Career Paths: Sica Matsuda ’23L After graduation, Sica Matsuda will be a litigation associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Washington, D.C and then a clerk for Judge Amy Berman Jackson at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Jessica (Sica) Matsuda ‘23L is from Windsor, California. She attended the University of Richmond for her undergraduate studies where she received a degree in Business Administration and Political Science. After college, she was as a legal assistant for a private criminal defense firm in Northern Virginia, working for W&L alumna Mary Nerino. At W&L, Sica is a student attorney in the Criminal Justice Clinic, a Senior Articles Editor on the Law Review, the Appellate Advocacy Chair on the Moot Court Board, and the Co-President of OutLaw.
Where will you be working after graduation and in what practice area?
After graduation, I’ll be a litigation associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Washington, D.C working mostly with the Mass Tort, White Collar Crime, Appellate, and Administrative Law groups. After my first year out, I’ll be leaving to clerk for Judge Amy Berman Jackson at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Did you know coming into law school that you wanted to clerk and work in private practice?
I had no idea! Coming into law school, clerkships and big law firms were total mysteries to me. I was really fortunate to have some great mentors here at W&L, both students and professors, that really helped me pick my career path. My Constitutional Law and Legal Writing professors, Alexandra Klein and Allison Weiss, introduced me to the idea of clerking and were great resources when it came to applying. I would have never been able to get mine without them!
As for my law firm job, my absolute guiding lights were two fellow students Tim Wang (’22L) and Lucy Dempsey (’21L). W&L has a really great culture of mentorship and collegiality among our student body and these two really took the time to help me figure out if firm life was right for me and how to actually get the job. Tim literally spent hours with me on the phone during my 1L summer helping me to navigate the process. Both Tim and Lucy were not only great personal mentors to me but were Rachford fellows here at W&L, which is a group of students who dedicate their time to act as peer career advisors.
What role did the size and location of the firm play in the search and decision process?
Location was my biggest factor when it came to looking for my post-graduate jobs. I loved living in the D.C. area before law school and knew I wanted to return, which is a huge part of why I picked W&L in the first place. Not only do I like the size and culture of D.C., but the capitol is an extremely exciting place to practice law—it is a city full of lawyers. Size didn’t matter so much to me when it came down to it, but I did want to be at a financially stable firm that was primarily dedicated to trial and appellate litigation. Gibson is a larger law firm, and my experience working there as a summer associate taught me about a lot of the benefits of that kind of environment. More attorneys meant more fast-paced, interesting work being developed and brought into the firm, which led to a wide range of opportunities to try out new practice areas and get experience using different practical skills.
Was there anything in your law school or summer job experience that confirmed this career choice?
My summer job experiences definitely informed my career choices after law school—I’ll actually be returning to both of my previous internships! In my first summer after 1L, I was an intern for Judge Thomas Cullen in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia and Judge Amy Berman Jackson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. I cannot speak highly enough of the judicial internship experience. Not only is it unbeatable in terms of key research and writing practice, but as an intern I was able to watch extremely good attorneys actually do their thing in the courtroom. I really enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the trial court, so that confirmed my decision to clerk after law school. Judge Jackson was an especially great mentor during my summer in her chambers, so I’m absolutely ecstatic to be returning to work for her.
I spent my second summer working at Gibson Dunn in their Washington D.C. office, which was a great way to use the practical experience I had gained in my judicial internships. Gibson had a great summer program that really focused on giving us genuine work experience and connections within the firm to use when we return as associates. I was able to try out a bunch of different practice groups that really did inform and start to narrow down the areas I want to practice. Also, the free lunch every day was unbeatable. Both of these experiences solidified my interest in litigation and really grounded my professional connections in D.C.
What classes do you think are helpful to prepare for these jobs?
There are so many great classes at W&L, it’s hard to choose the most helpful ones. Of the classes you are required to take in 1L, the most helpful class was Civil Procedure followed closely by Constitutional Law. Federal courts deal every day with different motions and procedural issues, so as a judicial intern, you want to have a strong understanding on those Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. I had outstanding professors in both those classes, so when my first assignments as an intern had me writing about issue preclusion and standing, I was certainly ready!
As for the classes you get to choose in 2L and 3L, Administrative Law, Federal Courts and Jurisdiction, and Evidence are a must. The courts in D.C. deal with a lot of administrative law cases and sticky constitutional issues, so Administrative Law and Fed Courts are great to build your basis of knowledge. Professor Murchison and Professor Trammell are absolute delights so taking their classes is a double win. And of course, Evidence if you are interested in trial litigation! It is a great class to learn courtroom procedure and how to annoy your opposing counsel with objections.
Can you describe the job search process for both?
The job search processes for both of my post-graduate jobs were pretty standard. Many large firms recruit their associates directly through their summer hiring. For my spot at Gibson, I applied to their 2L summer program during my 1L summer by sending a resume, cover letter, writing sample, and grades. After applying, I did a 30-minute screener interview with two current associates who just asked me some basic questions about myself, my time in law school, and my summer internships. I then got a callback interview, which was basically a series of five screener interviews with different associates and partners. After I completed my 2L summer job with them, they offered me a position to come back after law school as an associate.
Clerkships are an entirely different ball game, but W&L has some great resources to get you through the process. Clerkship applications generally ask for your resume, grades, one to two writing samples, a cover letter, and three letters of recommendation. I started by sending all those materials to our clerkship committee, run by the wonderful Andrea Hilton, to get them all edited and up to speed. I then created a profile to upload these application documents on OSCAR, or the “Online System for Clerkship Application and Review,” which is the big system that most federal judges use to hire their clerks. I was very fortunate that Judge Jackson, who I had worked for during my 1L summer, was accepting applications on OSCAR and the rest is history!
What are you most looking forward to about these jobs?
Getting to apply all the knowledge I have in my head after law school! I’m excited to start representing clients at Gibson and get my hands on some practical experience litigating whatever case comes my way. I also hope to have a pro bono practice where I can start getting involved in the civil rights litigation that I’ve found super interesting in law school. As for my clerkship, there are so many things I’m excited about it’s hard to choose! Mostly, I’m excited to get the in-depth writing experience that I really enjoyed during my judicial internship and learn from the best in Judge Jackson’s chambers.
Outside Law School
Trail Running, Painting, Wine, Watching Competitive Cooking Shows
Favorite Location in Lexington
Pronto Café & Gelateria
Advice for Prospective Law Student
Professors are the absolute best part about law school—speak to some members of the faculty and make sure you click before choosing a law school!
Something/Someone you will miss at W&L Law
Seeing Jane’s smiling face at the Brief Stop!