Career Paths: Lara McMahon ’20L
Lara McMahon ‘20L is from Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. She received a B.A. in Political Science from Kenyon College. Prior to studying law at Washington and Lee, she worked for a law firm in New York. Lara spent her 1L summer working as an intern in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania and her 2L summer working for Vinson & Elkins LLP in Washington, D.C. As a 3L, she worked as an extern in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia. Lara served as a Senior Articles Editor for the Washington and Lee Law Review.
Where will you be working after graduation and in what practice area?
I will be working for Vinson & Elkins LLP in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. I accepted an offer to work in the litigation department and will decide on a particular practice group after my first year. I hope to end up in the Government Investigations & White Collar Criminal Defense group.
Did you know coming into law school that you wanted to work in this field?
I had a pretty good idea of what I was interested in coming into law school. Before law school, I worked for a large firm in New York City as a paralegal. During my time there, one of the most interesting cases I worked on was the representation of a major sports organization in connection with a DOJ investigation. This experience sparked my interest in litigation in general and in white-collar work in particular. Classes like the White Collar Crime Practicum and my externship at the U.S. Attorney’s Office helped further this interest.
What role did the size and location of the firm play in the search and decision process?
I knew I wanted to work for a large firm after graduation but did not have a strong location preference—a firm’s size, its culture, and the breadth and depth of its practice areas were more important to me than its location.
Was there anything in your law school or summer job experience that confirmed this career choice?
During my summer at V&E, I was able to work with multiple attorneys in a number of litigation-focused practice groups—appellate, white collar, and antitrust, to name a few. I was surprised by how much I thoroughly enjoyed all of the projects I worked on. At the end of the summer, I left feeling confident that I had chosen the firm that was the right fit for me.
What classes do you think are helpful to prepare for this job?
My research and writing classes were incredibly helpful in terms of preparing me for both my 1L and 2L summer internships. Even if I was not familiar with a particular area of the law, I was able to get myself up to speed relatively quickly. Most of the work you do as a litigation associate is research and writing focused, so these are very important skills to have. The practicums I have taken, particularly the White Collar Crime and Environmental Litigation practicums, also helped prepare me for a career in litigation. Both of these classes provided me with an in-depth introduction into more discrete areas of the law and helped me develop my written and oral advocacy skills.
Can you describe the job search process?
During the summer after my 1L year, I reached out to alumni working at firms that I was interested in applying to. One alumna working for a large firm in Pittsburgh took the time to conduct a mock interview, and afterward, gave me some really tremendous feedback. Being able to run through a practice interview helped me feel more confident when it came time for the real thing. I ended up applying to firms in Washington, D.C., New York City, Richmond, Charlotte, and Pittsburgh. I also participated in W&L’s regional interview programs in D.C. and New York and in the on-campus interview program. Most of the callbacks I got were from firms that were participating in either the regional or on-campus interview programs. I interviewed with V&E at the D.C. regional interview program and completed a callback at the firm’s D.C. office.
What are you most looking forward to about this job?
I am looking forward to learning from V&E’s highly talented lawyers and to working on cases that will challenge me and help me grow as an attorney. I loved my summer at V&E, and I am excited to get started.