Career Paths: Grant McClernon ’23L After graduation, Grant McClernon will join the Washington, D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis, working with the healthcare transactions team of the Private Equity group.
Grant McClernon ‘23L is from West Chester, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Penn State in 2016 where he majored in finance. Between undergrad and law school, Grant worked for Recovery Centers of America, a startup behavioral healthcare company based in the Philadelphia area. Grant spent his 1L summer splitting time between the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of General Counsel and the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy & Practice, a legislative advocacy organization in D.C. At W&L, Grant is an extern with the Honorable Thomas T. Cullen of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, the Co-Chair of the Robert J. Grey, Jr. Negotiations Competition, the Co-President of the Powell Lecture Series, a McThenia Research Assistant, and a Senior Articles Editor of the German Law Journal.
Where will you be working after graduation and in what practice area?
I will be at Kirkland & Ellis in the Washington, D.C. office. I’ll be joining the healthcare transactions team, which sits as a specialty practice under the larger Private Equity group.
Did you know coming into law school that you wanted to work in this field?
Sort of, but not really. I wasn’t super focused on short-term outcomes after school. I was more concerned with finding a good fit and continuing to move in the right direction. Before law school, I spent a few years at a PE-backed healthcare company. I left that experience thinking that the healthcare industry was interesting, and I was particularly interested in (really just frustrated by) our whole Medicaid system. I also saw the private equity investment process play out firsthand, and I thought the PE folks were really bright and interesting. So all of that was appealing. But my true goal in coming to law school was to develop some skills that would allow me to have an interesting, enjoyable, and lucrative career. Ultimately, I was—and still am—chasing experiences that would move me in that direction, and Kirkland felt like a good fit for that.
What role did the size and location of the firm play in the search and decision process?
Where I worked and the size of the firm weren’t terribly important. The things I cared most about in my search process were the quality of the people I’d be working with and the ability to build long-term transferable skills. D.C. made sense for me because it’s close enough to home while still being a good place to do interesting work. And honestly, bigger firms were just easier to find, and the benefits were obvious. From there, I figured I’d cast a wide net and find a place that I felt good about.
Was there anything in your law school or summer job experience that confirmed this career choice?
One of the guys who I worked for my 1L summer was a long-time D.C. lawyer named Dan Press. Dan had spent much of his career as a litigator and eventually developed a practice primarily centered around representation of Native American tribes in all sorts of matters. “How the heck does that come to be,” I asked him the first time we met. He spent a few minutes waxing on about the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers, before getting to the point: some people’s careers will look like the Colorado and others like the Rio Grande. The Colorado was—by his telling—a powerful river, proud and strong enough to carve out the Grand Canyon. The Rio Grande on the other hand was slow and windy, meandering along a fault line. He proudly told me that his career looked more like the Rio Grande, and that he was happier for it. In other words, you don’t need to be the fastest or the most powerful in order to make yourself a successful and worthwhile career. That stuck with me. I don’t want to be a Bill Lerach or a Paul Clement. Probably couldn’t even if I wanted to anyway. I did this so I could carve out something for myself that matched my ambitions, and Dan’s words made clear for me that that was just fine. He was a wise man and I’ve tried to remember all of that whenever things get a little fuzzy.
What classes do you think are helpful to prepare for this job?
I’ve focused my time here on improving my reading, writing, and speaking—as obvious as that might sound. They’re universally valuable skills and always in demand, so I wanted to do whatever I could to keep practicing those things. Litigation-focused classes more often provided that, in my experience. I guess I’ve had a pretty unusual law school path for someone going into transactional work. I’ve taken a lot of classes related to constitutional law and civil procedure. I figured I had a good enough background in business that I could use my time in law school to learn about other things that were interesting to me but which I had zero basis in. And that’s what I did. I don’t know if I would have ever had the chance to learn those things at any other point in my life. And, in the long run, I think I’ll be a better off for it.
Can you describe the job search process?
I primarily did the big law OCI thing. There is sort of a science to it, and the OCS (Office of Career Strategy) office (shoutout Ms. Hilton and Dean Jarrett) were there for me every step of the way. It’s not terribly complicated, but it can be a lot of work. As for Kirkland specifically, it came about kind of fortuitously. I reached out to a W&L alum at another firm in D.C. and had a good conversation. From there, she made several introductions to people at her firm and at Kirkland. It was pretty lucky. Once I had a contact at Kirkland, I just worked their usual OCI process – I did what felt like 15 interviews over the course of two weeks and ultimately got an offer.
What are you most looking forward to about this job?
The people. Kirkland D.C. is a cool place to be. There is so much interesting stuff going on there all the time. You’re surrounded by people who’ve worked in the highest levels of government and private practice. Those same people happen to be very kind and welcoming, and I made a lot of good friends over the summer. It’s a good situation that I’m excited to be a part of.
Outside Law School
Watching the Philadelphia Eagles beat up on the New York Football Giants.
Favorite Location in Lexington/W&L Campus
Gotta be the back campus. A hidden gem with awesome running (and sometimes biking) trails and a great place to escape from the South Eastern Reporter. The Gazebo is beautiful.
Advice for Prospective Law Student
Law school is hard! But it’s a lot easier when you have good friends and when you take care of yourself. Eat good food, walk to school, call your parents, quote Marbury v. Madison often, sleep eight hours, delete TikTok, do some squats, and get a pitcher at Frank’s every once in a while.
Something/Someone you will miss at W&L Law
Hard to pin it down to just one. I’ve loved talking shop with all my friends (Ben and Anderson) in the Great Hall. Also, Professor Eggert. He’s an awesome guy and a great teacher. And Jake Dietz’s daily comedy routine.