Career Paths: Sierra Terrana ’20, ’23L After graduation, Sierra Terrana will work in-house for IBM.
Sierra Terrana ’20, ‘23L is from Tampa, Florida. She is a 2020 graduate of W&L, where she received a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies. Sierra spent her 1L summer working as a judicial intern for the Honorable Thomas Barber of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, and as a legal intern at the Social Media Exchange, a Beirut-based NGO advocating for privacy rights in the MENA region. She worked at an international trade boutique in Washington, D.C., during her 2L summer. At W&L, Sierra is on the German Law Journal and serves as Law School Key Staff for the Outing Club.
Where will you be working after graduation and in what practice area?
I’ll be working at IBM in New York. IBM uses a rotational model for first-year attorneys, so I’ll be exploring a range of practice areas, including IP, international trade, global markets, and cybersecurity/data privacy.
Did you know coming into law school that you wanted to work in-house?
I vaguely knew that I wanted to go in-house at some point but didn’t think it would be possible until several years out of law school. Coming into law school, I actually had very little idea of what I wanted to do. I had a broad interest in international law that stemmed from my undergraduate studies, but I was unsure of how that would translate into tangible job prospects. Had I known that in-house opportunities existed for new graduates, they would have been higher up on my list.
Was there anything in your law school or summer job experience that confirmed this career choice?
After my 1L summer in Beirut, I knew that cybersecurity and data privacy were areas I wanted to keep exploring. I felt the same about IP and trade law after my 2L summer in D.C. Working at IBM struck me as a unique opportunity to continue engaging with these and other areas of interest directly out of law school.
What classes do you think are helpful to prepare for this job?
My 1L Transnational Law course (Professor Kathleen Claussen) focused heavily on trade policy—this was incredibly helpful to me as a summer associate, and I expect that it will continue to serve me well. But I’m most grateful to W&L’s undergraduate English Department for teaching me to read critically and shaping me as a writer.
Can you describe the job search process?
I entertained everything from foreign NGO work to judicial clerkships to working at a large firm, so I’d say my process was quite messy.
As a 1L, I spoke with Professors Mark Drumbl and Speedy Rice about my interest in international NGO work. I had studied in Lebanon before and was hoping to return as a law student to work on my Arabic and learn more about privacy regulations in the Levant. They put me in touch with the Social Media Exchange, an organization in Beirut advocating for digital rights in the MENA region. I split my summer between this and a judicial internship in my hometown of Tampa, FL, at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
I started interviewing for 2L jobs while still in Beirut, which wasn’t the best decision given the frequent power cuts in my neighborhood. Dean Jarrett helped me to identify law firms focusing on international trade and/or IP, and I landed on a boutique in D.C. that did both. Following my 2L summer, I applied to similar firms, government roles, and in-house opportunities. I knew that IBM was the right fit for me after my very first interview, and I accepted my offer in late December.
What are you most looking forward to about this job?
I’m most looking forward to getting to know my cohort and the attorneys with whom I interviewed. I’m also excited about the opportunity to work at IBM offices abroad—I’ve always hoped to work internationally at some point, so I feel especially grateful that this is an option.
Outside Law School
I love to trail run, bike, and be outside with my friends. I also enjoy shooting film photography, which comes easily in a place as beautiful as Rockbridge County!
Favorite Location in Lexington/W&L Campus
The back campus trails and gazebo are some on-campus favorites. I spend a lot of time at Brushy Hills, too, which is a short drive from W&L.
Advice for Prospective Law Student
Make time for community involvement and non-law school interests, even (and especially) when classes get busy.
Something you will miss at W&L Law
I’ll miss running into professors at farmers’ markets, Lime Kiln shows, and other local spots—this has become one of my favorite parts of living in a small town. Most of all, though, I’ll miss the lifelong friends I’ve made over the last seven years in Lexington.