While many soon-to-be law graduates were preparing for the impending ceremony and wrapping up their final exams on the week of graduation, four Regent University School of Law students were assisting in a three-day $8 million civil trial in Westmoreland County, Va. The plaintiff's lawyer, Randy Singer, is attorney-in-residence at Regent Law, who regularly taps students to work with him.
Throughout the spring 2014 semester, Kevin Hoffman, rising third-year law student Sarah Morris, Matthew Puchferran '14, and Katelyn Rodebeck '14 assisted Singer in preparing for a civil case exploring the wrongful death of a Westmoreland County woman who was found frozen in a snow bank in February 2010.
Each year Singer, who is also managing partner of Singer Legal Group, LLC, pastor of Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Va., and esteemed author of several "legal thriller" books, selects four Regent students to participate in a practicum course designed to give law students hands-on court experience.
Singer explained that the students' work on the case was "invaluable," as they helped research the case, kept the exhibits safe during the three-day trial, and prepared witnesses for their examination in court.
"They not only performed well under pressure, but they had a good time doing it," said Singer. "They have the best attitude and it really made the whole process more enjoyable."
The students not only experienced the pressure of working in a real-life court case, they also balanced the remainder of their challenging coursework; and Hoffman, Puchferran and Rodebeck were preparing to cross the graduation platform.
"It was a crazy week, and we were really low on sleep, but it was totally worth it; we had plenty of adrenaline to keep us going," said Rodebeck, who commuted from Regent to Westmoreland several times throughout the week.
"It was just a perfect end to law school to have that experience right before we graduated, and it set the bar pretty high for the future," said Rodebeck.
Traveling efforts and lack of sleep aside, Rodebeck explained her favorite part was witnessing the lives of those involved in the case changed as a result of her work. When the trial concluded, she said the family members affected by the case hugged and thanked her.
"That's what made me realize how much I love law," said Rodebeck. "I had worked all through law school, being very technical about the law, but this was a real trial with real people—this really happened to them and it was an eye-opening experience."
Puchferran, much like Rodebeck, agreed that while he values the theoretical education that comes alongside his new law degree, there was something special about being a part of a real-life court trial.
"I think that if you're a law student and you have the opportunity to jump into the program like the Singer Law Group offers, you can't say 'no,'" said Puchferran. "It provides so much perspective." For Hoffman, the experience of not only being a part of a trial, but seeing it through from start to finish was the best way to cap his legal education.
"There's no way to really know trial practice skills without actually practicing them," said Hoffman. "I just appreciated learning from Mr. Singer—his instincts are incredible, and you learn those things by watching someone who is really good at what they do."
Hoffman will continue to learn from Singer as he joins his team of associates in 2015.