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 second post he discusses his internship with Mills Ariail ’95 and reflects on the support he received through the Davidson Network.
After a two-week respite in Athens I returned to Greenville on a mid-July Wednesday. That next Monday I was to become legal understudy to Mills Ariail (‘95) but until then I had Thursday and Friday to fill so I decided to visit the local courts to observe and learn what I could. My internship at Nelson Mullins did not place me in the courtroom too much, so these two days provided a much different atmosphere than to what I had grown accustomed.
Deciding to start small, I first stopped by the Municipal Court. Upon entering the security guards gave me a confused cock of the head when I told them I only wanted to observe the action, but they directed me to the courtroom and I sat down for two hours of traffic violation and public intoxication hearings. I had never before been to Municipal Court, and it amazed me to see that each case lasted an average of about ten seconds. The judge often dismissed the cases or gave the lowest fine. Eventually the judge noticed me and, after I told him I am a Davidson student, seemed fairly excited about my future prospects and told me that observing at the Greenville County Courthouse might yield better cases. To there I went.
For the next day-and-a-half I observed an assault trial and probation proceedings. The assault trial was interesting because new evidence came forward mid-trial and the defendant decided to plea guilty, effectively putting himself in jail for at least eight years. The probation proceedings took place under the same judge—a very fair and sharp man from what I could tell—and I saw how public prosecutors present cases. Unfortunately, the work of the prosecutors appeared formulaic and the cases belted to them on the docket factory line, but the two days of observation provided good preparation for the week ahead with Mr. Ariail.
Although only a couple of blocks away from the high-rise offices of Nelson Mullins, the Law Office of Mills Ariail felt like another world. As a solo practitioner, Mr. Ariail works only with his paralegal, Denise. Going from working with platoons of attorneys to just one was a noticeable change, but one that I welcomed and accustomed myself to quickly.
A Davidson alum who played both football and baseball, Mr. Ariail is one of our few grads to ever receive an NFL contract. His stint in the league paid for law school and since then he has had a successful career practicing with large firms and on his own in Greenville.
Throughout the week I sat in on conference calls and meetings with clients. From social services cases to drug charges to an illegal dissolution of a business partnership, I observed a wide array of client issues. We traveled to courts in Greenville and the surrounding counties for yet a more expansive platter of cases and Mr. Ariail proved an informative and compatible mentor during these trips. I also learned how to format and write out Answers to Complaints and helped Mr. Ariail edit drafts.
At Nelson Mullins I observed the ambience of a corporate firm, but with Mr. Ariail I experienced the everyday business of an independent attorney. My stay with Mr. Ariail gave me a much better grasp of the life of an attorney, showing me how to allot my time and live with what business you get. This internship showed me how an experienced and well-respected attorney works, an insight that will serve as a boost of confidence as I head to the time when I’ll need to really start thinking about whether or not I’ll go to law school. This internship opportunity from Davidson has set my feet on much more stable ground.
As this is my final post, I’d like to give my final thanks to several folks. First, thanks to Mr. J. Howard Daniel for helping me get into contact with Nelson Mullins, and in turn, thanks to Nelson Mullins for a great six weeks. To all of the alumni who took me out to lunch, I appreciate the hospitality greatly. To Mr. Kenny and Dr. Trish Kalivoda, thanks to several weekends and weeks of your own hospitality in your home in Athens. I also cannot thank Mr. and Mrs. Sonny Graves enough for saving me from a poor housing situation in Greenville and adopting me for a week. I thank Mr. Ariail for the great conversations we had and advice you shared while I served as your apprentice. And finally to Davidson, the Jolley Foundation, and Mr. Duff Bruce for awarding me the stipend that helped make this summer my most influential and productive yet, I am greatly indebted.
This summer showed me how great the Davidson network really is. From a friendly lunch to much needed shelter from the storm, Davidson alumni took care of me and took me in as if I were a son. Without Davidson’s resources and opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to experience such a potentially life-changing summer. I remember during senior year in high school when I was sitting in my room at home deciding between getting paid to go to a mediocre state school or going to Davidson. This summer reminded me that I absolutely made the right choice.