W&L Law Summer Employment Experiences – Ryan Starks

As the summer comes to an end, we asked several W&L Law students to reflect on their non-traditional summer work experiences.  A law degree can lead to a multitude of professional opportunities – here are just a few.

StarksRRyan Starks is a rising 3L at Washington and Lee University School of Law.  Originally from Pine Island, New York, Ryan earned his undergraduate degree in Communications at SUNY Albany.

One benefit of attending Washington and Lee is having broad geographic flexibility in choosing where you want to work or intern. Before enrolling at W&L, I never pictured myself working in Washington, DC—however, after my first year, I secured an internship with the in-house legal team at a company in my preferred practice area (music). When I decided to pursue an internship in New York City the summer after my second-year, I had no trouble lining up an in-house legal opportunity with another company in the entertainment industry.

This is not to say that seeking out opportunities in entertainment law is a breeze—it isn’t. But with connections, a lot of research, and a bit of “hustle”, W&L provides opportunities where other schools do not. This includes opportunities in major cities outside of New York and Los Angeles (i.e., Atlanta or Nashville), and the ability to pursue internships with government agencies and entities that deal in the creative arts and regulation of technologies (i.e., FCC, Copyright Office, or The Smithsonian).

The unique curriculum and administrative flexibility of W&L (attributed to the small student body) significantly enhanced my summer experiences.  The school is happy to work with students and their employers to accommodate class credit for uncompensated internship positions (where needed) and provide research tools such as connections to W&L’s robust alumni network. The requirement that all students take Administrative Law during their first year bettered my ability to read and interpret statutes and administrative opinions when I worked for a performance rights organization after my 1L year.

After spending a summer on the regulatory side of the music industry, moving into the transactional side provided both an exciting and rigorous learning opportunity. Much of my work involved drafting and revising artist and asset purchase agreements, recording contracts, and other legal tools unique to the music industry. Working in-house enabled me to see first-hand the deal making that occurs between corporations and creators. Unlike a law practice, pressure in-house does not come from partners and senior associates, but rather a CEO, CFO, or IT guru who is looking to accomplish a task and must overcome any legal hurdles that stand in his or her way. The lawyer’s job becomes less advisory and more oriented toward problem solving. In addition, the in-house lawyer’s tasks might include negotiating a lease on a new office space, resolving a conflict between co-workers, or revising press releases. What I personally enjoyed the most about both of my in-house experiences was being able to work with non-legal professionals on a daily basis. From human resources to marketing to executive level co-workers, each offered a new perspective and played a unique role in the operation of a successful company.

I look forward to taking full advantage of W&L’s third-year program by externing for a general practice law firm in the Shenandoah Valley, and participating in practicum courses such as Professor Victor’s course in Entertainment Law. I am especially excited to compare and combine my experiences in-house with my upcoming experience at a law firm. The ability to employ business expertise in the legal profession and legal acumen in the business world are important characteristics of successful attorneys, and there is no question that my two years at W&L, in tandem with my experiences in the field, helped me to acquire both.

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