Hometown: San Diego, California
Current Job: Senior Counsel at NEO Law Group
Previous Job: Associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Clerkship: Judge Dana M. Sabraw, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California
Activities at YLS: Submissions Director and Conference Coordinator for the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism; Director of the Temporary Restraining Order Project; Student Director of the Community Lawyering Clinic
YLS year: J.D. 2007
How did you end up at Simpson Thacher? What did you do during your time there?
I spent half of my 2L summer at Simpson Thacher and then I started working in the firm’s New York office after graduating from YLS. I was a litigator and mainly worked on two major cases during the time I was at the firm, in addition to multiple other client and pro bono matters. In the New York office, I primarily worked on a judgment enforcement case against the Argentine government, part of which involved attempting to track down assets in the United States that could be attached and executed upon to satisfy the judgments obtained by our clients. This work was very exciting, both because it often involved me racing to the courthouse to file complicated execution paperwork with the U.S. Marshals and because it is a very underdeveloped area of the law in this context and provided the opportunity for me to engage in cutting edge legal work, including drafting and contributing to multiple appellate briefs. I was also able to publish an article on the topic with a partner at the firm. After I clerked, I re-joined Simpson Thacher in the Palo Alto office and I primarily worked on an antitrust case involving manufacturers of LCD panels. In that matter, we were simultaneously representing our client in class actions and multiple opt-out litigations.
Did you always know you wanted to do litigation work?
Yes, or at least I thought so. I was attracted to litigation because of the advocacy role that litigators get to play on behalf of their clients and because of the public speaking opportunities that come with litigation. However, after more than five years of being a litigator, I’m currently practicing primarily as a corporate and tax attorney for nonprofits and exempt organizations and, ironically, I’m finding that I now have many more opportunities to serve as an advocate and to engage in public speaking, although not in the courtroom.
What was the day-to-day like at Simpson Thacher?
It really depended—there was no typical day. During the first couple of years, I spent a lot of time on research and writing, preparing memos, and finding answers that would help the firm advise our clients in their legal matters. In my second and third years, I started to do more writing, at both the trail court and appellate levels, as well as speaking directly with clients. As a fifth year associate with the firm, I was focused on drafting a wide range of legal filings and managing both offensive and defensive discovery efforts for a large matter involving multiple actions.
Did you work on any pro bono matters?
Yes, I was fortunate to get to do a significant amount of pro bono work while I was at Simpson Thacher. The firm was very supportive and encouraging of attorneys engaging in pro bono work, including matters that attorneys found personally compelling and requested to work on. I represented several survivors of domestic violence in divorce actions, worked to settle an employment dispute, and helped a client attain immigration-related deferred action all on a pro bono basis.
Why did you decide to clerk after spending a few years at the firm? Can you speak a little about your clerkship experience?
In law school, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to clerk, and I didn’t consider applying as a 3L. However, after a few years at Simpson Thacher, a district court clerkship seemed like a great way to get exposure to legal practice in the courtroom and to further develop my litigation skills. In retrospect, I’m really glad I waited to clerk until after I had been practicing for several years—it made the application process less overwhelming, the connections I had made as a practicing attorney were very helpful, and I feel that I took more away from the experience than I otherwise might have. I absolutely loved clerking and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested.
Why did you decide to leave Simpson Thacher?
I enjoyed my time at Simpson Thacher and learned a great amount from the many attorneys and staff members I worked with while I was at the firm. However, I’ve always had a strong passion for and commitment to the public interest and women’s rights issues in particular—my undergraduate degree is in Women’s Studies, my extracurriculars at YLS focused on issues that largely affect women, and most of my pro bono work has involved advocating on behalf of and working with women clients. I made the decision to leave the firm because I felt like it was the right time for me to make a career transition to a role that would allow me to more directly focus on my commitment to the public interest. I know that I am a better attorney because of the time that I spent at Simpson Thacher and am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such a wonderful firm.
What have you moved on to?
I recently joined NEO Law Group, a San Francisco-based law firm representing nonprofits and exempt organizations in tax, governance, and general corporate matters, as Senior Counsel. It has been wonderful to work with so many great nonprofit clients and to help create and maintain legally compliant organizations that are able to be more effective at carrying out their missions and creating positive change as a result. This new role has also created opportunities for engaging with the nonprofit community in a variety of ways, including public speaking and contributing to the Nonprofit Law Blog (www.nonprofitlawblog.com), and I’m really enjoying being a part of a firm that provides such high quality legal services to the nonprofit community.
2. LAW SCHOOL
Let’s talk a little bit about your time at YLS. What was most valuable about your YLS experience?
Definitely the people I was surrounded by—classmates, professors, everyone. I was inspired every day, and I continue to be inspired when I see what my classmates are doing to change the world for the better. I really appreciate the many strong relationships I built in law school that I still maintain today. I also found the extracurricular activities at YLS to be incredibly valuable–they provided exposure to what it means to actually practice law, opportunities to spend time and energy on causes I was passionate about, and the chance to get involved in the New Haven community.
What was most important lesson you took away from your time at YLS?
To take life a little less seriously. It sounds like a strange thing to take away from law school, but having the freedom and the resources at YLS to focus our energy on what we cared about was really an amazing gift. Not only did I get to focus on the things that mattered to me, but I also got to see how my classmates applied their energy and talent to the things they were passionate about. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend my 1L summer doing human rights nonprofit work in India with funding from the law school, and that proved to be a very formative experience for me. Seeing the day to day difficulties and stresses that so many people in the world deal with on a regular basis provided a great perspective on what was truly important and what was worth stressing over—a perspective that I’ve tried to carry with me since.
How have you balanced work and life?
Striking a balance between work and other important parts of your life can definitely be one of the trickier aspects of having a career as an attorney. It’s no secret that the schedule of a large law firm associate can be very demanding, but I also found that, when I spoke up about important commitments that I had outside of work, the firm was very supportive and respectful of those commitments. Working at a smaller law firm now has also given me a much greater amount of flexibility that has made it easier to balance work and other aspects of my life.
What do you view as your biggest career accomplishment?
I think that I’m most proud of one of the pro bono cases I worked on while at Simpson Thacher. I, along with several other attorneys, was representing a woman on an immigration matter, and we were trying to obtain a grant of deferred action for her. Getting approved for this type of deferred action, which is rarely granted, would mean that immigration services would not take action to deport her and that she would be permitted to work legally in the United States. There is no clearly defined legal process for obtaining this type of deferred action, so we worked to navigate the process, make the right contacts, and put together her application. The morning we found out that her application had been granted, and when we were able to call and share that news with her, were incredibly proud moments for me as an attorney.
What has been the biggest professional challenge you have faced?
I think that the recent career transition I made was probably the largest professional challenge I’ve faced so far. I spent a significant amount of time thinking about potential directions in which to take my career and received a lot of very helpful advice from numerous people who generously shared their time and thoughts, but still found it challenging to find the right fit. I feel very fortunate to have found an area of practice that I find intellectually stimulating, impactful, and personally rewarding, but it was certainly a challenge to get here.
What advice was helpful to you as a law student, or what advice do you wish you had received?
I’m sure I received this advice as a law student, but I wish I had acted on it more! My advice is to do what you’re passionate about. It may sound cliché, but I believe you’ll always do better in the long run if you follow you heart. And once you’ve identified what you’re truly motivated by, meet as many people in that field as you can. In my experience, I’ve found that your professional success and happiness are largely dependent upon the people you know and the people you work with. It’s so important to build professional relationships around you and to find people who can serve as good mentors. Try to have someone you can go to to ask for guidance, and others who you feel comfortable directly asking for the opportunities you’re looking for. There are plenty of people who are willing to advocate for you, serve as a reference, or connect you with others, but working as an attorney can be demanding and hectic, and people don’t always reach out to form those relationships. It’s important to pursue relationships within and outside your organization that will help to shape your experience and your growth as a professional.
What’s your favorite activity outside of work? Do you have any hobbies?
I love to cook and bake, I’m running my first half marathon in August, and my husband and I are taking salsa dancing lessons. I also recently joined the board of directors of a nonprofit in San Francisco, and I travel every chance I get.