender and how it’s actually not very good. And how this idea that our brains are fundamentally shaped by being male or female is not actually supported by science.

And then because I have young children, I often find myself reading books of essays, which are easier to carry around and read for little bits of time. Jesse Kline is a humor essayist and she came out with a book called I’ll Show Myself Out. It is just really, really, really funny and also has some pretty profound insights into being a woman and being a mother in this world that we live in, but does so in a way that had me laugh-crying.

What’s your favorite thing to bake?

I make a chocolate cake, which I think is the most delicious chocolate cake that I have ever had. So much so that I really won’t eat other people’s chocolate cake because it’s not this chocolate cake. It doesn’t look like anything special, but it is so freaking delicious. It’s my favorite. 

What is one question you wish I would have asked you and how would you have answered?

“What has been something in your life that has enabled you to be successful?” My answer would have been that—and I’m paraphrasing Ruth Bader Ginsburg here—the most important decision you will ever make is the person that you partner with. Nothing in my life would be possible if I didn’t have a spouse who is supportive, kind, invested in me, invested in our family, and invested in being equal partners. I think that’s especially true for young women—finding a partner who is interested in bringing equality and their full selves to their domestic lives.

My partner and I have had a very explicit agreement up to this point that my career comes first, which is an unusual circumstance for a woman who is married to a man to find. It has made all the difference for me because I’ve been able to make professional moves and work the hours I need to, or do whatever I can because I have someone who’s backing me up. The advice I would give to young people is to pick someone who’s going to back you up. Because that is such a primary source of support when things don’t go right.

Professor Brenda Gibson

Interview with Professor Brenda Gibson

Wake Forest Law Professor Brenda Gibson never set out to become a teacher—especially not a professor of legal writing. Although she is a natural writer, she struggled through her first semester of legal writing in law school. “Legal writing is this very technical, almost mathematic formula,” she says. “For the legal reader, every additional word is potential litigation. I thought it was so ugly.”

But she kept at it. Fast forward to 2024—Professor Gibson, who has served on the Wake Forest Law faculty since 2020, is now an expert in legal writing and research. Her own research focuses on the science of pedagogy and its intersections with social science, history, and the law. 

Now that she has tenure, she is interested in exploring ways to prepare students for the secondary trauma they are likely to experience as attorneys, starting by teaching a professional responsibility class focused on just that. “Although we know that secondary trauma is a big part of what lawyers encounter in practice, we have been pretty silent on that, whereas there are classes for social workers and doctors,” says Professor Gibson.

She also wants to educate students about diversity, equity, and inclusion—something she sees as critical for attorneys to be able to relate to their clients. “If you don’t know how to communicate with a client, that client will take their business elsewhere,” says Professor Gibson. 

Learn more about Professor Gibson in the interview below.

How did you decide to become a professor?

By sheer happenstance. I was on staff counsel at the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which is the permanent staff of attorneys. I loved the job. I loved the people. But I just couldn’t see myself retiring as a staff attorney. I got a call one day from someone who had been my first-year legal writing professor. At that time, she was the academic dean at North Carolina Central University School of Law, where I went to law school.

She said, “Hey, I think we have a job for you as a legal writing director.” Initially, I wasn’t really interested in the job. All I could think about was that I was going to have to drive to Durham every day. It’s a 45-minute commute. I had two young kids at the time. I would be North Carolina Central School of Law’s first legal writing director. At the time, it was an adjunct-based program, and I would be the only full-time person at that point. I didn’t really know what any of that meant. I knew nothing about the academy, knew nothing about tenure, knew nothing other than reading and writing the law, which I enjoyed. I initially struggled with legal writing in law school. But once I could get my head wrapped around the formula, I could do it. But my former professor remembered my unwillingness to give up. She said, “I think you would be the perfect person to teach our students and to direct this program because you went from struggling with legal writing to law clerk to now full-time staff attorney.” So that’s how I began to teach fresh out of the court of appeals.

What is one thing you wish you knew in law school?

I think I was a little laid back in law school, but not as much as I wished, because it all turns out. You get a job, and your first job is not going to be the job, maybe. For me, it happened to be the job that I needed. I was a law clerk to a really good guy who was instrumental in guiding my career and making sure that we knew that there’s life outside of the law—you need to take care of your family, you need to take care of yourself—all of this is still going to be here. As I tell my students now, the thing that you are obsessing over right now, in five years, it won’t even matter. And if you think about everything like that, you can settle down a little bit.

You are an expert on law teaching and legal writing and research. Are there any accepted truths about your areas of expertise that you disagree with? If so, what’s your viewpoint, and what evidence or experience supports it?

Oh God, “expert.” <laughs> For years and years in the law, the Socratic method has been used in doctrinal classes. Students hate it, and it’s been criticized as being antiquated and contraindicated for the students that we currently teach. Though we don’t use the Socratic method in the legal writing classroom where skills are being built, there are certain enduring mnemonics that we use to help in terms of legal analysis, be it Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion (IRAC) or Conclusion, Rule, Explanation, Application, Conclusion (CREAC). Notably, I have colleagues who are writing in the area of rhetoric and looking at some of those frameworks as a part of the systemic racism and patriarchy, and the old guard, in terms of teaching. What I know to be true is that grammar is fluid, writing is fluid, and if that is the case, that means that legal writing needs to be fluid as well. I try to teach my students to use the mnemonics that we have to help them write, but not to hinder them, or feel like [they] can’t ever operate outside of that because things are changing and moving every day.

I always tell my students, “The mark of a good legal writer is you tell the reader what you’re going to write about, and you write about that—you take them through the document.” 

What is the future of your scholarship?

Right now, I’m working on an article that talks about trauma in the legal profession and the importance of building community and improving resilience. I write about the things that I’m passionate about. 

I am also interested in proposing a symposium at one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) law schools to explore law school admissions ever since the Fair Admissions case came down from the Supreme Court saying that race should not be considered in admissions—basically striking down affirmative action’s use in post-secondary admission, including law school. When that decision came down, I immediately thought, “We’re rolling the clock back to ‘separate but equal.’”

And then I have another piece that one of my research assistants is working on about the effect that voter registration has on jury selection.

I don’t have the pedigree that some of my colleagues have, but—for whatever reason—I’m here. And so I refuse to believe I don’t belong. [Sometimes] I feel like the odd person out. [But] I am not going to dim the light so that you’re not blinded by it. I’m not going to shrink to fit in the room. I have reached this age where I’ve just decided that we are just going to make it go.

What is the biggest challenge you are facing in your role and area of expertise and how are you tackling it?

You teach to everyone in the room. But there are going to be one or two who are just not getting it. You meet one-on-one with them. You deploy your teaching assistants and you just can’t get them where you want them to be. And that is a challenge for me. I want everyone—which sounds so hokey—to succeed. 

How do I tackle that? Not well <laughs>, because I don’t like to lose. But I’m not competitive with other people. I think I’m most competitive with my personal best, and I certainly don’t ever want to feel like I’ve failed a student. But I really do want them to get their money’s worth. I literally will sit there and try to figure out their breaking point. Was it me? Maybe it’s a thing where law school is just not for them, or maybe it hasn’t clicked quite yet. But I struggle with that because I want my classroom to be a space where everyone can learn. And the challenge is being okay with those one or two who just didn’t get it.

What is your “why”? 

My “why” is to make sure that the next generation of lawyers is prepared. My “why” is to make sure black and brown people, like me, and women, like me, know that they can do it, to know that you don’t have to have a pedigree to do this. The profession is still white-male-dominated. It has not been an easy road. But I think that with each step that I take, I’m leaving a footprint for others to come behind me. And that’s my “why.”

What is it that kept you going through the trials and setbacks?

I am too mean to quit. <laughs> I have a village of people who have supported me, who have seen things in me that I haven’t seen. So what’s the next thing? Because when you get good at one thing, then it’s, “Okay, what’s my next?” I left my former institution after 14.9 years. I had a seven-year presumptively renewable contract with the same language as tenure, but it wasn’t tenure. So, [I] was [like], “Let me see if this little Black girl from South Carolina can get tenure.” And that’s what I did this year. So now it’s, “What’s my ‘next’?”

What is your next?

I have the ability to bring diverse, clashing voices together to get work done. I don’t care how you vote, what your politics are, what your gender preference is—I don’t care about any of that. At the end of the day, in an academic setting, we need to get these students to the finish line. We need to prepare the next generation of lawyers. We need them to be healthy. We need them to be well-educated and decent people. 

I, by design, went to an HBCU for law school because I had never attended school at one before. I wanted to see what life is like on the other side. And then I went back to the court of appeals where my judge was one of maybe two people who hired people who were minorities. So after being there, the doors started opening. It was like they said, “Oh, okay. So Black people can write…so Black people can do such-and-such.”

This year I learned a lot from my students. They said that they feel like the “cancel culture” will keep them from making the mark that they’d like to make. I never even thought about that. That blew me away because here we are waiting for Gen Z to make it alright because they are so intolerant of social injustice and all of these things. And they are scared to death that if they say the wrong thing, they’ll be canceled. 

One day, I’d like to utilize my talents to bring diverse voices to one table to seriously discuss and deploy best practices in legal education, so that both administrators, professors, and students feel supported and heard. I’m not sure what that job title is just yet, though.  

What is a common myth about your job as a professor? As an attorney?

That it’s somehow easier than law school, that somehow we work less. No one tells you about the grading and how hard it is. I use a rubric to keep me honest. I am thankful for anonymous grading because I like all of my students and I want all of them to excel. So, when I just have a number on a paper and my rubric, I’m locked and loaded. Whereas if there was a name there and no rubric, it would be difficult. We need to be as objective as possible in grading, but everybody still hates it. <laughs> I read each paper probably three times. The first time, just reading it over, the second time to make sure that I saw what I thought I saw. And the ones that are not so great, they get a third go to see if I can find any more points. Because I tell my students I don’t get an ‘atta girl’ or a raise for failing everybody. I’ve got to make sure you can write. I have to get you to the finish line. I have to get you ready for your summer job as a 1L. I have to get you ready for your 2L job, for your career, for taking the bar. It’s not an easy job at all. For people who do this, you must be really clear about what your ‘why’ is and the ‘why’ is usually not the paycheck. It can’t be the paycheck, <laughs> not if you teach legal writing.

What does your morning routine look like?

I am what my friends would call “second shift.” So I fake it until 10:00 a.m. Usually, I get up if I’m into my exercise routine. That would be about 7:00-7:30 a.m. First, before I can get out of bed, I’ve got to hit my Joyce Meyer 15-minute morning devotional. And I have to talk to myself: “Brenda, you’re going to have to get up.” Then I’ll head over to my Bible app and do 15 more minutes. So after about 30 minutes of wrestling with myself, I will get up and either pull on my sweats and some sneakers and go for my morning mile and a half walk. Or if it’s an off day, I’ll just head into the bathroom and take a shower. But the first thing on my agenda every day is what I learned 30-something years ago at Franklin Covey, planning and solitude.

So I spend some time in prayer and wrestling with myself so that I can be fit for human consumption. And then I do intermittent fasting, so I don’t eat until noon, but I’m a green tea drinker, so a cup of kombucha, green tea, or some kind of herbal tea. I generally work on my scholarship from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. I have a virtual writing circle that I have been writing with since I got to Wake Forest Law. So we write and sometimes it’s the two of us. Sometimes it’s five, sometimes it’s 10. If it’s a teaching day, I try to write 30 minutes before I head to campus or after I get here. Once I get here, it’s all class prep and getting ready for my students. 

What’s your favorite self-help book?

The current one I’m reading is Worthy by Jamie Kern Lima. Jamie Kern Lima said, “There is a difference between self-confidence and feeling worthy.” I realized I had a lot of self-confidence, but I was still that little girl who didn’t feel worthy. To do the jobs we do, we have to be self-confident. But we start looking at what others are accomplishing—like my colleagues who have written books. I’ve written a little research book, but I, all of a sudden, feel like I’m not worthy. What is that about? Why is that? My favorite book of all time is Joyce Meyer’s The Battlefield of the Mind. That was like a reckoning for me to realize that if we got out of our heads, we would be in better shape.

You were adopted. Did you grow up knowing that?

It was a big thing in my family because my adopted mom was my grandparents’ only natural child. I don’t even know how many kids they fostered and there were four formally adopted. If there was someone in the community who was having a hard time or a particular kid wasn’t doing what they needed to do, my grandfather would say, “Okay, we got an extra bunk in the back bedroom,” and they’d come and they’d help my granddaddy on the farm. They also had to go to school and to church on Sunday. That’s just what they did. 

My parents are so responsible for who I am now. [My birth mom] was just recently diagnosed with cancer. The first time we met in person, it was really tough for her. I told her, “I need you to understand I have nothing but the highest regard for you because after carrying two boys, I don’t know what it is like not being able to care for a child and to reach out to people who I know who can do a better job.”

The love and the support and the village that surrounded me—I was cool. Of course, there were the mean kids at school who would tease me and say, “You’re adopted!” I didn’t want to be different. But I remember my dad saying, “Their parents didn’t get to pick, but we chose you.”

You feel strongly about encouraging and supporting students in establishing a healthy work/life balance. You also have a passion for encouraging minority students to become academics. Tell me more about that.

I feel really passionately about being well in this profession because I’ve seen so many people who are unwell. And I know that type-A people—we go until we hit a wall, and I’d like my students to know going into the profession that it’s hard and that they need to develop some positive coping skills. Because a lot of times, it’s almost like grammar. You start teaching them legal writing and they want to leave grammar at the door. I don’t want them to leave their wellness at the door because now they’re going to be these great big attorneys. So many great big attorneys have hit that wall and had to come back from that. 

I think students do better when there are people who look like them because we do have implicit biases. The brain feels more comfortable with a person who looks like them. We have students of all cultures in the seats. Therefore, we need to have professors of all cultures standing up in the classroom. It makes for better decision-making and science supports that. I think that all types of diversity is important in academia as well because increasingly, we have students who are neurodivergent. We need to know that’s a part of being diverse as well. It’s not just race or gender. Diversity should include all the things.

Interview with Professor Marie-Amélie George

Despite the historical and current barriers faced by the queer community—a subject she has dedicated her research to—Wake Forest Law Professor Marie-Amélie George is an eternal optimist. 

“Law can only do so much, but when we look back on history, it offers a lot of hope for the future,” says Professor George. “Change has happened before and it can happen again in really wonderful, inspiring ways.”

Professor George’s research centers around analyzing how and why laws have changed, and the ways history can provide insight into current legal debates and contemporary normative questions. Her forthcoming book, Family Matters: Queer Households and the Half-Century Struggle for Legal Recognition, is a culmination of her research, exploring the evolution of queer rights from the criminalization of queer life in the 1950s to marriage equality in 2015. 

Professor George has served on the faculty at Wake Forest Law since 2018. And now that she has tenure, she has big plans for the future.

Learn more about Professor George in the interview below.

Tell me a little bit about your background and where you grew up.

We moved to the U.S. from France when I was five. My parents, sisters, and I are the only parts of the family who live in the U.S. We grew up in the northeast New Jersey/Pennsylvania area. But I’ve lived all up and down the East Coast. And I’ve also lived in Italy, England, and Japan.

What was your favorite subject in school?

Social studies. I’ve always loved history. I’m really drawn to the idea that what we do today is not necessarily what was always the case, which means that what will happen in the future is probably different than anything we can imagine.

How did you decide to become a professor?

Begrudgingly. When I was in law school, I thought that I might want to go into academia. I did a Master’s in Women’s Studies at Oxford just to see how I felt about being in an academic role. I liked it, and I found it extremely satisfying. But I also thought, maybe I’ll enjoy being a lawyer, and I will save myself the grief of doing a PhD. I worked as a prosecutor in Miami on domestic violence issues. That was not for me. I tried working in commercial litigation in New York. That also wasn’t the right fit. And I kept going back to topics that I really just wanted to research deeply and write on. That’s when I went to do my PhD in history.

What is one thing you wish you knew in law school?

There are a lot of things I wish I had known. One of them is that we often divide law into litigation and transactional when there are so many other ways in which lawyers work and so many other contexts for being a lawyer. Second, we tend to divide it into public interest and private practice when those are not rigid categories. Lots of lawyers in private practice do a lot of pro bono. People move back and forth between the private and public sectors. And careers are non-linear. 

You are an expert on civil litigation and procedure, civil rights and anti-discrimination laws, family law, law and society, legal history, public interest, law and policy, sexual orientation, gender identity law, and state and local government. Are there any accepted truths about your areas of expertise that you disagree with? If so, what’s your viewpoint, and what evidence or experience supports it?

I have been working for a very long time on a book on the evolution of queer rights from the criminalization of queer life in the 1950s to marriage equality in 2015, and the social and legal changes around family law and criminal law that made that change possible. When we look at the gay and lesbian rights movement, it almost looks archaic. It spent a lot of time asking for straight society to accept individuals within its orbit. It was asking for a recognition that the differences that existed were legally and socially insignificant, that the law was wrong because it was treating groups as differently situated when they were similarly situated.

That today seems like a very conservative argument. You’re not asking to change society to accept more multiplicity. You’re asking for society to change around the margins. And to become a little bit broader. But when you look at what these advocates were arguing against, their positions seem so much more radical. They were really challenging fundamental norms about morality, family relationships, gender roles, and sexual ideologies. And the fact that their arguments now look conservative is a testament to how much they accomplished and how much they fundamentally transformed society. And so, for more radical members of the queer community, the idea that marriage would be the thing worth fighting for seems kind of crazy. But getting to marriage equality was really, really hard in a way that actually makes me very optimistic about the ability of American society to change, to transform, to become more pluralistic. Especially in this political moment, when there’s a lot of pessimism about the many injustices that abound. 

There has been an increase in awareness of the rights or lack thereof of transgender people in recent years. However, in 2023 alone, hundreds of anti-trans bills have been introduced in the United States, and some have even passed. Awareness doesn’t always mean progress despite the bills being introduced and passed. Has progress been made in this area? What do you think is the future of transgender rights in the United States?

So there’s a few different things going on. One is that the gay and lesbian rights movement accomplished a lot. But it was very explicitly a rights movement that focused on gender-conforming gays and lesbians. That focus was partly a strategic choice—the idea was to make forward progress on some issues, and then keep moving to widen the umbrella. So, lead with gay and lesbian rights, followed by trans issues. But the result is that we have a public that is much more familiar with gays and lesbians than with trans, non-binary, and other gender-non-conforming individuals. There is more awareness of transgender issues, but there is less familiarity than there is with gay and lesbian rights. That accounts a bit for the fact that where opponents’ focus used to be on combating gay and lesbian rights, it has shifted to trans rights. 

The second issue is that, although more young people are identifying as trans, non-binary, agender, and gender-fluid, and there are more identity categories for gender non-conforming individuals, there are fewer trans individuals than gays and lesbians. That means there’s less opportunity for people to know people who fall under this larger trans umbrella. And that contact does make a difference. 

The third thing is trans identity has taken many forms over many decades. There have been many people who may have been assigned to male at birth and identified as female or saw themselves as non-binary or identified as a gender. But the social identity category of trans didn’t come into being until the 1990s. Although there have been people who you might characterize as trans today who were part of this movement much earlier, they tended to identify as transvestites, cross-dressers, or with another identity category. If you think of trans rights not as dating back to when the gay and lesbian rights movement formed in the seventies, but to the nineties, the timeline for rights work changes. That makes the backlash to a lot of progress in a short period maybe more understandable. That of course doesn’t mean it’s right.

Do I think it’s going to change? Yes. Partly because generationally, young people are more accepting of trans individuals and more likely to identify as trans, gender non-conforming, or non-binary. 

What is one thing you’ve learned through your scholarship that people should know? 

Legal change comes from a lot of different places, and it’s often by people who are not lawyers or legally trained who are doing things that they don’t identify as “law.” What launched the marriage equality movement was a lawsuit out of Hawaii. There was a man named Bill Woods who was involved in the gay and lesbian community in Honolulu who didn’t like the discriminatory marriage laws and wanted to see them changed. He hunted around for couples who would go and file for marriage licenses. He expected them to be denied, and he wanted a media event. He did not think he was launching a lawsuit, but he walked them over to the ACLU when they were denied to ask for representation. He didn’t think it would lead to the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that their constitution might very well allow same-sex couples to marry. That led national gay and lesbian rights groups to start thinking about a strategy for marriage equality nationwide. But his decision – to challenge the law as it applied to people on the ground because he found it unfair – propelled an entire movement that changed the law around the entire country. There is a direct line between Bill Woods and Obergefell v Hodges.

What is your biggest win since you began your research? What did the win teach you?

I don’t know if this is a win per se, but I wrote an article on custody cases involving what I call gender-expansive children—children who were assigned male or female at birth and did not conform to gender stereotypes and explored their gender identity. They weren’t sure if they were their sex assigned at birth. When I started looking at those cases, courts and newspapers were talking about these children as transgender children, and they were fighting over whether the children were truly transgender or not, and who was right about the child’s gender identity. And I went in with that assumption, too. That these were trans children, and that was the debate.

But the more I read about it, the more I realized I had no idea. The children didn’t know, the parents didn’t know, and doctors can’t tell either before a certain age because if someone exhibits or identifies as trans post-adolescence, that tends to be their identification as an adult. But for pre-adolescent children, the science says it’s actually impossible to tell. What I found is that the courts were really asking the wrong question. They were trying to find out whether these children were trans or not, and they were asking a question with an absolutely unknowable answer, which led them to make really bad decisions. Because, instead, what all of these children needed was a chance to explore their gender identity and figure out what their gender identity was without being forced into one category or another.

I wrote an article about it, and I was really excited when the Colorado Bar Association family law section asked me to give a talk. They said, “It is in the children’s best interests to be with a parent who allows them to explore their gender identity. That’s something that we can put on our legislative agenda because we agree with you. We found your article really convincing.” So I guess my win is whenever someone says, “I didn’t think of it that way.” And that feels really good.

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing in your role and area of expertise, and how are you tackling it?

The biggest challenge right now is that there have been literally hundreds of anti-queer laws introduced by legislators, and many have passed. North Carolina has enacted quite a few laws that I would say are really, really harmful to people. And it is not the only state. There are lots of things that I would like to see happen that would benefit the community. It is impossible to fight for all of those when all of the energy is spent playing defense on attacks and the harm of these developments is so extreme. One of the challenges is the fact that it is a constant onslaught. It is incredibly demoralizing to be fighting for the rights of a group that is constantly under attack. That makes the work even more important. I try to remind myself of the broader pace of history and the change that we have seen. But in the day-to-day, it still really sucks.

What is the biggest professional challenge you have had to overcome?

The first thing that jumps out at me is that when I was working at the state attorney’s office in the domestic violence bureau in Miami, we were constantly calling victims and witnesses to court because if they weren’t there, we had to dismiss their case. But we also couldn’t guarantee that their case would go to trial. That upended their lives constantly because they were thinking about the fact that they had to go to court, which psychologically can be greatly destructive. They had to change their work schedule. They often had to find childcare. They had to figure out how they were going to get downtown for court. It was a major imposition. 

For those cases, we’d consider pleas that maybe we wouldn’t have before. In one of those cases, it had been reset three times. It involved someone who violated an order of protection. We offered a plea of probation to resolve the case so our witnesses and the victim wouldn’t have to come in again. The victim agreed to that. We all signed off on it. The defendant took the plea, and he left court, went home, got a gun, went to the victim’s house, and killed her.

I don’t think I could have done anything differently other than perhaps reset the case. And perhaps the result might have been a dismissal. There was nothing from the underlying case that would’ve indicated that would’ve been his response. But you don’t know. Domestic violence can escalate very, very quickly. I was working in a court system that I was really concerned was not serving the people it was meant to, and to a certain extent, was causing more harm because it was reducing people’s faith in the system to protect them. Then the question became, does the good outweigh the harm? And do I feel comfortable working in that system anymore? Can I do anything about the system? And if I can’t, is the answer to exit? So I left. That was one of the lowest moments of my professional life where I felt like there were lots of people who wanted to do good things, and we were not set up to succeed. 

What is one of your biggest successes?

I was interning at Sanctuary Families, which is a legal services provider for battered individuals in New York. We had a client come in. She and her ex-husband were immigrants from Côte d’Ivoire. After they had separated, her ex took their child to Côte d’Ivoire and refused to return her. She heard from friends and family in Côte d’Ivoire that they were planning on subjecting their daughter to female genital mutilation. She was desperate to have her daughter returned before that happened. 

Because female genital mutilation was illegal in New York, we talked to prosecutors about whether there was a way to bring a case against the father for making it happen overseas. They said, “No, there’s no jurisdiction basis.” We were racking our brains to figure out what we do. My job was to call the embassy in Côte d’Ivoire to see if they could intervene on the mother’s behalf to urgently repatriate her daughter, who is a US citizen. I ended up spending several weeks working with a consular officer there. Eventually, the family member with whom the daughter was living agreed to relinquish her to the custody of the State Department. Then they put her on a plane home. We got to reunite a mother and daughter before this child suffered permanent physical harm.

It was a circumstance where none of us thought we were going to be able to do it. Everything was stacked against us. The solution wasn’t a lawsuit or a law or a regulatory approach. It was about figuring out who people in positions of power were and getting them to do things. 

It felt really remarkable and gratifying to be able to do that for someone. It didn’t require a lawyer to do it, but I think being a lawyer gives you a sense of authority and makes you think about different solutions in ways that can be really powerful. I hope law students realize that what they’re learning now they’re applying long before they’re ever barred and they can do really powerful work.

What is your top strategy for success?

I read a book called Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. The idea is we think we have a lot of time, but the average person only gets 4,000 weeks in their lifetime. By trying to do too much, we waste our time on the things that aren’t as important to us as the things that we would want to prioritize. The author recommends writing down the things that are important to you, putting them in order of importance, and focusing on the top three. And then you ask yourself all the time when you’re taking on a project or thinking about doing something else, does it get me to my top three? And if it doesn’t, you don’t do it. It’s basically an argument for being very, very selective in what you do because you only have so much time to do things.

What do you think is your future for your scholarship and yourself as a professor?

It’s funny because getting tenure is technically “the big thing.” But writing the book in my tenure packet feels like the more significant step in my scholarship because it’s the end of a big project, and I have to figure out what’s next. I’ve been writing mostly about the gay and lesbian rights movement in the eighties and nineties. That’s the central focus of the book. And when we started, I talked about the fact that they were making very conservative arguments to incrementally change the system, as opposed to fundamentally reshaping it. So I’m interested in shifting my focus to radical arguments for change.

Tell me about scuba diving. 

It is like being a tourist in an undiscovered place! There aren’t that many people around. None of the sea creatures really care that you’re there. They’re just going along with their business, and you get to see a world that you couldn’t even imagine from land. It is incredibly relaxing because you have to be relaxed to make your air last. I don’t know how to explain the joy I get at seeing an entire ecosystem that I wouldn’t otherwise interact with. 

Wake Forest Law Faculty Scholarship Compilation

ALI Medical Malpractice group

Wake Forest University Professor Mark Hall Plays a Key Role in Restatement of the Law Third

Winston-Salem, NC – On May 21, 2024, the American Law Institute (ALI), voted to approve the Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Medical Malpractice, concluding five years of work focused on identifying and clearly stating the law of medical malpractice in the United States. The Restatement project was co-led by Professor Mark A. Hall, the Fred and Elizabeth Turnage Professor of Law and Director of the Health Law and Policy Program at Wake Forest University, along with former Wake Forest Law faculty member Michael D. Green, and Stanford Law’s Professor Nora Freeman Engstrom.

The ALI’s Restatements are extremely influential in the legal world, guiding courts, legislatures, scholars, and legal practitioners in understanding and applying the law. The Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Medical Malpractice focuses on distinct liability issues that arise when a patient seeks or obtains medical care, including matters such as informed consent, the duties medical providers owe to patients, and the special standards that govern the negligence determination in the context of a physician-patient relationship.

The effort by Professor Hall and his co-Reporters to complete the Medical Malpractice project has been immense. Over the past five years, they assembled more than a dozen drafts, each incorporating the comments and guidance received by the projects’ 57 Advisers and Liaisons, as well as the 121 ALI members who joined the Members Consultative Group.

“Medical malpractice has never before been restated. The ALI is fortunate to have one of the world’s foremost experts on health law serve as Reporter,” said Wake Forest Law’s Professor Jonathan Cardi, who also served as a reporter for the Restatement of the Law Third, Torts. “Mark has managed a difficult and politically fraught subject with incredible perspicacity. The product will be a great help to courts in the years to come.”

“It has been enormously gratifying to help lead a project of this significance,” said Professor Hall. “As a professor of both law and health policy, this has been a great opportunity to help shape a major body of health care law in a fashion that recognizes major challenges that patients and health care providers confront in the current environment in which medical care is rendered.” In addition to the Medical Malpractice project, Professor Hall also serves as an Advisor to the Torts: Miscellaneous Provisions project.


About Wake Forest University School of Law

Wake Forest Law seeks 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. For more information, visit law.wfu.edu.

About Wake Forest University School of Medicine

Wake Forest University School of Medicine is a recognized leader in experiential medical education and groundbreaking research and is the academic core of Advocate Health, the nation’s third-largest nonprofit health system. The School of Medicine includes MD, PA, academic nursing and biomedical graduate programs. For more information, visit school.wakehealth.edu.

About The American Law Institute

The American Law Institute is the leading independent organization in the United States producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize, and improve the law. The ALI drafts, discusses, revises, and publishes Restatements of the Law, Model Codes, and Principles of Law that are influential in the courts and legislatures, as well as in legal scholarship and education. For more information, visit www.ali.org.

Picture 1 (L): Taylor Gibbs, Donny Stewart, AJ Fitzgerald, and nine members of the defendant's family who attended the oral argument standing in front of the courtroom. Picture 2 (R): Jenna White, Spencer Osborne, Alexis Parker, and Professor John Korzen standing outside of the courtroom.

Class of 2024 Graduates Argue in Federal Circuits

Two members of the Class of 2024 argued in federal circuits this past semester, as part of the Appellate Advocacy Clinic directed by Professor John Korzen (’91). Both argued in appeals in which the courts had appointed the Clinic to represent indigent individuals.

On May 14, Donny Stewart (JD ’24) argued to a panel of three judges in the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, in the case of United States v. Duane Waupoose. Professor Korzen and Donny’s clinic teammates, AJ Fitzgerald (JD ’24) and Taylor Gibbs (JD ’24), joined him in court and sat at counsel table, and Taylor even passed Donny a helpful note while counsel for the other side argued. The case is on appeal from a three-count conviction that arose on a Native American reservation in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The Clinic’s client, Duane Waupoose, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon, and use of a firearm, after he fought back against a gang leader who arrived at his home shortly before midnight on the day in question with several other armed individuals.

One issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred by not allowing the jury to decide whether he acted in self-defense. If the appellate agrees with the Clinic’s position, then Mr. Waupoose’s conviction should be vacated, and he should receive a new trial. Nine members of his family attended the oral argument, driving four hours one way from Wisconsin to be there.

“Donny did an outstanding job in his argument,” Professor Korzen said afterwards, “and the entire team did great work researching and drafting two briefs. The judges had only a single question about the self-defense issue, and Donny seemed to address it fully and persuasively.”

On March 22, Spencer Osborne (JD ’24) argued to a panel of three judges in the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Virginia, in the case of Henderson v. Harmon. His clinic teammates Alexis Parker (JD ’24) and Jenna White (JD ’24), along with Professor Korzen, attended the oral argument. In Henderson, a Virginia inmate contends that his due process rights were violated when his appeal of a prison infraction and financial penalty was not decided for nearly six years. The Fourth Circuit recently decided the appeal against him, holding that the violation was harmless error under the circumstances, but also establishing an important principle.

“The Fourth Circuit held, for the first time in a published opinion, that an inmate has a protected property interest in his prison bank account, which makes ‘good law’ for future claims by inmates that officials are violating their rights,” Professor Korzen said. “Spencer made a great argument and thoughtfully handled many questions from a ‘hot bench,’” he added. “The judges praised his work when they greeted us after the argument, which is a unique Fourth Circuit tradition. Alexis and Jenna did excellent work on the two briefs we filed, too. Along with Spencer, they made clear arguments out of some very complex constitutional doctrine.”

Images: Picture 1 (L): Taylor Gibbs, Donny Stewart, AJ Fitzgerald, and nine members of the defendant’s family who attended the oral argument. Picture 2 (R): Jenna White, Spencer Osborne, Alexis Parker, and Professor John Korzen.

Wake Forest Law Welcomes Two New Faculty Members: Samir Parikh and Nathan Bennett Fleming 

Nathan Bennett Fleming and Samir Parikh
Nathan Bennett Fleming and Samir Parikh

Wake Forest Law is pleased to announce the hiring of two new full-time faculty members: Samir Parikh and Nathan Bennett Fleming. Professor Parikh will focus on business law while Professor Bennett Fleming will teach constitutional law and election law. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Nathan Bennett Fleming and Samir Parikh to the Wake Forest Law community as our newest faculty members,” says Dean Andrew Klein. “Not only are they exceptional teachers and scholars, but both Nathan and Samir embody the spirit of Wake Forest’s Pro Humanitate motto through their civic engagement and many contributions to the legal community.” 

Professor Samir Parikh will be joining Wake Forest Law from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, where he currently serves as the Robert E. Jones Professor of Advocacy and Ethics. Says Professor Parikh: “I am extremely excited to join Wake Forest and add my voice to the school’s already stellar chorus.” 

A nationally recognized expert on business law and bankruptcy, Professor Parikh’s areas of expertise include mass tort restructurings, fraudulent transfer law, forum shopping, and municipal distress. In 2022, he was invited to join both the American Law Institute and the American College of Bankruptcy. He is one of fewer than 15 individuals to be admitted to both organizations.

Professor Parikh has served as an expert witness and consultant in numerous business law cases and has testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, and Federal Rights. He regularly provides expert commentary for national media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, 60 Minutes, the New York Times, Bloomberg News, NBC News, Law360, the Financial Times, and The Deal

A prolific scholar, Professor Parikh’s scholarship has been featured in The University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Northwestern University Law Review, The Yale Law Journal Forum and Duke Law Journal Online, among other publications. He is also the editor-in-chief and an original contributing author for Bloomberg Law Bankruptcy Treatise and a co-author of the seventh edition of the Examples & Explanations (Bankruptcy and Debtor/Creditor) study guide. He has served as a peer reviewer for various law reviews—most recently for the Yale Law Journal and the Harvard Law Review. He currently serves on the Peer Review Board for the Northwestern University Law Review.

In 2018, Professor Parikh was awarded a Fulbright Schuman Grant and was a visiting professor at various institutions, including Oxford University. He now serves on the Fulbright Commission’s Peer Review Selection Committee. 

Prior to joining the faculty at Lewis & Clark Law School, Professor Parikh practiced complex financial restructuring at Latham & Watkins and Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy in Los Angeles and Baker Botts in Houston. After graduating with a JD from the University of Michigan Law School, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Alan M. Ahart of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California. 

Professor Nathan Bennett Fleming comes to Wake Forest Law from DePaul College of Law in Chicago where he was the law school’s inaugural Racial Justice Fellow—studying and advocating for vulnerable communities in Chicago. His most recent scholarship focuses on racial equity: He published an article in the Harvard Anti Racism Policy Review, “Strategies to Build Racial Equity into Land Use and Zoning” and has a forthcoming article in the Oklahoma Law Review, “After Affirmative Action: Contextual Admissions and the Future of Black Law School Enrollment.”

Prior to his fellowship, Professor Bennett Fleming served as shadow U.S. Representative for the District of Columbia, an elected advocate to Congress on issues related to DC statehood and other federal matters. His work was instrumental in the passage of the historic DC Statehood legislation in the House of Representatives in 2020 and 2021. He also served as a legislative and committee director at the DC Council where he authored several pieces of legislation to expand educational, housing, employment, and community equity throughout Washington DC. 

Professor Bennett Fleming taught appellate advocacy as an adjunct professor at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law and was awarded the Yale Entrepreneurship Fellowship in 2013. Currently, a doctoral candidate in higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, his research focuses on the intersection of law, race, public policy, and education. His dissertation explores the evolution of mission at Historically Black Law Schools and provides an up-to-date account of the history of African Americans in American law schools. 

A native of Washington, DC, Professor Bennett Fleming earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Morehouse College, his master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University, and his JD from the University of California, Berkeley.  

“I am extremely honored to join the faculty at Wake Forest Law,” says Professor Bennett Fleming. “I believe that Wake Law’s focus on leadership and character, its commitment to personalized attention in the classroom, and the collaborative spirit of its faculty makes Wake a standout amongst legal education institutions. I am excited about the opportunity to advance the Law School’s mission of preparing students to address the world’s legal needs with creativity, confidence, and character.” 

Professor Gregory Parks Runs for General President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated

The concept of Pro Humanitate can be defined and applied in many ways, whether it’s through one’s career, their personal life, or their civic engagements. But what remains constant is that Pro Humanitate is about action—the action of using one’s skills, expertise, and privilege to better the world. It often manifests in taking on leadership roles, participating in community service, or collaborating with others to effect positive change. As Professor Gregory Parks runs for General President of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, he does so with the spirit of Pro Humanitate.

After nine months of campaigning, Professor Parks was recently chosen as one of two nominees to be the international head of Alpha Phi Alpha. It’s been a long and winding road for Professor Parks, but one that he hopes will result in his election in January 2024 as General President-Elect of the organization that has had such a tremendous impact on him.

Founded in 1906 at Cornell University, Alpha Phi Alpha quickly proliferated across the United States (and later the world), rising to prominence as the first intercollegiate, Black Greek-letter organization (“BGLO”). The fraternity boasts many luminary members, including civil rights leaders Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., WEB Du Bois, Whitney Young, and others.

For Professor Parks, Alpha Phi Alpha is not about simply prestige, or even just about academic excellence, selfless service, and advocacy for the community—although those are tenets that both he and the fraternity hold dear. For him, Alpha Phi Alpha is, at its core, about brotherhood. “I grew up with three sisters,” he says. “But when I was a teenager, I met Barry Hargrove, who was one of my eldest sister’s best friends from college. He basically became a part of our family, and he was like an actual brother to me. It was the first time I felt what it was like to have a brother, and I knew that sense of connection and community was something I not only wanted but needed in my life.” When Professor Parks decided to join Alpha Phi Alpha, it was (later) Reverend Hargrove (as well as Professor Parks’ brother-in-law, Wayne Williams, and the Assistant General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Sam Tarver) who sponsored him.

After graduating from Howard University and going on to earn two master’s degrees, a PhD, and a JD, Professor Parks clerked on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals for Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby and on the United States Court of Appeals for the Honorable Andre M. Davis (also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha). He also served as a litigator with McDermott Will & Emery (he was recruited to the firm by Melvin White, another member of Alpha Phi Alpha and a past President of the DC Bar). Eventually, Professor Parks joined the faculty at Wake Forest Law (he was recruited by then Dean Blake Morant, another member of Alpha Phi Alpha and a past President of the American Association of Law Schools). Professor Parks has served as the School of Law’s Associate Dean for Research, Faculty Development, & Public Engagement as well as Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives (now a member of the university’s Strategic Framing Working Group). He also served on the Executive Committee of the university Faculty Senate as well as on the Board of Trustees Budget Committee.

Throughout his career, Professor Parks remained deeply involved with Alpha Phi Alpha, serving in a number of leadership roles at many levels of the organization. He was a college chapter advisor, alumni chapter vice president, and alumni chapter president for the Winston-Salem alumni chapter. He also served as a regional Associate Legal Counsel and the national chair of the fraternity’s Commission on Racial Justice.

As his research interests evolved, Professor Parks’ professional life dovetailed with his passion for Greek life. Many of the books he has written or edited are about fraternities and sororities—making him one of the leading national experts on these organizations and a range of issues they face. His research on hazing and hazing prevention led to him being sought out as an expert witness and trial consultant on dozens of civil and criminal hazing cases. He also served on the Board of Directors for the national nonprofit HazingPrevention.org from 2014-2018 and on the North American Interfraternity Conference’s Hazing Awareness and Prevention Presidential Commission from 2014-2017.

While he has devoted much of his career to better understanding fraternities and sororities, his dedication to Alpha Phi Alpha extends beyond the professional realm into the deeply personal. Alpha Phi Alpha represents the ideals that Professor Parks himself values: leadership, advocacy on behalf of marginalized groups, community and civic engagement. He is a Life Member of the NAACP, served as an executive board member for the Winston Salem Urban League, served as an executive officer on the National Bar Association’s Civil Rights Section, and is a regular invitee to the NAACP-Legal Defense Fund’s annual strategy retreat.

Professor Parks’ own scholarship provides meaningful insight into how he thinks about leadership, especially on the most critical issues, within fraternities and sororities, generally, and BGLOs, more specifically. In a 2019 article, Professor Parks underscored that the single biggest predictor as to whether hierarchical organizations like BGLOs will meaningfully address their greatest challenges is who their senior-most leaders are. Piggybacking on this work, in a 2020 article, he also underscored that a more progressive leadership philosophy and organizational ethos–e.g., committed to the “leaven of [organizational] self-examination, evidence-based problem-solving, innovation, and organizational culture change (shaping hearts and minds as well as policies and procedures)”—likely lead to more transformative outcomes for BGLOs.

As indicated by his public endorsements, many Alpha Phi Alpha brothers agree that change is instrumental to the continued success of the fraternity, and that Professor Parks is the leader to make it happen. “Unquestionably, for more than a decade, Brother Parks has nudged, pushed, prodded, and inspired Alpha towards change,” says Tyree Irving, Past Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge and Chair of the Mississippi Democratic Party. Dr. Rahn K. Bailey, 113th President of the National Medical Association says, “Over the years, I have witnessed Brother Parks be a voice of conscience for the Fraternity [and] offer evidence-based insights and solutions to some of Alpha’s most challenging problems.” Christopher Graham, Immediate Past President of the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors noted, “I support Brother Parks, because … he [understands] our most complex challenges coupled with a real data-informed, and strategic-centered plan to execute and deliver results that will advance our aims and fulfill our mission.”

Like Wake Forest, Alpha Phi Alpha’s motto serves as their north star: “First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All.” Regardless of the outcome of the election, Professor Parks will continue to be a servant to his beloved fraternity. “Alpha Phi Alpha is not just an organization to me. It’s a part of my identity and a brotherhood of men I am honored to be in community with.”

Recently, his nephew became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and eventually the president of the Virginia State University chapter. It was his nephew who seconded Professor Parks’ nomination for General President. That moment was emblematic for Professor Parks and represented his journey with Alpha Phi Alpha—his blood family converging with his chosen family.

Gregory Parks and members of Alpha Chapter

Gregory Parks and his line of brothers

Gregory Parks and Past General President Matthews

Wake Forest Law Welcomes New Board and Council Members

The Wake Forest Law Office of Development and Alumni Engagement is pleased to welcome 29 new members joining the Law Board of Visitors, General Counsel Advisory Committee, and Rose Council for their three-year terms starting on July 1, 2023.

Law Board of Visitors (LBOV):

Ryan Bouley (JD ‘07), Jane Cibik (JD ‘91, P ‘25), Mark DuBose (JD/MBA ‘97), Jeff Harvey (JD/MBA ‘97), Stephen Hawthornthwaite (JD ‘96), Mike Mitchell (‘86, JD ‘89, P ‘18, P ‘24), Bobbi Noland (‘86, JD ‘89, P ‘12), and Pat O’Bryant (MSL ‘22)

General Counsel Advisory Committee (GCAC):

Clara Cottrell (JD ‘07), Chris Galla (JD ‘99), Francisco Morales (JD ‘11), Greg Poole (JD ‘89, P ‘16), and Ruth Tisdale (JD ‘14)

Rose Council (RC):

Anna Alieksieieva (LLM ‘22), Katharine Batchelor (JD ‘21), Mac Dougherty (JD ‘19, MBA ‘20), Scott Graber (‘10, JD ‘13), Nick Harper (JD/MBA ‘14), Caitlin Hickman (‘17, JD ‘20), Mark Huffman (‘13, JD ‘18), Abby Jacobs (JD ‘19), Cedric James (JD ‘22), Sarah Keller (JD ‘22), Jon McLamb (JD ‘21), Charlotte Loper (JD ‘19), Caleb Prevatte (JD ‘21), Virginia Seatherton (LLM ‘18), Henna Shah (JD ‘21), and Gilbert Smolenski (JD ‘19)

“Having these talented volunteers join at a critical time in legal education because they want to give back to Wake Forest Law speaks volumes about their character and drive,” said Logan Roach (‘07), Assistant Dean of Development and staff liaison to the LBOV. “We are thrilled to welcome each new member as the Law School starts another year under the leadership of new dean, Andy Klein, welcomes a new 1L class in the fall, and engages in the Strategic Framework process under the leadership of President Wente.”

These three boards meet regularly throughout the year to hear updates from Wake Forest Law leadership and use their legal, business, nonprofit, and community expertise to help the School of Law develop and implement its mission and goals. Members support opportunities specifically with the Office of Career and Professional Development, Office of Admissions, and Office of Development and Alumni Engagement with the ultimate goal of helping our students succeed and encouraging fellow alumni to stay engaged.

To learn more about serving the Law School in a volunteer leadership board role, please reach out to the Office of Development and Alumni Engagement at lawalum@wfu.edu.

Professor Ralph Peeples – In Memoriam

Ralph Peeples, Professor Emeritus at the Wake Forest University School of Law, died on May 12, 2023. He was 71 years old.

Ralph was born in Charleston, South Carolina; studied as an undergraduate at Davidson College; and received his law degree from New York University. He worked for a few years as a municipal bond attorney in Cleveland, where he fell in love with the Cleveland baseball team, now known as the Guardians. He left Cleveland to join the law faculty at Wake Forest in 1979.

Ralph was a versatile and beloved teacher, whose wry sense of humor enlivened every class. His courses ranged from Business Associations, Securities Regulation, Corporate Finance, and Bankruptcy to Torts and Dispute Resolution. His greatest joy as a teacher was to create, assign, and discuss negotiation simulations for his students. As Ralph often told his classes, “Life is a negotiation.” His students enthusiastically accepted what he offered them, naming him as the Teacher of the Year four different times during his career.

As a scholar, Ralph was an early advocate for empirical research. He used statistical methods to draw insights about medical malpractice litigation and drew on his negotiation talents to gain access to the files of medical malpractice insurance adjusters—a fascinating new source of data about civil litigation settlements. Ralph thought of legal scholarship as a social enterprise, often working with co-authors and involving students in the research.

Ralph was also a service-oriented member of the law school community, both as an insider and outsider. As an insider, he served two different terms as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and held duties on too many committees to count. He mentored younger colleagues with insight and generosity. Ralph led colleagues on annual trips to visit Wake Forest law alumni in the Cleveland area and (incidentally) to watch baseball games at Jacobs Field.

As an outsider, Ralph often employed his good-natured humor to puncture pomposity. He would invariably point out when deans were overreaching or when university presidents were clueless, proudly claiming the essential role of “faculty curmudgeon.”

Ralph was also active in the broader community. He engaged with the North Carolina Bar Association in his areas of expertise and served on the Board of Directors for the Legal Aid Society. He worked long and hard to cultivate mediation practices in the state, hoping to make dispute resolution more affordable for more people. After his retirement from the law school in 2018, Ralph worked as the legal advisor for the SHARE Cooperative, a local non-profit that located a grocery store in the middle of a former food desert in Winston-Salem.

Read more about Professor Ralph Peeples’ legacy.