Posted: 14 Mar 2014 12:45 PM PDT
Kate Barber ('00) and Trent Jernigan ('00) were both attracted to Wake Forest Law for its small class sizes and passion among students and faculty.
They met on their first day and were both placed in the same section of 40 students. Soon it became clear that law school would hold another attraction for them – each other.
"There was definitely a 'Who is THAT?' feeling," Kate said, about her first meeting with her future husband. "I brushed it off. I didn't want anyone to think I had come to law school looking for a husband."
For Trent, who is a partner in Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice's real estate development group, the feelings were even stronger.
"For me, it was love at first sight," he said. "I saw this young woman. She was very attractive. I knew she was very smart. I just had that sort of feeling."
Both of them were dating other people, so they pushed their attraction aside and plunged into their studies.
For Kate, who had been an English major at Duke University, Wake Forest Law offered an intellectually engaging environment.
"I was completely blown away by the range of talent and personalities," she said. "I looked around and I thought, 'Everyone here is smart as a whip and everyone is completely different.' I found that really exciting and academically stimulating."
Trent's interest in law had been kindled as a political science major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, after taking a class in the American legal system.
"You've heard all the horror stories about people not making it or being gone after the first semester," he said. "The thing that stands out to me, especially the first year, was that the professors were so concerned about the students. They not only wanted to make sure you learned how to think like a lawyer. They genuinely cared about wanting you to succeed and to enjoy the process."
Before long, classmates noticed the sparks flying between the two law students and commented on the amount of time they spent together.
Trent and Kate began to feel that they had reverted back to middle school, as they lugged their book bags around, brought their brown bag lunches to school, and tried to catch each other at their lockers.
One of their professors called on Kate in class to discuss a personal property case involving some jewelry a man gave to his wife. He asked Kate if she was dating anyone. As the class snickered, Kate said that she was.
The suspense was over by the end of the second semester when the couple told classmates they were dating.
"You wanted to be seen as taking your studies seriously," Trent said, "but you didn't want to be fielding those weird questions anymore."
The couple became engaged at the end of their second year of law school and began discussing where they wanted to live.
They took the bar exam in July and married in August 2000. They assumed they would not know the results of their exams until September, but the exam results arrived a week before the wedding. Both of them passed.
Trent was reminded of Wake Forest Law faculty's concern and sensitivity toward its students when he ran into Charley Rose shortly after receiving his results. Rose asked how the exam had gone, tactfully avoiding any hint that he wondered how they had done.
"When I told him Kate and I had passed, he got the biggest grin on his face," Trent said. "He was genuinely happy for us. We were just two of his many hundreds of students."
For Kate, who last worked in Wachovia's Trust department, and is currently at home raising their children, Adelaide, 7, and James, 9, their Wake Forest Law experience was doubly blessed. They found not only a law school that they enjoyed, but each other.
"We feel so fortunate that something pulled us to that place and in that direction," she said. "It was very authentic and real to date someone at that time in our lives. You can't fake your way or be something you're not."
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