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WLF Internship: Meet Sarah Dillard

We wanted to take a moment to introduce our most recent—and exceptional—intern. Sarah Dillard is a third-year student at Campbell Law School and this year takes on the role of president of the high-profile Campbell Law Innocence Project (C.L.I.P.), which is responsible for assisting the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence in reviewing innocence claims.

There’s no doubt Dillard has brought stellar experience, youthful exuberance and a passion for law to Whitley Law Firm. We wanted to share a little more on what Dillard has given our practice—and taken away from her experience working alongside our attorneys.

What has it been like working at WLF?

The family atmosphere at WLF makes working here an absolute joy. The position helped me to overcome my long-held presumption that criminal defense work was the only area of law in which I could truly help people. I remember reading the WLF website and noticing that one attorney mentioned an affinity for helping those who have the deck stacked against them. I thought, “That is what I want to wake up each morning and do.” Just looking forward to developing the ability to positively impact someone whose life has been turned upside down by an accident or other trauma has truly reignited my passion for becoming a member of the legal profession.

Doing this kind of work with WLF served as a reminder that although the stress of law school can at times feel insurmountable, the journey is 100% worth it. Working alongside the attorneys at WLF has shown me how to hone my own skills and interests to do what they do every day—make a difference. I feel absolutely repurposed, and direction is certainly helpful as law student entering my third and final year of schooling.

What types of assignments have you been given?

The assignments always varied. I completed research memorandums and client fact sheets, called clients directly, drafted complaints, prepped for mediation and depositions, studied the health effects of dangerous drugs and defective medical devices and updated mass tort files.

I always look forward to conversing with clients, but I found preparing fact sheets to be incredibly rewarding. Being in a position to hear these often traumatic stories involving ongoing injuries, and to then transcribe each one into a format helpful to the legal professionals involved was an immensely humbling and unforgettable experience.  

How else have you enjoyed doing this summer?

While working at WLF, I was concurrently enrolled in a summer course on Wills & Trusts at Campbell Law, but I also found time to participate in a Tri-Sports Social Club kickball league. I feel like my summer was well-rounded professionally, academically and socially.

What has been most rewarding about the work?

I found communicating with elderly clients to be particularly rewarding. These conversations reminded me of the importance of deprogramming a bit from my legal training in order to connect on a more intimate level with clients.

Particularly in the area of multi-state complex litigation, distance alone can place a client in a position where he or she must share deeply personal information with an attorney or legal staff member over the phone. In this scenario, it is crucial to get to know the client and to establish mutual trust and dependability. At times I found myself building these relationships by sharing stories I learned from my own grandparents’ childhoods or their experience learning how to use new technology.

I was impressed with the attorneys at WLF in this regard, because they can all be seen walking the office hallway in constant communication with clients, each wearing a phone headset. Witnessing that level of commitment to and engagement with individual clients was incredibly valuable.

How might you apply what you’ve learned?

Aside from the legal training I will apply in the future, I will also take away the humility I gained from this experience. It is so important to remember that you can learn something from everyone you meet. Be it knowledge of the application of a law or something about yourself, every interaction represents an opportunity to share and to grow.

This position has been a reminder that those opportunities do not cease when you cross the threshold into your workplace. Rather, at WLF, the frequency of those moments increases exponentially, because of the smiling faces and friendly people inside. I am so thankful to have had the chance to get to know and to emulate this truly dedicated and compassionate group of people.