W&L Law Summer Employment Experiences – Jenna Callahan

August 26, 2013

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.

CallahanJJenna Callahan is a rising 2L at Washington and Lee University School of Law.  Originally from Summit, New Jersey, Jenna earned a degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences and Environmental Sciences at Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, California. 

Your passion and your career can be one and the same.

The 1L summer internship application process can seem intimidating.  In the frenzy of deciding where to apply and how to make one’s resume look as polished as possible, the natural reaction for any student is to look to others for advice.  During these moments, however, I was afraid to open up about my career choice because I felt I was taking a daring leap by applying for a non-traditional position.  I secretly wanted to become an Executive Director or General Manager for a sports team, and I was strategizing how to get there.

Rewinding back to 2011, I was ecstatic to be accepted into Washington and Lee’s 2015L class.  I had always wanted to attend law school based on various past experiences such as studying human rights in Guatemala.  After I submitted my deposit, however, I had a life-changing experience.  I took on a position for the 2011/2012 season as the Head Junior Varsity Softball Coach for Irvine High School in Irvine, CA.  Immediately I realized that this position was something I could really pour my heart into and be proud of.  I had the opportunity to mentor young people and dedicate my time to my life-long passion of athletics.

After the season came to an end, I had to re-evaluate my decision to attend law school.  I decided working in sports management would be my ideal career choice.  After receiving advice, I learned that any successful GM or Executive Director carries a vast array of skills, including the ability to read, understand, and negotiate contracts. Attending Washington and Lee has been a wonderful avenue for achieving my goals.  Both of the required 1L writing courses improved my writing and research abilities, I learned about the importance of providing evidence to an argument, and I began to understand a vast array of subjects from torts to criminal liability.  By the end of the first semester, I also felt comfortable reading and evaluating contracts.

Towards the end of our 1L year, I saw my friends receiving summer internship offers to work for judges, law firms, and corporations.  I began to worry that I had taken a risk by applying for positions with agencies, MLB teams, and other sports organizations.  In April, however, I received the news I had been waiting for.  I was a final candidate for a position in Ballpark Operations with the San Francisco Giants as well as in Event Management with Amateur Softball Association/USA Softball.  A few days later I received a phone call from Oklahoma City, OK, offering me a position to begin in less than a month with ASA/USA Softball.  I jumped at the opportunity, and before I knew it I was driving cross-country to begin pursuing the career that I had always dreamed of.

My summer here in Oklahoma City has been full of excitement.  I have spent up to 80+ hours some weeks working at the Hall of Fame Stadium, home of the nation’s best softball and National Headquarters of ASA/USA Softball.  I was told I was selected because of my high level of education and critical thinking skills acquired during law school.  My legal background continually came into play including when I was asked to revise the ASA Code and Procedural Manual.  Besides being challenged to utilize and strengthen my legal skills, I was also taught how to do tournament bracketing, run sound control and video boards, and was exposed to the contracts and financial dealings of stadium concessions.  I was introduced to NCAA officials and ASA Commissioners from all over the country.  I successfully helped coordinate and execute the NCAA Women’s College World Series and the World Cup.  I could not believe that I was able to contribute in a positive way to events that were being played on ESPN.

I know that my legal education from Washington and Lee University School of Law is what gave me the competitive edge I needed to receive such a wonderful internship for my 1L summer.  This experience has opened the floodgate for many other opportunities that have since come my way, including attending the MLB Diversity Summit in Houston, TX.  Many MLB team representatives at the conference were impressed by my education and experience, and I was offered several contacts with MLB legal counsel, an internship position, as well as a long-term job offer with a Minor League Baseball team.

In the past year, I have learned that nothing is more important in this world than being true to yourself.  Law school does not destine one to a single career path.  Being taught to critically think is an invaluable skill for any professional and not just one tailor-made for the traditional lawyer.  The faculty and staff at Washington and Lee want to see their students succeed and find happiness in their careers, and I am so appreciative for the intimate environment our school maintains.  Several of my first-year professors, such as Professor Wiant and Professor Seaman, as well as Lorri Olan and Andrea Hilton in career services, always reminded me to follow my heart.  I encourage any individual questioning whether law school is right for him or her to research the less traditional outlets a law school education may provide.  I know that I am on the right track to becoming a successful sports manager and I cannot wait to attack my 2L year head on!

W&L Law Summer Employment Experiences – Chrishantha Vedhanayagam

August 23, 2013

VedhayangamCAs 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.

W&L Law Summer Employment Experiences – Ryan Starks

August 21, 2013

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.

W&L Law Summer Employment Experiences – Olivia Fritsche

August 19, 2013

FritscheOliviaAs 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.

Olivia is a rising 3L at Washington and Lee University School of Law.  Originally from Clifton, Virginia, Olivia earned her undergraduate degree in Public Affairs at James Madison University.

When I chose to go to Law School I knew that I was not going to follow the traditional career path of most law students. Rather than seeking employment with a firm, I spent my 1L and 2L summers working with organizations that serve the public interest. This past summer I was fortunate enough to intern with PBS’s Office of General Counsel where I confirmed my desire to become in-house counsel for one of the nonprofit organizations that I respect and admire.

As mentioned previously, I came to W&L Law knowing that I wanted to seek a career that served the public interest, and I was specifically interested in working as general counsel to a nonprofit organization. When the time for on campus interviews and job applications rolled around, I realized that many of the jobs that were being posted were not the kinds of jobs that I wanted to pursue and decided to wait for a public interest opportunity. While some public interest jobs are posted earlier in the year, the timeline for hiring in public interest is later than the hiring period for firms, which can add further stress to the job search process as summer approaches. Even with this added stress, I was thankful that I waited for a job I was really passionate about, rather than jumping at the first job opportunity that came my way. Fortunately, I was able to secure my position with PBS in early March, allowing me to reallocate my stress to studying for Spring Exams.

This summer at PBS I have been surprised and challenged by all of the responsibilities that the General Counsel of a large nonprofit is faced with. Rather than focusing on any one area of the law, the attorneys at PBS specialize in a variety of topics, providing me with the opportunity to work with issues in many areas of the law. On any given day I might spend my morning amending a contract, move on to researching an issue for an FCC comment, and later work on a copyright question that one of the attorneys has asked me to research.

Frequently, the General Counsel’s office is faced with the challenge of balancing the creativity of other business units with the establishment of safeguards to protect PBS from any legal problems that may arise. In the ever changing world of digital media and the internet, the business units at PBS are constantly working to innovate and come up with new ideas or programs to educate and inspire PBS’s viewers. Along with the creativity that occurs in the interactive and programming departments of PBS, the legal department has to be creative with their solutions to novel problems or questions. For those issues, the attorneys often collaborate on how to best tackle a problem, or join forces to combine their expertise to come to a workable solution. This team approach to solving problems has only further encouraged my desire to work in-house, and I can only hope that other in-house legal departments operate in a similar manner.

Overall I could not ask for anything more from my time at PBS, I am fortunate to be able to work on a variety of projects, testing a wide range of what I have learned while at W&L Law. Most importantly, PBS has instilled in me their slogan to “Be More®” while pursuing my legal career in the nonprofit sector.

*BE MORE is a registered trademark of the Public Broadcasting Service. Used with permission.

Summer Employment Opportunities, #7

March 1, 2013

Tara MacNeillWe asked several of our 1Ls and 2Ls to discuss the role W&L Law has played in their summer employment search.  Tara MacNeill, a 1L from Vestal, New York, offers us her perspective.

One of the most striking things about W&L Law is the willingness of faculty, staff, alumni, and peers to help students with whatever they may need.  Whenever students interact with administrators, professors, or even the wonderful Brief Stop staff, the most commonly heard phrase is “Well if there is anything I can do to help, please don’t hesitate to ask.”   Lucky for me, you often don’t even have to ask.

I secured my summer position in October when I went to a professor to discuss what supplement to get for his class.  I had always been very nervous about talking to professors, so I was expecting to just get a quick answer and get out as soon as possible.  Instead, he asked me where I was from, where I was looking to practice law, and what type of law I was interested in.  I told him that I hope to pursue a career in criminal public interest law, either as a public defender, prosecutor, or with the federal government.  After talking with me for only a few minutes, he told me that he knew someone at the Commonwealth Attorney’s office in Roanoke and that he would send them my resume.  Three days later, my intern position was secured.

This position fits my summer objectives perfectly: I can stay in my apartment in Lexington, I will be working in public criminal law, and I will have the opportunity to network with attorneys and W&L alumni who practice criminal law in Roanoke.  Although my goal has always been to be a public defender, I am really excited to have the opportunity to experience the other side of the criminal law aisle and to gain a better understanding of the criminal justice system in general.

Before coming to W&L, I never realized how important networking was.  I remember attending the student internship panels hosted by Career Services in the fall and hearing students say that they secured summer positions because “they knew someone.”   I always thought to myself, “Well I don’t have any connections…”  But I did.   I had the W&L network.

I never asked my professor about his professional network; I never even mentioned summer employment.  In fact, when I thanked him for helping me, his response was “Hey, that’s what I’m here for.”  That is what makes W&L Law so incredible- you really don’t even have to ask.

Summer Employment Opportunities, #6

February 27, 2013

Amy BianchiniWe asked several of our 1Ls and 2Ls to discuss the role W&L Law has played in their summer employment search.  Amy Bianchini, a 2L from San Diego, California, offers us her perspective.

For the past two years, I read horror stories online about the difficulty of getting a law firm job without connections.  Friends feared that it was nearly impossible to get a job through on campus interviews.  This made the thought of applying for jobs through OCI daunting.  Washington and Lee’ Office of Career Planning (OCP) made the application process much easier by making the process simple. They put my mind at ease when it came to applying for law firm jobs.

When I came back to Washington and Lee to begin my second year, I knew I wanted to find a job at a law firm for the summer.  The previous summer, I worked in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s office.  I enjoyed my time there, but before I settled on a career, I wanted to see what it was like to work at a law firm.  I focused my job search on law firms instead of public interest jobs.  In particular, I focused on firms that had specialties in employment and energy law because I had a particular interest in those areas.

With this goal in mind, I began my job search with Washington and Lee’s Simplicity website for on-campus interviews.  Through Simplicity, I had access to many firms with summer associate programs across a wide geographic range.  I carefully reviewed the employers that would be interviewing on campus and chose to submit my resume to employers with specialties in employment and oil and gas because of my interest in those fields of law.  I focused my search on states out West and sent out many applications through Simplicity.   Looking at certain firm’s requirements was intimidating, but I tailored my cover letters to each firm and tried to highlight why I would be good for that particular firm.  Additionally, I independently sent a number of applications and resumes to other firms outside of those I found through W&L OCP.  However, a vast majority of firms I applied to independently told me they no longer had a summer associate program.

I started to receive options to interview with firms through Washington and Lee’s OCI program in late August.  Before any interview, I researched each firm very carefully and organized discussion points and lists of questions I wanted to ask each firm.  One of my first interviews was with a firm in New Mexico, Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor & Martin.  The position is at their main office in Roswell, New Mexico.

Washington and Lee made the interview convenient.  Instead of having to fly to New Mexico for the interview, I did the interview at the law school via video conference.  Washington and Lee tipped me off as to who from the firm would be interviewing me: two of the firm’s partners, one a Washington and Lee Law graduate.  The firm specializes in oil and gas and employment law, and their geographic location was ideal for me.

The interview went very well, and after talking to my interviewers, I was sure that I would be happy working for Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor & Martin.  I waited to hear back from the firm, hoping for a call back or a second interview.  In early November, I received an email in my inbox from the firm.  The firm offered me a summer clerkship position for half of the summer.  I eagerly accepted the position and look forward to working in New Mexico this summer.

Summer Employment Opportunities, #5

February 25, 2013

Chrishon McManusWe asked several of our 1Ls and 2Ls to discuss the role W&L Law has played in their summer employment search.  Chrishon McManus, a 2L from Charlotte, North Carolina, offers us his perspective.

This summer I will spend ten weeks as a summer associate at Arent Fox LLP, a Washington, D.C. based firm with approximately 350 attorneys in Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and a new office opening in San Francisco this spring. As a summer associate, I expect to be assigned work comparable to that of a first-year associate. I will rotate through practice groups and spend roughly equal amounts of time in the Litigation, Business, and Regulatory departments of the firm.

I was familiar with Arent Fox’s reputation before law school because I had spent time in D.C. Last year I applied to Arent Fox for its 1L program but was not selected.  I decided to apply again because it was one of the few firms that provided the exact type of opportunities that I was looking for, namely a mid-sized firm in D.C. that has experts in all fields as opposed to a firm that specialized in one or two areas. Out of all the employers, I narrowed it down to a few and focused on those while applying to a variety of employers. I believe that one of the reasons I was chosen for this position is because I am very interested in this particular firm and the work that it does. While many 2Ls find their summer jobs through OCI or jobs fairs, I was lucky enough to be hired after applying directly to the firm through its online application.

The Office of Career Planning at W&L was an invaluable resource to me during my job search. I had people who were always available to read draft after draft of my resume and cover letters, even in the middle of the summer when the application process begins. While I did not find this particular position through OCI or a job fair, the Office of Career Planning helped me prepare for those interviews as well. Even far from campus, there was someone at a job fair in Atlanta available to answer my questions and help me appeal to employers. OCP connected me with alumni who were willing to volunteer their time and sit down with me to conduct mock interviews or just answer questions about their practices.

I went to college in D.C., and it was always my intention to return after law school. It was important to me that the firm be based in the District because I wanted work in the same location as the firm leaders and be a part of a firm that focused on the local community with its service efforts. Ultimately, I plan to be a transactional attorney and Arent Fox is the perfect place for me to develop an expertise in corporate and securities law.