Career Paths:Claire Leonard ’16L
Claire Leonard ’16L is from Washington, D.C. and received her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University. She serves as one of the Managing Editors for the Washington and Lee Law Review and as a student caseworker in the Black Lung Clinic. She is also a member of Omicron Delta Kappa. Claire spent her 1L summer as a judicial intern for a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and she spent her 2L summer working as a summer associate for White & Case in Washington, D.C.
Where will you be working after graduation and in what practice area?
After graduation, I will be working at White & Case in the Washington, D.C. office. I am not yet assigned to a particular practice area, but I hope to be in the litigation group.
Did you know coming into law school that you wanted to work for a big law firm?
Yes, I did. Prior to law school, I worked at White & Case for two years as a legal assistant. I had a great experience–I worked on a number of complex litigation matters and assisted with two federal trials in the Northern District of California. I was drawn to the fast-paced atmosphere, and I knew I wanted to work in big law after graduation.
Was there anything in your law school or summer job experience that confirmed this choice?
I think it was a combination of my experience as a legal assistant and my time as a summer associate at White & Case that made me confident in my decision to accept their offer. I was attracted to the firm’s culture and how dedicated they are to their clients. I also really liked that W&C is a truly global firm. They have offices all over the world, and case teams often span different offices. For example, as a legal assistant, I worked on a case with attorneys from the D.C., New York, Palo Alto, and Tokyo offices.
What classes do you think are helpful to take to prepare for a BigLaw job?
It all depends on what type of work you want to do. Personally, I found that the classes focused on legal writing and advocacy skills have been most helpful. No matter what area you practice in, it is important to be an effective communicator. Law school is the time to hone those skills so you are ready to dive in once you start working. For those interested in litigation, Federal Courts and Jurisdiction, Evidence, and Civil Procedure are beneficial. On the other hand, the basic business law classes (CBA, Publicly Held, etc.) are useful for those interested in transactional work.
Can you describe your job search process?
I started my job search process in June of my 1L summer. I had my heart set on returning to the Washington, D.C. area so I focused my search there. I applied to firms through the OCI interview programs, but I wanted to cast the net wide, so I also sent my resume to a bunch of firms not participating in OCI. I ultimately chose White & Case because of the people. At a big law firm, you are likely going to have many late nights and early mornings, so you need to genuinely like the people you are working with. I love W&C’s team atmosphere–the attorneys work extremely hard and collaborate with each other to produce the best result for their clients. I am very excited to join the White & Case team next fall!