Career Paths: Martha Vazquez ’18L
Martha Vazquez ’18L is originally from Pittsburgh, PA. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in History, and then went on to achieve a Masters in Military History at Royal Holloway, University of London. After returning from London, Martha spent a year working for the American Civil Liberties Union on cases involving prisoner’s rights. Martha is the Managing Online Editor for the Washington and Lee Law Review and is an active volunteer in the Lexington community.
Where will you be working after graduation and in what practice area?
I will be working for Wiley Rein in Washington, D.C. I do not currently know the practice area that I will be working in, but I will most likely be joining their government contracts practice.
Did you know coming into law school that you wanted to work for a law firm?
I did not know that I wanted to work for a law firm coming into law school, but I knew I wanted to work in civil litigation, so it was an obvious choice once I began my job search. I worked for a judge 1L summer and I loved it, but I realized after that experience that I wanted to work in private practice.
What role did the size and location of the firm play in the search and decision process?
The location was my main concern during my search and decision process. I knew that I wanted to work in either Washington, D.C. or Virginia, so I only applied to firms in those areas. Ultimately, size was the deciding factor in choosing Wiley Rein. The firm is unique because it is a “big law” firm, but only has one office of about 250-300 attorneys. This dynamic was very appealing to me because the firm has a small-firm feel and culture, but has big-law structure, contacts, and clientele. This combination was ideal for me. The firm is also very D.C. focused so the location was perfect.
Was there anything in your law school or summer job experience that confirmed this career choice?
I knew almost immediately I had made the right choice when I started at Wiley Rein as a Summer Associate my 2L summer. I very quickly fell into the firm culture, and loved working and living in D.C. The firm itself was the biggest confirmation that I had chosen the right career. I was given responsibility for projects that concerned interesting legal issues and required me to learn about topics that I had never encountered before. It is really important to me to be challenged, and I found the work extremely stimulating.
As a law student, both the litigation immersion and the litigation skills practicum confirmed my choice to go into civil litigation. I enjoyed working through the mock-litigation, and the experiences got me excited about starting work in the fall.
What classes do you think are helpful to take to prepare for a your law firm job?
The litigation immersion and litigation skills were both very helpful in preparing for the law firm, but working in chambers during my 1L summer and as an extern 3L year was most helpful. I interacted with a wide variety of attorneys in court, informally, and in mediations, and learned a lot about different litigation styles. I also wrote numerous orders and memos, which I feel made me a much stronger legal writer.
Looking back on it, I also feel that my legal writing classes and the Law & Geography seminar were very helpful – as a summer associate, I was writing a lot of memos and portions of briefs. My legal writing background was very helpful, and I am sure it will continue to be an asset to me going forward.
Can you describe your job search process?
Once I decided I wanted to work for a firm in D.C. or Virginia I more or less applied to every large and mid-size firm in those areas. I sent out dozens of applications. I was lucky to get a number of interviews through W&L’s D.C. interview program, which is how I came to know of Wiley Rein, and I was hired fairly quickly after my initial interview.
I put a lot of time and effort into my resume and cover letter, and I utilized the Office of Career Strategy to check over my application materials before I submitted them. Additionally, I went to several firm open house events my 1L summer, where I networked and got a feel of what firms I would be most interested in.