Could the Grass Be Greener in Greenville? Graham Whittington ’14 Explores New Territory Through Summer Internships (Part 1)

Graham Whittington ’14, the author of this post, is one of two 2012 recipients of an unpaid internship grant provided by Davidson College and The Jolley Foundation.  The purpose of the grant is to allow students to participate in educational internships and to explore living and working in the state of South Carolina.  Graham is pursuing two pre-law internships this summer in downtown Greenville, South Carolina; in his first post, he discusses his internship with Nelson Mullins.

I’m a rising junior from Memphis, TN. This summer, though, I’m in Greenville, SC, miles away from home. As a highly ranked and student-oriented school, Davidson always touts the student benefits that come with the personal attention and opportunities the school can provide. The small class sizes and the professor relationship with students are the most apparent, but the wealth of opportunities runs much deeper.  The Davidson network is supporting my summer in Greenville, and I must thank the Office of Career Services as well as Duff Bruce ’72, who encouraged Davidson to apply for the Jolley Foundation grant, for this great opportunity.

Thanks to Davidson’s strong bond with its alumni, former Davidson students often help current students whenever they can. I benefited greatly from this relationship. Accessing the Alenda Links alumni network—a great resource from the school—I talked to many great Davidson alumni who are Greenville attorneys and helped me arrange my internships.  J. Howard Daniel ’72 led me to Nelson Mullins, where I recently completed a six-week internship.

My Time at Nelson Mullins

Nelson Mullins has thirteen offices across the eastern half of the U.S. and deals with facets of law ranging from corporate business to divorce and everything in between. When I walked in the first day, I found myself in one of the largest, most reputable firms in the nation.

Soon after my tour around the office, an administrative assistant named Kim, with whom I’d soon become quite good pals, came up to me and told me someone at the firm had noted that I study German at Davidson. She led me to the corporate immigration branch of the office and gave me documents to translate. For the first week I created a quasi-office in a caucus room and translated school and resume records for a German engineer applying to become a U.S. citizen. I learned a lot about the immigration process, which I had known little of beforehand, while also practicing the language I’ll be relying upon for four months this coming semester when I study in Berlin. It was a great combination.

The engaging research projects I received at the firm taught me a lot about the levels of citizen immigration, business plans from foreign investors, and various custom laws. For instance, did you know that switchblades shorter than three inches are illegal to carry into the U.S…unless you have only one arm? Reading and researching for the firm was often fun and enlightening, and I really appreciate being given substantive as opposed to purely clerical work.

I didn’t get to see the courtroom as much as I anticipated, but I did get to observe Mr. Tim Madden—the managing partner of the firm—in court for a divorce trial. As he did in this trial, Mr. Madden generally handles cases concerning significant estates. Observing him at work showed me how a great attorney weaves a story out of a case in the courtroom.  I also had the opportunity to meet many other interesting people at the firm, including the former Canadian Ambassador, a former Congressman, the Secretary of Education under Bill Clinton, and even another Davidson alumnus, Sonny Graves ’66.

In all, I very much enjoyed my time at Nelson Mullins. As my first internship and first experience in a law firm, I wish I had been able to observe even more of what attorneys do every day. Still, I managed to take a lot from my experience there and meet many engaging personalities. I can’t thank people like Tim Madden, Patty Waters, Buzz Burwell, and Kim Parker enough for their accepting me into the firm family for six weeks. It was a great experience.

Life in Greenville

Graham takes a break from his internship to play ultimate frisbee in one of Greenville’s many parks.

Graham takes a break from his internship to play ultimate frisbee in one of Greenville’s many parks.

At Davidson, I lead an active life playing ultimate frisbee and running. In Greenville I continued both. I played ultimate at least twice a week and participated in the city’s summer league. The ultimate community here is full of great people and, while I think it could be more organized in some aspects, has been one of my favorite parts of living in Greenville this summer. Thankfully for me, Greenville has a knockout park system. Only a block away from my first residence was Gower Park, a park with many fields and even a retired tank (Greenville seems to have a strange affinity for placing war relics in public places). Most days after work I ran in downtown’s beautiful Cleveland Park. Greenville is a hot city in the summer, but to avoid the parks would be a mistake for sure!

I enjoyed several great restaurants as well. Every other weekend, my girlfriend would come to town and we’d find a place to eat on Fridays. Downtown joints Handi Indian Cuisine and Guadalajara were delicious, but our favorite was easily Kannika’s Thai Kitchen. I also enjoyed the company of Davidson alumni for morning coffee or lunch at downtown eateries including the literally underground Coffee Underground and the upbeat Nose Dive. I give many thanks to Greenville alumni Duff Bruce, Tom Bruce, Sonny Graves, and William Wilson for treating me to lunches and conversation. It’s great to see how invested Davidson alumni are in the school and its students.

I start my internship with my second firm, Mills Ariail, this week and you’ll here about that experience soon. Until then!

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