Cody Gillians '12: UNC School of Law Scholarship

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Engineer Cody Gillians says his desire to enter the field of intellectual property brought him to UNC School of Law. He worked in electrical engineering for nearly 10 years before he decided to embark on his career change.

“I talked to my mentor about my desire to change careers, and she suggested law. Law really appealed to me because of the variety of work lawyers perform, and I can still work with technology,” says the 31-year-old. “Anything related to technology appeals to me.”

But he wouldn’t be at Carolina Law if not for his UNC School of Law Scholarship. Switching careers is an expensive, challenging decision for a professional like Gillians.

“Basically, it helps to ease the financial burden of going to school,” Gillians says. “As a result, I need fewer loans, and I have more flexibility.”

In addition to the scholarship, Gillians has worked as a summer intern at law firms. He says he would like to work with small, start-up companies in the future. Despite his experience in the professional world, Gillians admits law school gave him some early challenges. “My first oral argument during my first year is one thing I will never forget, because I was very nervous,” he says.

Another eye-opener for the engineer came with a spring break trip to provide pro-bono will preparation services to low income residents of Eastern North Carolina. “It was great practical experience,” says the native of Chesapeake, Va. “It was even better because I was taking a course on wills, trusts and estates, so it was one of the few opportunities at school where you can take a class and get some practical experience at the same time.”

He is on the North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology board after serving as a staff member last year, and he has also lined up an externship with the Small Business and Technology Development Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Gillians says he hopes one day to be able to support other law students – as he has been helped – with a contribution toward a scholarship. “I see a lot of my friends working in the public sector, which doesn’t pay as much, and I’d like to give money back to allow other students to practice without the financial burden of repaying debt,” he says.

This story is an excerpt from the Fall-Winter 2011 issue of Carolina Law .

-November 14, 2011

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