Six Hawks Walk into a Bar (Exam)…

Huntingdon College

Stories from the Home We Love So Well

September 30, 2020

Six Hawks Walk into a Bar (Exam) …

You may have seen depictions of the rigors of law school in movies and on television. Grueling study and memorization. Spear-driven, endless questioning from professors. Three years of no sleep and constant stress. Graduate, and then you face the bar exam—a test administered twice each year, in February and July—in which every bit of law school preparation is on the line. It’s where the gavel meets the lectern. If you don’t pass, you can’t be licensed to practice law.
In July 2020, 322 people sat for the Alabama bar exam. Overall, 229 (71 percent) passed—including six Huntingdon Hawks: Nolan Clark ’17, Cumberland School of Law; Seth Harding ’17, the University of Alabama School of Law; Ian Meadows ’16, Texas A&M University School of Law; John Phillips ’14, Jones School of Law; Mary Cam Raybon ’14, Cumberland; and Wesley Smithart ’15, Alabama.
With this credential, Seth Harding, age 19, became the youngest lawyer in Alabama in modern recorded history (the past 100 years, at least). He graduated from Huntingdon at age 16 with a degree in history, right about the time he got his driver’s license. Seth is the sixth oldest sibling of 10, and one of four Harding siblings who earned degrees at Huntingdon (including Katrinnah ’19, now in law school; Heath ’11, a computer scientist in Florida; and Serennah ’08, a physician and lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy). All home-schooled, most Harding children graduated from high school by age 10 and entered college by age 12. Now a staff attorney at the Beasley Allen Law Firm in Montgomery, Seth told the Montgomery Advertiser during an interview in May, “If you look in the history of the U.S. a lot of our leaders started in the legal field and then moved up through there. And that’s the plan. To be the best lawyer I can be and be the best person I can be.”
Wesley Smithart, another legacy Hawk, is the daughter of Huntingdon trustee Elizabeth Couey Smithart ’86, who is also an attorney. Pursuing what she describes as an “unconventional” path to her degree, Wesley graduated with majors in religion and communication studies. She says, “My former Huntingdon professors (who are now friends) encouraged me to apply to both graduate programs and law schools, so I obtained a Master of Theological Studies from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology immediately after college in 2017 and graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law in 2020 with my J.D.” She is an attorney with the civil defense litigation firm Lightfoot, Franklin, and White, with whom she clerked for both summers during law school.

A history major at Huntingdon, Ian Meadows gained quick confidence once he arrived at law school. “I was well-prepared heading into day one of law school,” says Ian. “While it isn’t easy, Huntingdon’s curriculum and faculty made me ready to step into a heavy course load filled with new concepts. Just as important, the relationships I made in the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and the men’s soccer team prepared me for meeting the challenges of leadership and personal development.”

Mary Cam Raybon, a communication studies and English major at Huntingdon, concurs. “Huntingdon prepared me for law school by having small class sizes where participation and engagement in class discussions were critically important. In law school, students must always be prepared to engage in discussions, think critically, and not be afraid to ask questions when necessary. Huntingdon’s small, discussion-oriented classes were therefore the perfect precursor to law school and gave me the tools I needed to succeed.”

For John Phillips, the method of teaching at Huntingdon was key to preparing him for the challenge. “Law school is unique in the fact that most, if not all, law professors use the Socratic method of teaching,” explains John. “This basically entails professors giving questions instead of answers. One of the more difficult aspects of that teaching style, as it pertains to law school, is [that] when you are called upon, you and the professor engage in an extended (sometimes for the entire class period) one-on-one dialogue about the case or legal concept at hand. This happens in front of everyone else in the class and can be very nerve-wracking and stressful. During my time in the HC political science department, students were regularly tasked with providing in-depth analysis of the reading assignment by presenting to the class your findings and impressions. I found that I was well-prepared to speak at length in front of an entire class, and frankly, not as nervous as those who attended other institutions who have never been required to do such.” John is specializing in criminal law.

One-on-one attention from professors also made the difference for Nolan Clark, a political science and business administration major at Huntingdon. “I had several professors who focused on improving my writing and oral presentation skills, as well as my critical thinking,” says Nolan. “The smaller class sizes helped me feel comfortable engaging in open discussion during class. I had the unique opportunity to be active in several organizations simultaneously, which helped me understand the importance of time management. My advisors and the administration were also extremely helpful in providing advice on schools, applications, and just being supportive of my goals for the future. Overall, I believe Huntingdon College prepared me extremely well for law school, and I don’t think I would have been as well prepared had I gone anywhere else.”  He is an attorney in the litigation practice group of the Montgomery firm Balch & Bingham.

Ian is working with the Powell Law Firm in Gulf Shores, Alabama, a trial law firm that covers a variety of law specializations. He hopes to work toward building a new arm of the firm in entrepreneurship, his passion. “I believe starting your own business is a brave decision that can alter the course of your family’s life for generations to come,” says Ian. “I look forward to building out a section of the firm that is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs get their business started and counseling them throughout the life of their business.”

Encouraging students to pursue lifelong learning opportunities is a pillar of a Huntingdon education—one that guides Wesley Smithart. “I’m thrilled to enter a career where I can be a lifelong learner,” she says. “Litigation allows me to work on different cases and issues every single day, so I’m excited for the challenge.”

Mary Cam has accepted a position working in the mass torts department with the Beasley Allen Law Firm in Montgomery, and says this is just the beginning of her dream. “I feel excited that I can finally carry out Huntingdon’s motto of going forth and applying wisdom in service to others by representing clients and fighting against the many injustices in their society.”

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