Career Paths: Rich Gilliland ’22L Rich Gilliland will be working for Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP in the firm’s Austin, TX office, focusing on litigation.
Rich Gilliland ‘22L is from Essex, Connecticut. He received a B.A. in Global Affairs—International Development from Yale University. Prior to studying law at Washington and Lee, he worked as a Senior Operations Manager at Uber in Austin, Texas. Rich spent his 1L summer working as a legal intern for the Opening Arguments podcast and its host Andrew Torrez’ law firm. He spent his 2L summer working for Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP in Austin, Texas. As a 3L, Rich worked as a Martin P. Burks Scholar assisting with 1L Legal Writing instruction, served as a Lead Articles Editor for the Washington and Lee Law Review, and was a Student Attorney in the Community Legal Practice Center clinic.
Where will you be working after graduation and in what practice area?
I will be working for Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP in the firm’s Austin, Texas office. I accepted an offer at the end of my 2L summer to return to the Trial and Appellate practice group after graduation.
Did you know coming into law school that you wanted to work in this field?
I definitely knew that I wanted to be on the litigation side of the litigation/transactional divide—but that’s about all I knew. I had some experience witnessing corporate litigation from the sidelines in my previous jobs, and I knew that written and oral advocacy seemed like good matches for my skills and interests, but it wasn’t until during law school that I started to focus those interests any more narrowly. Through my participation in internal and external moot court competitions, my 2L Summer Associate position at Waller, and my 3L clinic experience handling real cases with the Community Legal Practice Center, I discovered that what I really enjoy is the civil litigation and appeals process, and that the actual underlying subject matter isn’t a significant differentiating factor for me.
What role did the size and location of the firm play in the search and decision process?
I was always focused on returning to Austin after graduation. I also learned through conversations with alumni and other attorney friends that I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of working for a large firm. I wanted a tighter personal connection to my colleagues than I envisioned being able to get in an Associate class of hundreds. I was also intrigued by the prospect that working at a mid‑sized firm could be an opportunity for closer mentorship and a faster pathway to greater responsibility. There are trade‑offs, to be sure, but I really tried to focus my search on where and with whom I could see myself working in a firm environment for an extended period of time.
Was there anything in your law school or summer job experience that confirmed this career choice?
As a 2L Summer Associate at Waller, I was able to get a full sense of the breadth of cases its Trial and Appellate practice group handles. I worked on projects involving everything from defamation to employment to commercial real estate to bankruptcy—and at almost every phase of litigation. I also really enjoyed being a Summer Associate in a smaller satellite office of a larger firm, which isn’t something I had ever considered beforehand. In many ways it was the best of both worlds—the resources of a larger firm coupled with the closeness, cohesion, and mentorship potential of a smaller one. There was always something new to learn, and I left feeling excited and grateful for the opportunity to return.
What classes do you think are helpful to prepare for this job?
Legal Research and Legal Writing. The content of those courses makes up the bulk of the Summer Associate and early Associate job description at any firm. For me last summer, often the question was not just whether I could answer a legal research question, but whether I could do so accurately, on a short timeline, and in an easily‑digestible format. I think Legal Research and Legal Writing prepared me well for what I can expect as an Associate. After 1L year, I would point to the courses I’ve taken that required a lot of practice‑based legal writing, for example, Evidence, Environmental Litigation Practicum, and Statutory Interpretation. I think Civil Procedure and Federal Jurisdiction have also been immensely helpful, but I will say that no class has pushed me to learn and retain more about those topics than my 3L clinic experience. It’s one thing to know which rule of civil procedure governs depositions—it’s another entirely to take one. If you’re interested in litigation, I highly recommend gaining as much exposure to practice‑focused legal writing as you can.
Can you describe the job search process?
The job search process for me was—and has to be, in my view—a persistent mix of efforts throughout law school to find the perfect balance of what you want and who is hiring. Flexibility, preparation, and growing and maintaining professional contacts are key. My post‑graduation job search was driven by a very particular geographic focus, so I made a point to reach out to Austin‑based alumni and keep in touch with attorneys and other legal‑adjacent professionals I already knew in Austin—even just to update them briefly on my law school progress. I was able to find at least one potential opportunity through those conversations, but that’s not how I found my post‑graduation job. Nonetheless, those conversations and relationships helped me understand the legal landscape in Austin and practice talking about what I was looking for. Toward the end of my 1L summer, I submitted cold applications to a handful of Austin‑based firms. I also participated in the school’s on‑campus interview program during the winter of my 2L year, the timing of which was atypical due to COVID (usually occurs end of summer/early fall 2L year). Ultimately, I found the 2L Summer Associate position with Waller that led to my post‑graduation job offer through a resume drop on the school’s job portal during the winter of my 2L year. All that to say, my job search process wasn’t just one set of deadlines for clerkship applications or on‑campus interviews—it was a task I incorporated into my regular routine. I recommend to anyone in law school that they keep their resume updated with a cover letter ready to go for any opportunity that might come up, and that they then devote time to actively soliciting perspectives from any and all attorneys they can get in touch with—through the school or otherwise.