“When I went to work in the morning, the sun was already bright. I crossed two bridges and saw a view of grass meeting the water. The sun was just a little too hot on my neck as I walked into the office, and the air outside smelled like salt water. That's how I started every workday. It was ideal.”
2L Regan Martinez lived this “ideal” life while working at Headley Ballard LLC in South Carolina from May to August 2021. The firm’s founders are two members of the WVU Law Class of 2004, Brian Headley and Jason Ballard.
Martinez and fellow 2L Alexis Kessel connected and interviewed with Headley Ballard LLC through WVU Law’s on-campus interview program run by the Meredith Center for Career Services and Professional Development.
The Center provides personalized programming and career services to WVU Law students and alumni throughout their careers. Through partnerships with alumni-run firms like Headley Ballard, CSPD connects current law students with learning and work opportunities that coincide with their desired work locations, individual legal interests and career goals.
“WVU Law alumni are extraordinarily dedicated to their alma mater, and they give back in so many ways — by hiring our students to work alongside them, by networking with them, by mentoring them and by returning to the law school to present career-related programs to them,” said Rosalind Lister, assistant director of the Meredith Center. “We love watching our law school community in action in these ways.”
CSPD made out-of-state opportunities available to Martinez because knew she wanted to experience life in a different setting while attending law school in the Mountain State.
According to Lister, approximately 20% of students at WVU Law have reported taking on out-of-state internships and externships in law school, and that number has increased slightly with the recent increase in remote and hybrid work opportunities available. Many firms these days have also conducted their OCIs remotely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though Martinez’s OCI was done virtually, she connected with Brian Headley, Headley Ballard’s managing partner, on a personal and professional level so much so that she could see herself working at Headley Ballard right away.
“My OCI with Headley Ballard was a standout kind of interview. Our conversations were really thoughtful, but we also just genuine shared connections and interests,” she said. “I could immediately see myself working there with them, and I was excited to meet my coworkers and participate in the firm’s community.”
Headley Ballard LLC operates offices in Daniel Island, South Carolina, and in Pearisburg, Virginia. The firm handles medical malpractice and personal injury cases in West Virginia, Virginia, South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
Headley and Ballard were excited to take on WVU Law student workers to help support their growing caseload. They agreed that maintaining a relationship with CSPD would allow them to work with and help mentor students, and it would provide potential employees the firm could recruit once the students graduate.
“Before we knew who they would be, we knew our summer associates would be fellow Mountaineers. Though we practice law in several states, most of our cases are West Virginia-based. For that reason, it was very important to us that the law students who would be joining our team loved West Virginia and its people just as much as we do,” Headley and Ballard said in a joint statement.
The firm’s offices are their own micro communities, where the employees work together when needed and support one another on a daily basis. The work atmosphere is casual and comfortable, but the legal work Martinez and Kessel did once they arrived in the South Carolina office was serious and meaningful.
Martinez and Kessel regularly drafted documents and written discovery for cases in several state and federal jurisdictions. They also assisted in formulating deposition strategies as well as general case strategies, with guidance and input from supervising attorneys.
According to Ballard, both students regularly provided a fresh perspective and strong judgment during their participation in these important discussions.
“For our summer associates, we use a combination of hands-on work, independent projects, shadowing, and general discussion. Beyond tangible work products, we also focus on the nuances of effective lawyering: the “how’s” and “why’s” of presenting case facts to different audiences,” Headley and Ballard said. “Most importantly, we are careful to foster a firm culture that emphasizes the value of each team member’s unique perspective. We set aside regular times for progressive feedback from all team members and invite the students to do the same.”
This type of hands-on practical training is a valuable way for law students to apply what they learn in the classroom and during career services programming, according to Lister.
“While we can present programming on subjects like professionalism, etiquette and work values throughout the academic year, the attorneys our students work with actually demonstrate these concepts in real-life situations,” Lister said. “The maturation I see from students after their first law-related work experience is impressive. They learn so much, and they often name a person or a few people who positively influenced their experience once they return to school. Often, that person is a WVU Law alumnus.”
For Martinez, working in a real-life legal setting under the supervision of passionate attorneys like Headley and Ballard changed her career goals. As she headed into the first semester of her second year of law school, she decided to pursue a career as a plaintiff’s attorney after and helping clients at Headley Ballard better their lives.
“Before working with Headley Ballard, I thought that lawyers had to be one thing or the other. I thought that if I wanted to do meaningful, helpful legal work, I was going to have to give up my free time and not work at a traditional firm,” she explained. “I learned at Headley Ballard that I can genuinely help people and change their lives for the better while maintaining a work/life balance and living the lifestyle I want. They showed me that I can have it all.”
About Regan Martinez
Martinez is from Boone County, West Virginia. She graduated from Marshall University in 2016 with a degree in History. At WVU Law, she is a board member of Hispanic Law Students Association and president of OUTLaw. Martinez is a Bloom Scholar.