Wilkinson Stekloff Summer Program Q&A

Published: Sep 18, 2023

 Education       Grad School       Job Search       Law       
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Aliyah Graves-Brown
J.D. Candidate, Harvard Law School, Class of 2024
Summer Associate, Wilkinson Stekloff LLP, 2023

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?  Was law always your first interest?

I am a proud native of Harrisburg, PA, which is just about 2 hours from Washington, D.C. I went to Georgetown University, where I studied Government and Sociology, and played varsity field hockey for four years. I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I didn’t have a strong sense of why. I was fortunate to connect with a professor who launched the Prisons and Justice Initiate (PJI), aimed at empowering currently and formerly incarcerated people in and around the District. I then worked for PJI for four years in between undergrad and law school, during which time I interacted with countless lawyers and solidified my desire to go to law school. Working at PJI definitely revealed my why and enabled me to practice values of promoting racial and social justice, equity, and kindness—all of which will guide my legal career.

What inspired you to choose litigation as a career focus?

In terms of my interest in litigation, I’m drawn to all the challenges it poses and the creativity required to solve complex problems. The thrill of it all has always been attractive to me. I wanted to be at a firm that specialized in trial practice, would offer challenging yet interesting professional growth opportunities, and fostered a collaborative environment. Most importantly, I wanted to join a team that celebrates diversity and treats its attorneys and staff like people rather than robots. Wilkinson Stekloff provided me with all of that and more.

What kind of experience can prospective summer associates expect to gain through Wilkinson Stekloff’s summer program? 

No two days were the same this summer, which made for a really exciting summer. I was staffed on three cases—a water contamination case, an antitrust case, and a products liability case. I also joined a pro bono team, which was particularly rewarding. For each new case, I received a background binder so that I could get up to speed with some of the content and then I received various assignments. For example, I read through depositions and pulled out key admissions to build out cross examinations for trial, I created deposition digests, and I built out modules for deposition outlines. A prospective summer associate can expect to work on substantive assignments that truly add value to the case.

What was the most exciting or rewarding aspect of your summer? 

I was part of two trial teams! Before coming to Wilkinson Stekloff, I’ve only ever prepared for a trial, but I’ve never actually been to a trial, so getting to go twice in 3 months was truly a dream come true. Trial is dynamic, challenging, and requires a level of flexibility and creativity that I hadn’t seen before. It was an amazing opportunity and I learned a great deal during those several weeks.

What were some growth opportunities that you were exposed to?

I had endless growth opportunities this summer. This was my first time working at a law firm, so all the assignments, experiences, and procedures were new to me. The size of the firm necessarily means that summer associates are given real work, not busy work, which was one of my absolute favorite things about my time here. I was able help create outlines for depositions, gather admissions to build cross examinations, and even help prepare clients for trial testimony. With each new experience I felt supported and encouraged by the case team, so I was able to learn.

How would you describe Wilkinson Stekloff’s culture and the environment that you worked in?

From my first interview with Wilkinson Stekloff, everyone raved about the culture and the fact that the people here really do like each other. Although it may sound cliché, it was absolutely true! It’s remained clear to me that Wilkinson Stekloff takes pride in its culture and that’s reflected in everything we do here. My colleagues were incredibly supportive, encouraging, and intentional about celebrating both efforts and results. Certainly, the work is challenging and nights at trial are long, but the people here make it so worthwhile.

How can prospective summer associates best prepare for and approach a summer program at a trial firm?

There’s no one particular class that can prepare you, but prospective summer associates should take classes that they are actually interested in and excite them. To the extent that your school offers it, taking a trial advocacy workshop was helpful to me for contextualizing the work that is done at a trial firm.  The workshop allowed me to practice writing outlines and provided me with stand-up experience trying a case.  Any other practical classes, such as clinics, would also be helpful for simulating trial experience.

What does diversity in the litigation practice space mean to you?

Diversity in litigation means that underrepresented groups have equitable access to this space. The reality of the legal profession, even beyond the litigation practice, is that too few lawyers look like me or share my lived experiences. When we celebrate and promote diversity all of types within this profession, we’re all better off—we have more ideas, more ways to problem solve, and an all-around stronger team. I think we share a collective responsibility in continuing to diversify the legal profession and Wilkinson Stekloff’s commitment to that is clear.


For more about Wilkinson Stekloff, please check out their Vault Law profile.