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.
Chrishantha Vedhanayagam is a rising 3L at Washington and Lee University School of Law. Originally from Tampa, Florida, Chrishantha earned her undergraduate degree in Business Management and Music at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
I chose Washington and Lee because I knew it would prepare me for more than life at a law firm. This summer was an example of how I could use my law degree in an unexpected way. I have spent my summer at the Illinois Finance Authority, an entity that issues tax-exempt municipal bonds. My primary responsibility was to learn about what makes these bonds tax exempt, as well as the issues that arise during a bond issuance. I then helped the Authority with their compliance policies in order to ensure the bonds they issued remained tax exempt. After taking several tax classes at Washington and Lee, I knew this internship would give me a chance to understand some of its complexities outside the classroom.
The Authority primarily issues bonds for healthcare organizations, allowing major hospitals to save money by not paying taxes as they pay back the money they borrowed. Because I spent a year in healthcare consulting prior to law school, this aspect of the internship especially appealed to me. I enjoyed using my research skills to develop my understanding of the tax code and ultimately add value to large healthcare organizations. The combination of tax, healthcare, and the personalities of the lawyers I worked with made the job a perfect fit for me.
My day to day varied constantly and taught me to be flexible. I assisted with some of the Intergovernmental Agreements for the State of Illinois, giving me insight into the state government workings and logistics. I also helped draft memos and guidelines for projects proposed before our Board of Directors. As bond documents were written, I assisted with portions of their drafting and review. I also worked on internal memos dealing with compliance to ensure that we were compliant with the IRS. I attended deal “closings” – the finalization of a bond issuance – where all members of the project met, signed documents, and recapped the weeks leading up to the deal. I had the opportunity to network with many lawyers who not only work for law firms, but banks, consulting firms and hospitals as well. This exposed me to the variety of ways my degree could be used after law school.
Two years at Washington and Lee have given me analytical skills that can translate to any environment. In order to understand and contribute to the projects I was involved in, I often had to learn the logistical and tax implications of a bond deal quickly. This involved research on my own and even some textbook reading to understand the meetings I participated in and documents I helped edit. My involvement in Mock Trial at Washington and Lee this past year helped me think creatively when approaching problems and trained me in the ability to quickly adjust my strategy or approach for a project when needed. It also made me very comfortable with public speaking, which was important for some of the meetings I was a part of. Looking back on this summer, I was a little apprehensive about the fact that I wasn’t working at a law firm. But after the experience and breadth of exposure I have had, I can honestly say that I am happy with my decision to work for the Illinois Finance Authority, and am excited about what my third year has to offer.