Meet the Graduates: Class of 2014

Students John Harding Aaron Gober-Sims Christine Shu Gilleland Phillip Williamson Sharif Gray Chelsea Belote

Meet the Graduates
Members of the Class of 2014 talk about their experiences at Virginia Law.

BeloteChelsea Belote
Hometown: Red Oak, Texas

Who I was then: I graduated from the University of Texas in 2010, where I majored in political communications and sociology. I stayed in Austin and worked at Scottish Rite Dormitory and the Texas legislature for a year before I went to law school.

Amazing law school class: UVA Law is home to some incredibly talented professors, so it's hard to choose just one! First-year Contracts with Jason Johnston was one of my all-time favorites — it sparked my interest in business law and taught me to pay attention to detail and analyze complex issues from a variety of angles. I also loved taking classes from my Legal Research and Writing professor and Dillard advisor, Ruthie Buck, and my Civil Procedure professor, Ann Woolhandler. In addition to teaching me how to think like a lawyer, they provided valuable guidance and instilled confidence in me throughout my time at UVA.

Outside class: I served as a Peer Advisor, a Dillard Fellow, and an articles editor for the Virginia Law & Business Review. I also gave tours with the Virginia Law Ambassadors and was a member of the North Grounds Softball League. Outside of the law school, I volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club through the Junior League of Charlottesville.

Favorite outing/activity to unwind: I love driving out to a local vineyard and spending an afternoon with friends. Charlottesville is such a beautiful city and, to me, it's the perfect size for law school. It's a terrific place to spend three years.

Noteworthy summer job: During my 1L summer, I did juvenile justice research and policy work at a legal nonprofit called Texas Appleseed, and worked as a summer associate at Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody in Austin. I spent my 2L summer working as a summer associate at Haynes and Boone and Andrews Kurth in Dallas.

What's next: I will be returning to Haynes and Boone in Dallas this fall, in their corporate group.

Who I am now: I discovered an interest in business law at UVA that I never would have predicted before I came to law school, and I was thankful that I could develop those skills through our Law & Business Program. I feel so lucky to attend a school that's strong in several different areas of law. No matter what type of law you ultimately want to practice, a UVA legal education puts the world at your feet.

What you should know about Virginia Law: I honestly can't imagine having a better law school experience. When I first visited UVA during Admitted Students Weekend, I noticed that the students here were genuinely happy in addition to being intelligent and successful. That pretty much sealed the deal for me. I felt that I could be myself, learn how to be a fantastic lawyer, and enjoy law school all at the same time. After three years, I'm happy to report that's true! I've had the privilege of going to school with some of the brightest and most accomplished people I've ever met, but the best part is that they are also some of the kindest people I've ever met. I am incredibly excited to start my job in the fall, and at the same time, I'm so sad to leave such a wonderful place and sweet friends behind. That is a true blessing.

GillelandChristine Shu Gilleland
Hometown: San Marino, California

Who I was then: Graduating from Colby College with a double major in Russian language and culture and international studies and a minor in anthropology, I knew that I wanted to build a career working with international issues. I took two years off between college and law school, the first year of which I spent in Almaty, Kazakhstan, as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. I realized there the power of negotiation and dispute resolution in international affairs, both in business and in diplomacy, and determined to go to a law school that would provide me with ample opportunity to pursue my interests in international and cross-border issues.

Amazing law school class: Two classes in particular stick out in my mind: Contracts with George Geis during the first semester of my 1L year helped me realize that I actually wanted to pursue corporate law; and International Business Transactions with Paul Stephan, from which I received my first foundation in business law topics. Both of these professors have a way of speaking so clearly and simply, and yet so concisely, that you hang on every word.

Outside class: 1L year: 1L section Human Rights Representative, Public Service Center Advisory Committee; 2L year: Virginia Journal of International Law (executive editor), Virginia Tax Review (editor), Virginia Law Ambassador, Public Service List-Serve (co-founder/coordinator), VIPS (FOIA project manager), J.B. Moore Society of International Law (director of development); 3L year: Virginia Journal of International Law (managing editor, production), Virginia Tax Review (editor), Virginia Law Ambassador.

Favorite outing/activity to unwind: I loved to go out and toss a Frisbee at one of the many fabulous parks in Charlottesville, play soccer, play tennis at local tennis courts, hike the Monticello trail, and go to Saturday dinner parties with section mates and other friends.

Noteworthy summer job: During my 1L summer I worked at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. It was amazing to have the opportunity to write and publish two decisions and two summary decisions (and to feel comfortable after just one year of law school); 2L summer I worked as a summer associate at Debevoise & Plimpton (New York and Moscow offices) and had the opportunity to advise the general counsel of a multinational company on the progress of a cross-border transaction.

What's next: After graduation I will return to Debevoise & Plimpton as an associate in its New York office.

Who I am now: I am as interested in international issues as ever, but now I have direction and self-confidence in my ability to be an effective lawyer who can adapt smoothly to the quickly changing world of cross-border transactions. I am also confident in my ability to manage people, to produce high-quality work, and to have fun with it all. And importantly, I feel that I have an entire community I can turn to for advice in the form of UVA professors, administrators, alumni and current students.

What you should know about Virginia Law: UVA Law is a place designed to help you succeed. It is a place where you go with an idea, no matter how vague or specific, of what you would like to do with your life. You explore what the law has to offer, you learn and grow through your classes and your extracurricular activities, you discover what you actually would like to do, and you are supported in every way possible to realize that dream. I think UVA Law is so full of support and encouragement because we are generally happy, driven people who believe in each other and in ourselves. We are a real family rooting for everyone around us. This is a great place to begin what will (hopefully!) be a fruitful and rewarding career.

Gober-SimsAaron Gober-Sims
Hometown: Westpark, Ohio

Who I was then: I was a 21-year-old who knew a little bit about politics, economics and philosophy after graduating from the University of Akron.

Amazing law school class: Professor Anne Coughlin's' Criminal Investigation class was phenomenal because she's an engaging lecturer and an expert on the Fourth Amendment (she's also so, so nice; seriously, have you ever felt better after giving a completely wrong answer?). Professor Michael Gilbert's' Regulation of the Political Process class was outstanding because we covered a lot of hot topics before SCOTUS decided them (e.g., Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and limits on political contributions), and Professor Gilbert did a fabulous job at explaining complex rules/decisions.

Outside class: BLSA, Virginia Law & Business Society, Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership and NGSL. I also worked as a research assistant for Anne Coughlin and Kim Forde-Mazrui.

Favorite outing/activity to unwind: Golfing at Birdwood or one of the other amazing courses in the area, going wine-tasting, attending concerts at John Paul Jones Arena, and 3LOLing (yes, it's a thing — enjoying your third year of law school).

Noteworthy summer job: As a 2L, I was a summer associate at Jones Day's Cleveland office, and I worked on the Detroit bankruptcy proceedings.

What's next: I'll be returning to Jones Day's Cleveland office to focus on mergers and acquisitions, or banking and finance.

Who I am now: I know it's clichéd, but law school has really changed the way I think about problems and everyday situations. Professor Gilbert was correct when he said that language ceases to have meaning after law school because everything is ambiguous, or vague, or both.

What you should know about Virginia Law: UVA Law is an incredible place, and although I love to brag (come on, we all do a little bit), I really don't try to when I explain how I feel about UVA Law. I joke that my biggest mistake during the law school application process was visiting UVA first because I instantly fell in love with Charlottesville, the school, and the people. UVA is often described as collegial, and unlike a lot of law firms, the school really lives up to this reputation. One of the greatest things about UVA Law is despite being branded as "fratty," a person who doesn't drink, play softball or wear pastels can still have an amazing experience here.

GraySharif L. Gray
Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia

Who I was then: I graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 2011.

Amazing law school class: Without hesitation, Leadership and Team Management by Professor Jim Donovan; it should be a mandatory course. Professor Anne Coughlin's' Criminal Investigation course is also excellent. And, of course, you can't go to UVA Law without taking Evidence with Professor Greg Mitchell.

Outside class: I served as the executive officer of a U.S. Army Reserve Drill Sergeant unit here in Charlottesville; it was a nice change of pace. I also spent time volunteering at the Haven Homeless Shelter and with the ABLE Big Brother Program.

Favorite outing/activity to unwind: I tend to experiment with new things. At the moment, I'm teaching myself how to fish, play the guitar and develop websites ( is my current project). Throughout law school, though, spending time (such as hiking Old Rag Mountain) with my law school friends has been something I've always enjoyed.

Noteworthy summer job: I spent my 1L summer at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Alexandria, Virginia. I spent my 2L summer prosecuting cases at the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. And I spent the fall of my 3L year as a part of the UVA Law in DC externship program, at the Office of the Solicitor General of the United States.

What's next: I will be working as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia and transitioning to the U.S. Army JAG Corps.

Who I am now: UVA Law has been a transformative experience for me. Over the past three years, I've gotten to know myself better and have gained the confidence to seek out and pursue my true passions.

What you should know about Virginia Law: It's a nice place to spend three years. UVA Law is full of nice people, and Charlottesville is a great place to live. I enjoyed my time here.

HardingJohn W. H. Harding

Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland

Who I was then: I graduated from Brigham Young University in 2010, where I majored in political science and minored in business management. I ended up taking one year off after college to work at a law firm in D.C. to make sure that I really wanted to practice law. Receiving confirmation from that experience, my wife and I headed down to Charlottesville with our 4-month-old baby girl.

Amazing law school class: It is too hard to choose a favorite class. I loved Federal Courts with Professor John Jeffries, Trial Advocacy with Professor Chris Kavanaugh, Pretrial Litigation with Professor John Rottenborn, and Religious Liberty with Professor Douglas Laycock (it is always fun when your professor is the one who argued the Supreme Court cases you're studying).

Outside class: I was president of the Rex E. Lee Law Society, senior research and projects editor for the Virginia Environmental Law Journal, a law school ambassador, and participated in the Libel Show and A Cappellate Opinions (the law school a cappella group). I also spent plenty of time playing softball on Copeley Field. 

Favorite outing/activity to unwind: One of my family's favorite things to do is to walk to the city market near the Downtown Mall on a Saturday morning. I also love hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Noteworthy summer job: My 1L summer I worked as an intern at Kelogg Huber Hansen, a trial and litigation firm based in Washington, D.C. I was a summer associate in Winston & Strawn's D.C. office my 2L summer. Both were incredible experiences.

What's next: I will be returning to Winston & Strawn this fall.

Who I am now:  My second year, we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy, so we are leaving Charlottesville with two future Hoos (you can successfully juggle the challenges of law school and parenthood). I'm also leaving having made life-long friends and equipped with the tools I need to be a successful lawyer. While I still have much to learn about the law, I'm excited for the future.

What you should know about Virginia Law: The law school exemplifies Thomas Jefferson's dream of an "academical village" where "the interaction between scholars and students enlivens the pursuit of knowledge." Professors have an open-door policy, invite students over to their homes and do so much more than just lecture. It is also not uncommon to receive an email from career services in the middle of the night just because [Senior Assistant Dean for Career Services] Kevin Donovan wanted to make sure you had the information you needed for an interview tomorrow. Most importantly, the students are committed to learning in a collegial environment. I am constantly amazed by their brilliance in the classroom and their good nature on the softball field. 

LissonAnnalise Lisson

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Who I was then: A born-and-bred Georgia girl. I was raised in Atlanta and attended the University of Georgia, where I was a member of the women's track and field team and studied international affairs. After graduation, I returned to Atlanta for a one-year teaching fellowship at the Wesleyan School before beginning law school.

Amazing law school class: Federal Courts with Caleb Nelson was the most challenging class I took in law school, and Professor Nelson made the class both interesting and practical. Law and Public Service, taught by Anne Coughlin, challenged me to think introspectively about my legal career early on in law school. Professor Nelson and Professor Coughlin are both exceptional teachers.

Outside class: I served as assistant managing editor of the Virginia Law Review, a Peer Advisor, and gave tours of the Law School to prospective students and their families. As a 1L, I competed on UVA's Extramural Moot Court Team and volunteered with the Legal Aid Justice Center's JustChildren Program. Finally, I completed a full-time externship last fall in the Atlanta U.S. Attorney's Office, where I assisted in federal criminal prosecutions.

Favorite outing/activity to unwind: I'm happiest when I am outside, so Charlottesville was the ideal place for me to attend law school. My favorite activities were running on the Rivanna Trail, which zigzags throughout the city, and hiking in Shenandoah National Park. Old Rag Mountain is the best 9-mile hike in Virginia.

Noteworthy summer job: I spent both of my summers in Atlanta. I worked for McKenna Long & Aldridge after 1L, and I split my summer after 2L between McKenna Long & Aldridge and Alston & Bird.

What's next: I'm clerking for federal Judge Julie Carnes in Atlanta next term. After my clerkship, I plan to join Alston & Bird in Atlanta.

Who I am now: I married my best friend after 1L, made close friends heading to every corner of the country, and have a deeper understanding of the social responsibility that comes with being an attorney. UVA Law taught me to think more critically about the role of law in society, even on a daily basis when reading the news or chatting with friends.

What you should know about Virginia Law: UVA Law is truly unique from its peer law schools. Students produce a culture where they are hard-working, warm and genuine, and the school is teeming with professors who are deeply committed to their students and to UVA Law. I was nervous to move to Virginia for three years, and now I can't imagine having gone anywhere else.

Meet the Graduates: Class of 2013