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Elon University / Today in Elon / In residence at the North Carolina Court of Appeals with Tamara Gomez L’22

An Elon Law Practice Residency with the Hon. Christopher Dillon and his legal assistant, Wesley Jones, introduced Tamara Gomez L’22 to a wide range of practice areas that interact with the North Carolina Court of Appeals every day.

Elon law student Tamara Gomez has completed her spring term 2022 practicing residency in Judge Chris Dillon’s Chambers of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Gomez was supervised by medical examiner Wesley Jones.

Tamara Gomez L’22 enrolled at Elon Law with two years of work experience as a paralegal for a Charlotte law firm.

During this time, Gomez learned about the many ways lawyers defend their clients. Having an older sister who also practices law also helped determine her professional interests.

Yet nothing compares to his experience working with a North Carolina Court of Appeals judge. For someone who is not very committed to the area of ​​law they intend to practice, working for an appellate court judge offers exposure to almost anything.

Gomez, a graduate of Queens University of Charlotte where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, recently answered questions about her work with the Hon. Christopher Dillon and his clerk, Wesley Jones, during a Spring Quarter 2022 residency at the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

This is the fifth and final profile in a series of conversations with Elon law students from the class of 2022 who have completed their practice residencies throughout the winter and spring terms.

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Tell me about some of the work you were able to accomplish through your residency with Justice Dillon and the Court of Appeal.

Most, if not all, of my days have been spent reading, researching, and writing. My main responsibilities were writing hearing notes and working on draft notices. I have spent a great deal of time reading the appellant’s and respondent’s factums, the filed reply factums and the record. After my initial reading, I spent time pulling the issues on appeal and verifying that the correct standard of review was applied. I then located the case law and laws relevant to a case and conducted a side-by-side comparison of each party’s arguments. I found it extremely gratifying to also be able to include my legal opinion should the case be upheld, reversed, or upheld in part and reversed in part.

In your experience, what has surprised you the most about the practice of law and the courts of appeal?

I was very surprised at how much the standard of review affects a case. My first exposure to standards for review occurred in LMC III, but I didn’t fully understand how much those standards could affect an appellate decision. A standard of review describes the degree of deference an appellate judge can afford to a trial court. For example, conclusions of law are examined de novo, so that the appellate judge replaces the judge of the first instance court to examine the case “again”. However, an abuse of power is limited to checking whether the trial judge’s decision was clearly motivated. I quickly learned that the standard of review can, and often does, affect whether the issue raised can even be argued on appeal.

Tamara Gomez L’22 has completed her residency in practice in the offices of the Hon. Chris Dillon of the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Which of your traits benefited you the most in your approach to this residency?

I would strongly say that my intellectual curiosity benefited me enormously during a judicial residency internship. Judges are tasked with analyzing issues that do not always correspond perfectly with case law or relevant laws. For example, we must turn to different mechanisms of judicial interpretation to see what the wording of a case rule or law means, and how the law applies to specific facts. Sometimes the answer is clear. In many other cases, the answer is complex and confusing. A judicial residency requires intellectual curiosity as there must be a desire to see the facts from different angles which can certainly impact not only the current case but also future cases.

How did your time with Justice Dillon and the Court of Appeal shape your plans after graduation?

I came to Elon Law with the goal of exploring as many new areas of law as possible. I never imagined that my law school experience would only include a residency where I could do just that: explore various areas of practice! Judicial residencies are a great opportunity for those who have not yet decided on the type of law they want to do after graduation, as you get immediate exposure to a wide range, from civil law to criminal law and everything else. The attentive nature of Justice Dillon and his firm has instilled great confidence in my legal writing and research skills which I have no doubt will be applicable in any area of ​​law I pursue.

Share a “bit of advice” for current and prospective students as they prepare for their own Elon Law residencies or, more broadly, for law school in general.

Be prepared to adapt your learning and writing styles to a residency placement! Prior to this residency, I had the opportunity to work in corporate law, civil, criminal and administrative litigation. However, this placement is different from my other experiences because judicial internships allow you to see the world from the perspective of judges. Each chamber is also made up of separate judges who have established their respective legal writing styles. In particular, I found that the legal writing in chambers is clear, concise and to the point.

Not surprisingly, state appellate courts receive a large number of trial court decisions, so it was my job to provide a succinct summary for Judge Dillon. I never realized how wordy my writing was until I received my first commentary review and since then I have worked hard to condense my legal writing to match my chambers. Elon Law has given you all the tools you need to succeed in a residency, so be prepared to tweak and apply those skills as you see fit for any room.

About the Residency in Practice Program

Elon Law’s highly experiential 2.5-year program requires each student to complete a full-time, course-related practice residency during their second year of study. Through faculty-led residencies, students cultivate essential skills, values, and judgment to help them excel as lawyers and deepen their understanding of diverse practice areas, while enabling lawyers to pass on their wisdom about the legal profession.

Students work 32-36 hours per week for a 10-week term with a judge or attorney supervisor and a faculty member to create and implement a learning plan that develops increased mastery of professional legal skills and in a field of legal practice.

Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson