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Career Paths: Rachel Graf ’24L After graduation, Rachel Graf will be working in estate planning at the firm MichieHamlett.

Rachel-Graf-800x533 Career Paths: Rachel Graf '24LRachel Graf ’24L

Rachel Graf ‘24L is from River Ridge, Louisiana. She attended the University of the South: Sewanee, where she received a BA in Political Science. She began attending W&L Law right after graduating from Sewanee. She published an article in the W&L Law News about the difficulties of applying for accommodations based on ADHD for state bar exams. After graduation, she will be working in estate planning under James Cox at the firm MichieHamlett in Charlottesville.

Did you know coming into law school that you wanted to work in this field?

No. My Property Law class in the spring of 1L year immediately caught my attention. I took various property classes to find my niche, one of which was Decedents’ Trusts and Estates, which solidified my decision to work in Estate Planning. The field had everything I sought in a career: engagement with clients, writing property-based documents, and changing fact patterns with each client.

What role did the size and location of the firm play in the search and decision process?

Both size and location were essential factors in my search for a law firm. From conversations with lawyers in the field and the Office of Career Strategy, I knew a small to mid-sized law firm was the type of environment that would be the most beneficial to me. A sense of community is important to me, and it is better cultivated in smaller law firms. After attending W&L Law, I have fallen for Virginia, so staying in the state was paramount. Additionally, I am drawn to smaller towns. Charlottesville checked every box I wanted.

Was there anything in your law school or summer job experience that confirmed this career choice?

Classes confirmed my career choice. One was Decedents’ Trusts and Estates, which immediately had me hooked. It was everything I enjoyed about property and contracts. What truly solidified my determination to enter the field was the actual practice program at W&L and the Trusts and Estate Practicum. The opportunity to practice the law with actual clients writing estate planning documents confirmed that I adored the field I would be entering.

What classes do you think are helpful to prepare for this job?

Decedents’ Trusts and Estates, Federal Income Tax, Trusts and Estates Practicum, and Gift and Estate Taxation.

Can you describe the job search process?

At first, the job search was challenging. I knew I wanted a small to medium sized law firm in Virginia working for an Estate Planning lawyer. Neither of my parents are lawyers, so I had little guidance to enter a niche field. Every job posting seemed to require at least three to five years of prior work experience in the field. I decided to ask Professor Bob Danforth, who was at the time my Wills and Trusts Practicum Professor, for his recommendation on how I should reach out or find jobs. He recommended reaching out through the ACTEC Fellows website, where one can view Estate Planning Lawyers who are members by geographic region.

Professor Danforth provided guidance on what to include in the outreach email, reviewed my email, and allowed me to use his name as my professor. Through the ACTEC Fellows, I found James Cox and, by extension, the law firm MichieHamlett. After I emailed James Cox, I learned Mr. Cox had known Professor Danforth before teaching at W&L. Without Professor Danforth I would likely have never found the job, because to my knowledge, MichieHamlett had not actively been advertising for an associate position in Estate Planning. My job search process highlights how professors at W&L are enthusiastic about assisting their students in every aspect of their legal career, including post-graduate goals.

What are you most looking forward to about this job?

I adore how estate planning law involves both client interaction and actual practice. I look forward to learning the intricacies of Estate Planning documents, strengthening the skills I developed in the Estate Planning Practicum, and applying the concepts used theoretically in law school that I will be able to demonstrate in actual practice.

Outside Law School


Writing, Hiking, Audiobooks

Favorite Location in Lexington/W&L Campus

The Brief Stop is the best place to get a quick bite to eat or catch up with friends.

Advice for Prospective Law Student

A supportive group of people is everything. Try to put yourself out there and get to know people during 1L. Law school is incredibly rewarding but can feel destabilizing at times. Luckily, the community at W&L is exceptionally supportive. Fellow students will keep you grounded when school feels overwhelming by providing a space to laugh, vent, or study.

Something/Someone you will miss at W&L Law

I will miss my classmates most of all. I am so honored to call some of the best people I have ever met classmates. I’ve lost count of how often we filled the law school with laughter. I have created life-long friendships here and look forward to seeing where their law careers take them.