Alumni Spotlight: Carson Cox ’22L and Trey Smith ’22L Carson Cox and Trey Smith, both new associates at Troutman Pepper in Richmond, are involved with a pro bono case concerning veteran's benefits.
Carson Cox ‘22L was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. He graduated from Rhodes College in 2019, where he played football and majored in Political Science with a minor in German Studies. While attending law school at W&L Law, Carson served on the Moot Court Executive Board and was an editor for the German Law Journal. He also worked as a judicial extern for U.S. District Court Judge Thomas T. Cullen in the Western District of Virginia and was a summer associate at the law firm Troutman Pepper LLP. Carson currently works at Troutman as an associate in the Regulatory, Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) group based in the Richmond, VA office where he focuses his practice on civil litigation and appeals. Outside of work, Carson enjoys running, exploring Richmond, and traveling.
Trey Smith ‘22L was born in Washington, DC but grew up in St. John’s, Antigua. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2018, where he majored in Government. Before attending law school at W&L Law, Trey worked as a real estate paralegal in Charlottesville, VA. In law school, Trey was a summer associate at the law firm Troutman Pepper, LLP, where he currently works as an associate in the Regulatory, Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) group based in the Richmond, VA office. Outside of work, Trey enjoys all forms of exercise, traveling to new places, and spending time with his family and friends.
What is your current position at Troutman Pepper and how did you find this job?
Carson: I am a junior associate within the RISE Group, and I found this job through the W&L OCI process (s/o to Dean Jarrett and the OCS team).
Trey: I am currently a first-year associate within the RISE Group. Troutman first came on my radar after Dean Jarett and Andrea Hilton recommended the firm to me (thanks to you both!). I then had the opportunity to connect with the firm during 2L OCIs. As a summer associate, I received several assignments from our group, and I realized I really enjoyed helping clients navigate the regulatory issues and investigations. The rest is history.
What sort of legal issues do you handle on a day to day basis?
Carson: My work is primarily focused on civil litigation and appeals — almost exclusively on the defense side and usually involving a state actor as the opposing party (often a state Attorney General). Because my group is not tied to a particular subject matter, the type of legal issues I encounter can vary widely from case to case. Some of the more consistent areas include state consumer protection statutes, state and federal administrative procedure acts, and election and redistricting law.
Trey: It really varies. I spend about half of my time helping a public service company receive government approval for infrastructure projects, which means conducting a lot of due diligence to ensure the project is “sound” from several important perspectives. I spend the other half on the civil side, representing companies in investigations and litigation brought by state Attorneys General. Typically, these matters arise under consumer protection laws, and cover a wide number of industries.
How did you become involved with the pro bono case involving a veteran who has been denied GI Bill benefits?
Carson: I was looped into the case through my involvement with the firm’s appellate team. I was brought in at the Federal Circuit en banc stage to assist with preparing our cert petition and have been involved ever since.
Trey: I first became involved in Rudisill two months into my career here at Troutman. Tim McHugh, a senior associate here at the firm, asked me if I wanted to help him prepare for oral arguments in “a veterans pro bono case.” I said yes, because every attorney I had spoken to during law school advised me to accept new opportunities when they arose! At the time, the Federal Circuit had granted the Secretary of Veterans Affairs’ Petition for Rehearing en banc, and Tim was preparing for oral argument. I attended several practices moots and travelled to D.C. to watch oral argument.
Describe the work you are doing on the pro bono case.
Carson: We are essentially arguing that the VA improperly restricted the amount of veterans’ education benefits that our client was entitled to under the proper reading of the Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bills. To support our argument, I have conducted legal and factual research, strategized arguments, and assisted in drafting our substantive briefs. I have also had the opportunity to meet with our client, Mr. Rudisill, twice and want to reiterate that he is a wonderful person and deserving client who has also provided valuable insight on the merits of his case. Currently, we have submitted Mr. Rudisill’s opening merits brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. Going forward, I am planning to assist in drafting Mr. Rudisill’s reply brief and to help prepare our lead attorneys for oral argument at the Supreme Court later this year, which I plan to attend.
Trey: I have worn several hats throughout this case. At the cert stage, I helped with legal research and did some of the initial drafting. Once the Supreme Court decided to hear the case, I shifted into more of a support role, running down various legal issues; handling logistics; and coordinating external communications. As the case proceeds, I will continue in whatever role I am needed. It is a huge privilege to be able to help represent Mr. Rudisill, who is not only entitled to Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, but is also incredibly deserving of them.
Which W&L classes and/or experiences do you think were most helpful in preparing you for working on this case and at Troutman?
Carson: Legal research — This is a huge part of any litigator’s daily practice (especially as a junior associate) and I am thankful W&L required a year-long course to establish a solid research foundation.
The practicums and experiential courses — I took the Trial Advocacy and Civil Litigation Practicums and participated in the Judicial Externship program at W&L, which I have found to be very useful. Any familiarity with or previous experience drafting legal papers, preparing for trial, or being in a courtroom provides invaluable experience to pull from and makes you more confident when getting started as a litigator.
The Virginia Law and Procedure course — I highly recommend this course for W&L students planning to take the Virginia bar and practice in Virginia. The Commonwealth has a unique legal landscape and becoming familiar with it early on can both give you a leg up on out of state opposing counsel and make you valuable to partners who are unfamiliar with Virginia law and/or primarily practice in federal court.
Trey: Of course, legal research and writing have been essential to my career thus far—as they are for every attorney. But I think my participation in W&L’s advocacy offerings and practicums really helped me to refine those skills by providing an opportunity to put them into practice.
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