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Career Paths: How Did You Get Here?

Published: Oct 17, 2023

 Diversity       Job Search       Law       Networking       
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At Vault Law’s 2022 1L Diversity Informational Career Readiness Summit, one of Vault’s Law Editors, Travis Whitsitt, was joined by David Sneed (Partner at Covington & Burling), Amanda Toy (Associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz), Adam Sanchez (Senior Associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP) and Rachel Tennell (Associate at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP) to discuss the various career paths taken by this diverse group of attorneys. We’ve recapped the highlights of the four stories from the panel session below.

For more insights like this, join us at this year's Diversity in Law Informational Career Readiness Summit on November 9, 2023.

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How did you decide to become an attorney?

After finishing college in 2010, at an economic time when no one wanted to go to law school, Amanda Toy took a job as a paralegal at Cravath. She had a very positive experience that, combined with a better economy, was enough to send her off to law school. Adam has the charming honesty to admit that he was always allured by the income and high status of being an attorney, although he cautions those are not actually good reasons to go to law school. David landed a legal internship in Ghana halfway through his undergraduate and immediately fell in love with what the lawyers in that office were capable of doing to serve others. Rachel had a family touched by the criminal justice system, and her intrigue about that process as she observed it led her almost inevitably to law school.

What should students be doing now, in law school, to prepare for a legal career?

Adam says, very simply, that he worked very hard and spent a lot of time in the library and making outlines, but would advise students interested in BigLaw pay attention to the process—which starts very early—of doing a 1L summer at a BigLaw firm. David mentions that a few things from law school really do follow you around forever, including your journal work (or lack thereof), legal ex/internships, and, for aspiring litigators, moot court. He also advises making a point of networking with your professors. Rachel aggressively focused on grades her first year, and began networking in earnest during her 1L summer internship. She advises that the legal profession is a smaller world than you think, and that having a good reputation starts in law school. Amanda did "everything," including journal, moot court, and affinity groups, but reiterates that grades are truly the most important thing to focus on, particularly in the first year. She also advises going to every networking event you can with an eye toward learning as much information about how an attorney's practice actually looks as you can, as well as participating on a journal.

How did you get your "in" at the first firm you worked for out of school?

Adam worked through the traditional OCI process to end up at Cravath, and he advises coming into that process with a very cohesive story about who you are and why you're there to get through those 20 minute screener interviews and leave an impression on the interviewers. Amanda also got her first offer through OCI, and advises paying attention at the bidding phase of the process as well as doing your homework on things like a firm's work assignment system. Rachel reached out directly to Debevoise during her 1L summer and, after sending over the standard application materials, was invited to an early interview and focused on the people she met in a personal, interested fashion, which she credits with winning them over and getting her an offer. David went through OCI as well, and advises both that the rest of the advice is all very solid and that it is imperative both to know *your* "why" as well as the firm's "why" when you're making choices about where to work.

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