The Columns

Career Paths: Elaine McCafferty ’16L

— by on September 29th, 2015

Elaine McCafferty is from Newtown, Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BA in Psychology and Philosophy. Elaine is a Burks Scholar and Lead Articles Editor on the Washington and Lee Law Review. After graduation, Elaine will work as an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell.

Elaine McCafferty '16LElaine McCafferty ’16L

What did you do for work this summer?

I worked as a summer associate for Sullivan & Cromwell, LLP in New York City.

How did you find/get this position?

The Office of Career Strategy connected me with S&C’s recruiting department. I emailed my application to the Chief Legal Recruiting & Professional Development Officer and flew there for an interview.

Describe your work experience.

I gained experience in a breadth of practice areas, including mergers and acquisitions, estate planning, financial services investigations, and employment law. Most of my assignments entailed researching a legal question and writing a memorandum, but I also drafted letters to clients and estate planning instruments. I also took advantage of professional development opportunities, such as workshops that focused on legal writing, negotiation skills, and taking and defending depositions. Finally, I enjoyed social events with other summer associates; I attended a Yankees game, The Tempest at Shakespeare in the Park, and dined at some of Manhattan’s best restaurants.

What were some skills you developed this summer?

During a writing workshop, the speaker, Dianne Rosky, stressed the importance of summarizing the conclusion at the outset of a memorandum or email. And, interestingly, she described this as practicing empathy; a good writer understands that busy readers need a concise, easy-to-find statement of the conclusion. This resonated with me because empathy is also one of the most important qualities for practicing law. Because clients, opposing parties, and judges do not always communicate the considerations driving their decisions, lawyers must put themselves in the shoes of others. The importance of empathy was the most important skill I developed this summer.   

What classes or experiences were useful in preparing you for the summer work?

Civil Procedure, Conflicts of Law, and Publicly Held Businesses. I strongly recommend Publicly Held Businesses to anyone pursuing a career at a large law firm, it provides a fundamental understanding of how corporations work, which is invaluable for practicing litigation or transactional law. Regarding Civil Procedure, I researched the feasibility of contesting personal jurisdiction for two different matters. Last, I researched whether a U.S. court was likely to apply the privilege law of the United States or another nation in an international dispute. The material I learned in these courses was a tremendous asset for completing these assignments.

What surprised you about the work you did this summer?

Every matter I worked on concerned parties or law of another nation. Resolving the inevitable conflicts of law questions in international disputes is challenging, but cultural differences and the clash of perspectives between attorneys from different legal systems is a fascinating and challenging aspect of international disputes.

Has this experience helped you figure out post-graduate plans, and if so, how?

I accepted an offer from S&C to join their litigation practice group in New York City. Working for a large law firm seemed daunting, but everyone I met was friendly and supportive. I completed a lot of litigation assignments and feel confident that litigation is the right path for me.

How do you think this experience will shape the rest of your time at W&L Law?

I hold myself to a very high standard after working at S&C. At S&C, everyone I worked with went above and beyond for every project. It was a pleasure to work with such dedicated attorneys and it motivated me to devote myself to every case I work on.

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