“There is just so much to learn about the world and the people in it, and there is always something new to learn or understand,” said the 2012 WVU Law graduate. “It is humbling, and it enriches one’s perspective of our common humanity.”
Barnes has built his own sense of common humanity through travel and forming diverse friendships. He credits these experiences for teaching him an important lesson: being White is not the normal experience for most of the world, and it’s not even normal for many in the United States.
“I think the failure to appreciate that very fact has led to a lot of misunderstandings in the world and a lot of inhumane policies and laws,” he said. “Gaining that kind of perspective is important, especially as we as a country have started to really confront larger and broader questions about diversity and culture over the last several years.”
Morgantown is where Pill, a 1977 WVU Law graduate, grew up. It’s where his parents are from. It’s where he got his education at Morgantown High School and West Virginia University, and it’s where he grew into the person he is today.
“We learned the proper morals, work ethic and leadership skills from day-to day-life in my neighborhood, First Ward,” Pill recalled. “Along with our parents, we had good teachers, church leaders and neighbors in First Ward helping us along the way.”
Despite his strong Morgantown roots, Pill recalls feeling disconnected from the University community when he started his first undergraduate semester. Then, he and some friends joined Phi Kappa Psi. The fraternity opened doors to new friends and peer mentors who influenced Pill to improve his academic performance, grow his social network, gain leadership skills and get involved in public service projects. It also opened the door for him to attend the College of Law.
“I had no intention of going to law school during that time, but when I was a junior, seven members of Phi Kappa Psi started law school, and they encouraged me to do the same,” Pill said. “The direction of my life would have been totally different without the fraternity.”
One such lawyer, forever tied to West Virginia, illustrates the valuable influence and the important responsibility held by members of the legal profession.
In 1913, two native sons of Bedford County, Virginia, established a small firm in Clarksburg, West Virginia. It was a boomtown, close to manufacturing, banking, mineral, and service-related industries. Consequently, the new firm — Steptoe & Johnson — quickly carved out a niche in banking, insurance, litigation, mineral, and public utility law.
Philip Steptoe was a low-key, methodical and scholarly attorney while Louis Johnson was the compulsive extrovert and rainmaker. The complementary partnership between the two founders helped the young firm make a name for itself.
Justin Tyree has a goal to use his law degree to make the world a better place — and that is just what he is doing.
Since graduating in May 2020, Tyree has moved to Omaha, Nebraska, to work for the Immigrant Legal Center. The ILC is Nebraska’s largest immigration legal services nonprofit. It employs full-time licensed attorneys to provide high-quality legal services, education and advocacy to low-income immigrants.
At the ILC, Tyree provides legal assistance to clients in many types of immigration relief cases, including citizenship naturalization, asylum, and processing visas for victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking. He also represents clients in family court proceedings that are directly related to their immigration status.
The numbers are stunning: 76 billion prescription opioid pills flooded the U.S. from 2006-2012. That's the equivalent of about 230 oxycodone and hydrocodone pills for every person in the country.
Six companies distributed 75% of the pills, and four companies manufactured more than 90% of all the pills. Since 1999, more than 230,000 people have died from prescription opioid overdoses.
"This data confirms that the pharmaceutical industry created a tsunami of opiates that drove addiction and death rates up," observed Dr. Thomas Frieden, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Meredith Career Services Center at the WVU College of Law partners with many law firms and organizations in and out of the state to help students secure their paths in the law.
Every year, the staff works to create programming that highlights different areas of the law, prepare students for interviews, assist with application materials, and host professional networking opportunities.
“We are very fortunate to have great relations with a large number of law firms and other organizations, who truly enjoy giving back to WVU Law in a variety of ways,” said Rosalind Lister, interim assistant dean for Career Services. “These firms have a strong and consistent campus presence and are popular amongst our students when it comes time to apply for internships and jobs.”
One such partner is Oxley Rich Sammons. The Huntington, West Virginia-based civil litigation firm has participated in on-campus interviews at WVU Law for many years.
Alex Aide, WVU Law ’13, is the director of programs for Born This Way Foundation, co-founded by pop singer Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta, a native West Virginian and a WVU graduate. The Foundation supports young people's mental health and works with them to build a kinder, braver world.
How did you end up working a "J.D. Advantage" job? Was this your plan when you graduated from WVU Law?
I decided when I was graduating from WVU Law that my top goal when it came to job-hunting was to work with an organization that was helping the world in some way, rather than adding to its problems. My first job after law school was as a Fellow at Propper Daley in Los Angeles, where I helped their team guide clients like Disney and Viacom toward making sound charitable and social impact strategies.
From there, I moved to the WME talent agency, where I worked on a team that provided philanthropic consulting to the agency's clients, including Charlize Theron, Matt Damon, and Lady Gaga. That is how I met Born This Way Foundation’s team, and after learning more about the mission they set out to achieve along with the wonderful people helping to build it, I knew that's where I eventually wanted to be one day.
Michael Hicks, Kenshandra Mitchell, Holly Netz and Lauren Mahaney (above) were one of seven teams competing in the national finals of the Labor and Employment Trial Advocacy Competition, hosted by the American Bar Association in late January 2020. They had earned a trip to the finals in New Orleans by placing second in the regional competition in New York earlier in the school year.
Coaches Mitch Moore ’19, John Pizzo ’14 and Kevin Connoley ’17, attorneys with Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, accompanied the team to New Orleans.
Pizzo: After meeting at the College of Law at 5:20 a.m. on Friday (January 24) and driving to Pittsburgh, our flight to Chicago was on time and thankfully uneventful. That was the end of the good news. Our 10:35 a.m. flight from Chicago to New Orleans was delayed no less than nine times because of fog.
As the delays continued, we started to come to grips with the possibility that the flight to New Orleans—and our competition hopes—might be outright canceled. We began by searching for different flights or other airports that we could drive to and catch a flight. We were unable to find an alternative arrangement.
Jonah Kone has committed a year of service to help the Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic at WVU Law apply economic policy research to its community development efforts across the state.
The Boulder, Colorado, native joined the LUSD clinic as an Americorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) in August 2019. He will work with the clinic until August 2020 and potentially beyond.
The goal of an Americorps VISTA is to support work that alleviates poverty and advances communities. Kone meets that goal by conducting economic and social policy research for the LUSD clinic that is not specifically law-related, but that helps influence the clinic’s legal decisions and recommendations for its clients.
The LUSD clinic works with local governments in towns and counties across West Virginia to create and implement comprehensive plans that support future development. During the comprehensive planning process, a community addresses long-term strategies relating to issues like land use, historic preservation, recreation, infrastructure, transportation and economic advancement.
After more than 20 years of career success in the government, private and non-profit sectors, Kimberly Reed ’96 has reached a new milestone: she is the first woman—and first West Virginian—to lead the federal Export-Import Bank of the United States.
Founded in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt, EXIM is an independent federal agency mandated by Congress to support American jobs and grow the U.S. economy. With 400 employees, EXIM finances the purchase of American exports to help offset the risk of non-payment by foreign buyers, and it extends working capital loan guarantees that enable U.S. businesses to fill export orders.
Reed was nominated by President Donald Trump to be EXIM’s 48th president and chairman of the board of directors. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a bipartisan vote of 79 to 17.
In May, Reed was sworn-in at an Oval Office ceremony with President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and her dad, Terry (photo above).
The 3L at WVU Law recently wrote an article for West Virginia Lawyer magazine to explain how students and the state would benefit from the reinstatement of diploma privilege. The magazine is published by the West Virginia State Bar.
“There is video of the incident from CNN and other news sites, and in the video you can see me,” Jorgensen said. “I was that close.”
Jorgensen was working as a law clerk last summer at the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy in Lincoln, Neb., when he got the chance to sit in on a trial with his supervisor.
During the trial, the defendant suddenly yelled then slashed his neck several times with a pen that was lying on a nearby desk. An ambulance rushed him from the courthouse to a hospital where he was treated for non-life threatening injuries—and the video of the incident went viral.
Hannah Steketee '20 lived and worked in the city of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala over the summer of 2019. She interned with Caras Alegres, a non-governmental organization that provides food, after school programming and educational resources to families and children living at or below the poverty line.
“Guatemala is in the top five most malnourished countries worldwide,” Steketee said. “Caras Alegres provides the dual benefit of combatting malnutrition and allowing parents to go to work knowing their children are safe.”
As the assistant director of development at Caras Alegres, Steketee wrote grants and other documents, communicated with donors, and conducted research.
Ola Adekunle '07 with MacKenzie Milam '20 and Jeremy Cook '20 during Google's 2018 Legal Summer Institute. Adekunle was recently named to the 2019 Class of Lawyers & Leaders by West Virginia Executive magazine and WVU Law.
When he decided to apply to law school, Olaolu "Ola" Adekunle ’07 had veered from the path he created for himself and began a new, unexpected journey.
Pursuing a legal education presented financial and academic challenges for Adekunle, an international student with a STEM background, but his support system at WVU helped him succeed academically and reach his professional goals.
The same day Veronique Vernot found out that she passed the Georgia Bar Exam, she received an e-mail from Mercedes-Benz USA. The company wanted to schedule a digital interview with her for an in-house counsel position at its Atlanta headquarters.
“It was an awesome day!” recalled the 2017 WVU Law graduate.
The digital (video) interview went well and Vernot, just months out of law school, was asked to participate in a formal application process that spanned approximately two months and involved multiple exams and in-person interviews.
In the end, Vernot was asked to join the team and work in Atlanta at Mercedes Benz-USA.
As a 3L at WVU Law, T'Keyah Nelms is turning her passion for helping others into a legal career and a lifestyle centered around public service.
In summer 2018, Nelms was a Certified Legal Intern at the Allegheny County Public Defender’s Office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There, she represented more than 65 clients in criminal and domestic violence preliminary hearings in Pittsburgh’s Magisterial Courts, negotiated deals with Allegheny County assistant district attorneys and law enforcement officers, and responded to mail from incarcerated clients.
“Working with the Allegheny County Public Defender’s Office helped me realize I want to pursue a career in criminal law upon graduation,” said Nelms. “Having the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with clients and to speak in front of a judge every day served as a practical application of what I have learned in my law classes, and I gained specialized skills and knowledge within this area of the law.”
According to Nelms, her passion for serving as a voice for others stems in part from her own experience being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in her sophomore year of college. She lived with the cancer until she graduated and was able to get a job with health insurance to help offset the cost of surgery to remove her tumor.
“I applied to Jones Day because it is internationally leading in litigation, among many other accolades, particularly in its Pittsburgh office,” said Scott. “Jones Day provides its associates with a breadth of opportunities to collaborate across offices and get involved with cases from beginning to end.”
Jones Day is a global law firm with offices in the Americas, Middle East, Asia, Europe and Australia. Its Pittsburgh office employs more than 70 lawyers who handle litigation and transactional matters for a local, national and international clients.
The firm treated Scott as if he was a full-time associate, immediately allowing him to work on billable and pro bono projects with attorneys in Pittsburgh and at other Jones Day offices. He primarily worked on civil litigation assignments involving several areas of law, including insurance, commercial transactions, and cross-border disputes.
Jones Day’s highly collaborative work environment also enabled Scott to work closely with attorneys in the firm’s Washington, DC office on an appellate brief.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been really frustrated by language barriers,” Alison Peck explained. “I didn’t like the idea of being separated from people because we speak different languages.”
As a high school student, Peck spent a summer in Mexico, immersed herself in the culture, and returned home fluent in Spanish. A few years later, after graduating from Yale Law School, Peck put her French proficiency to the test as a clerk in Luxembourg at the Court of Justice for the European Communities.
Now, Peck encourages WVU Law students to think globally in her roles as professor and director of international programs.
This summer, four WVU Law students are working in public defender’s offices throughout West Virginia. They are gaining the valuable work experience and providing an important public service as recipients of the Sprouse Fellowship.
Funded through the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest, the Sprouse Fellowship awards 2L students a $5,500 stipend to work for 10 weeks in a West Virginia state or federal public defender’s office. It is named in honor of James Marshall Sprouse, a U.S. Fourth Circuit Judge and former justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
“The Sprouse Fellowship is a competitive opportunity, and it allows students to obtain their Rule 10 practice certifications and appear in court under the supervision of a licensed attorney,” said Jennifer Powell, director of the Center for Law and Public Service. “These fellowships provide important support and staffing to busy public defender offices and their clients while giving WVU Law students practical, hands-on learning experiences.”
The 2018 Spouse Fellows are Karissa Blackburn, Jade Hamilton, Jason Neal and Ellen Walburn.
The energy sector has changed a lot since Travis Brannon ’13 started law school.
While different sectors continue to fight over pieces of the energy pie, the pie is also getting bigger as growing demand drives global energy production, according to Brannon.
Brannon’s job is to help his clients adapt to the ever-changing environment in the globalized and connected energy economy.
An associate at K&L Gates in Pittsburgh, Brannon represents well-known oil and gas exploration and production companies, as well as other large corporate clients in the energy industry. He also serves companies involved in renewable energy resources as they step up their presence in the industry.
As a law student, Kelli Ganz Murray '14 had worked as summer intern for the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services, which oversees the Boston Public Defender Division. After that experience, she made it her goal to return to the city as a public defender.
Following graduation, Murray moved permanently to Boston in order to take advantage of opportunities that would help her achieve that career goal. She passed the Massachusetts and New York bar exams and she secured a clerkship with the Honorable M. Page Kelley of the United States District Court in Boston.
“I learned an incredible amount from Judge Kelley, who began her own career as a public defender. She helped me make great contacts and get my foot in the door at the public defender agency,” Murray said.
Following her clerkship, Murray spent two years as a public defender for an area north of Boston. The county is notoriously rough and Murray endured long work days and a long commute, but it paid off.
Justin Whitman wants West Virginia to be a hub for the technology industry, beginning with his own high-tech startup, UMuseUs.
"When I moved to Berkeley County from northern Virginia in 2008, there weren't many tech or business ventures in West Virginia, so I had to create my own opportunities," Whitman said. "So I did corporate consulting for Fortune 100 and 500 companies. Then I decided that putting my best foot forward in West Virginia would be to start a tech venture here."
UMuseUs is a multifaceted, interactive social platform that is centered around music of all genres. The website, UMuseUs.com, uses proprietary software to "provide platforms, venues and resources that empower musicians and music lovers to share, discover, interact, create and more."
"UMu se U s allows you to say, 'I'm a guitar player. Th is is what I look like. H ere's an audio or video clip of what I sound like, or here is some of my original work'. Bands are able to find someone to play with them who is qualified, ju st like a recruiter does when they're trying to fill a job," Whitman explained. "It also allows music lovers to discov er new artists and become a musician's first fan. And it allo ws musicians of all ages to showcase their skillset from home and have an avenue for others to hear their music and give them feedback," he said.
When he was a law student, Marlon Rhine ’14 lived a double life.
Before he came to WVU Law, Rhine was a multi-instrument musician for several touring bands. While he lived in Morgantown, the Georgia-native played drums in a local band with a classmate, performing throughout West Virginia.
In between classes, homework and gigs, the Emory University graduate was also tour manager for the late Colonel Bruce Hampton, a founding member of Atlanta’s avant-garde Hampton Grease Band.
“One Sunday afternoon, I went to a music festival in Virginia with Colonel Bruce,” Rhine recalled. “I was there having lunch with big-name musicians one day, and then the next day, I was on Law School Hill sitting in Professor Cardi’s bankruptcy class.”
Attorneys and students in the WVU's Land Use and Sustainable Development(LUSD) Law Clinic work many hours of pro bono service to help the state’s communities develop and grow strategically — but they aren’t doing it alone.
Allison Eckman and Rob Donaldson are Americorps Volunteers in Service to America
(VISTA) who have committed a year of service helping the LUSD Law Clinic and West
Virginia communities create and implement comprehensive plans.
The goal of an Americorps VISTA is to support work that alleviates poverty and advances communities. The LUSD VISTAs meet that goal by working with the public to improve shareholder engagement and facilitate public meetings, workshops and trainings that surround the comprehensive planning process.
Rob Donaldson began working with the LUSD Clinic in November 2016 on a comprehensive plan for McDowell County. He is based at the WVU Beckley Campus and frequents meetings in the communities of War, Gary, Welch, Northfolk, Iaeger, and Keystone.
Opportunities at WVU Law sparked Katie Hutchison’s interest in the plight of refugees and ultimately led her to a prestigious legal internship at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Baltimore, Maryland.
“Working with the IRC is helping me engage with cultures and understand humanitarian crises that were never on my radar before,” said Hutchison, a rising 3L.
Hutchison’s interest in refugee law began two summers ago when she attended a lecture at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico as part of the college’s study abroad program.
She returned to WVU Law and immersed herself in classes on international law, refugee and asylum law, and immigration law. Outside the classroom, Hutchison took advantage of an opportunity to work with Professor James Friedberg to conduct research on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
CJ Reid graduated from WVU Law in May and his main focus this summer is preparing for — and passing — the bar exam.
Like dedicated law students everywhere, Reid spent his last two law school summers gaining valuable work experience that would give his career a boost.
Along the way, though, Reid did something remarkable. He amassed an amazing 840 hours of pro bono legal service — more than any WVU Law student has ever done.
At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, they often say that the first tool in improving public health is studying patterns and the second tool is the law.
Maggie Power, a WVU Law 3L, follows that maxim every day in her externship as a research attorney for the CDC’s Public Health Law Program.
Power is combining her background in public health with her legal education. Her job is studying how law acts as a factor in the cause, distribution and prevention of health-related issues. She also provides technical assistance to local, state, tribal and territorial governments looking to improve their public health laws.
Instead of taking the usual courses in her final semester of law school, Power opted for WVU Law’s Federal Agency and Judicial Externship course. The course allows students to work full-time in a federal or judicial agency to apply their legal training in a professional setting. They meet remotely with their professor and complete a research paper and reflective writing assignments for course credit.
Three 2016 graduates of WVU Law are spending a year serving local communities as public interest lawyers.
Patrick Holbrook, Susan Waldie and Micki Biggs were each awarded post-graduate fellowships by the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest. As fellows, they receive $46,000 to cover their salary and benefits while working in a West Virginia legal services organization until October 2017.
“There’s a lack of access to justice in West Virginia for those who can’t afford
Jennifer Powell, director of the
Center for Law and Public Service at WVU Law. “Funding a full-time, licensed
attorney to work in these organizations really helps, in a direct way, to provide
additional legal services to people who are in desperate need of them.”
Two students recently extended the reach of WVU Law’s public service by helping families in Haiti.
Veronique Vernot and Shane Young traveled to Haiti over winter break to help residents rebuild their lives following the widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and an earthquake in 2010.
With the help of Vernot’s family, the pair traveled across Haiti to deliver toys, clothes and food to families devastated by the two natural disasters. They had gathered the donated items from the College of Law and institutions around West Virginia and the United States.
While in Haiti, Young and Vernot also helped assess damage to homes for NGOs working to rebuild communities in the island nation.
MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA — A fellowship last summer provided WVU Law 3L Lisa Hartline with the experience and confidence she wanted before embarking on her legal career.
As allowed by West Virginia Judiciary Rule 10, Hartline was able to represent her clients in court under supervision of an attorney.
“Now, after getting the full experience of being a working attorney, it’s been hard to just be a student again,” said Hartline. “I feel I’m ready to go from being a law student to a professional lawyer.”
A successful externship has given Jennifer Bauer a support system to explore a future full of possibilities.
For 10 weeks last summer, the WVU Law 3L was among a cadre of elite externs at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Washington, DC. She worked alongside law, business and cyber security students from schools such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Georgetown, Northwestern, the University of Florida and Vanderbilt.
Bauer was the only law student working for the General Counsel in the SEC’s Office of Compliance, Inspections and Examinations (OCIE), but she shared office space with 13 other externs.
This group soon became close knit and brought varying educational and professional backgrounds, stories and advice to the workplace, according to Bauer.