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Good Work for Good People Taryn Washburn ‘24L discusses her experience working with clients in the Trusts and Estates Practicum.

washburn-taryn-800x533 Good Work for Good PeopleTaryn Washburn ’24L

Taryn Washburn ‘24L is from Cleveland, Ohio. She attended Grinnell College and obtained her undergraduate degree in Economics and English in 2020. During COVID, she spent a year interning with a law firm near home in Cleveland, and then made her way down to Lexington and W&L Law. She works as a docent for the W&L Museums and spends much of her free time “making”—from sewing to woodworking, she always seems to have a project going. She lives south of Lexington with her fiancé, William, and their cat, Chairman Meow. After graduation, she will be joining the trusts, estates, and tax firm of Yates Campbell in Fairfax, Virginia.

Why did you choose to participate in this practicum for your 3L year?

After taking Gift and Estate Taxation at W&L, I spent last summer doing trusts and estates work with the law firm of Yates Campbell (YC) at Professor Danforth’s recommendation. I absolutely fell in love with the firm and the work, and I’m glad I could return to W&L to get some more practice in the field via the Trust and Estates Practicum before heading back to YC.

What classes have prepared you to work in the practicum?

I’ve taken Gift and Estate Taxation with Professor Danforth and Decedents’ Estates and Trusts with Professor Light, both of which I very much enjoyed. I would also say that my Business Associations course with Professor Haan and Mergers and Acquisitions course with Professor Stanton have also helped prepare me to advise clients with closely-held family businesses, which are often implicated in trusts and estates practice.

What are some skills you have developed in this course?

I’ve primarily developed drafting skills and client counseling skills. I’m grateful that I spent the summer with a trusts and estates firm learning all the substantive elements of the law. That way, I could spend this semester focusing on my softer skills. I’m grateful for the detailed feedback I’ve received on my drafts, and I definitely see a difference between my drafts from the beginning of the semester and my current drafts!

What surprised you about the work you have done?

I was surprised that we were handling real clients from the very beginning—by which I mean, I had assumed the law school or our professors would have some amount of correspondence with prospective clients before assigning them to us, if only to collect basic client information and to ensure they were appropriate clients to assign to students in the practicum. Instead, we were often handed an email or a phone number, sometimes without even a full name, and it was our job to reach out to the client and basically ask, “Hi, who are you?” It was definitely a challenge to do so while retaining some level of professionalism, but it also helped me learn the important skills of managing client expectations.

What was your favorite aspect of your work with the practicum?

I would say I most enjoy the client counseling aspect of the practicum. It’s not only gratifying to do good work for good people—especially those who need estate plans, such as local first responders—but all of the clients I’ve been assigned have also been extremely pleasant people. Our meetings have not only been informative and productive, but to an extent, they’ve also been fun. It’s good to hear about my clients’ families and to help them provide for the people they love, and I’m glad the practicum offers us the chance to do that pro bono for folks in our community.

What was your biggest challenge so far?

Near the beginning of the semester, I had to decide whether a client lacked competency to execute a will. It was a difficult decision to make—much less clear-cut than it seems like it would be when you’re learning about it in class. And while these kinds of decisions are difficult and never pleasant, I’m glad I’ve been exposed to having to weigh the considerations that going into such a decision.

Has this experience helped you figure out your post graduate plans, and if so how?

I wouldn’t say it helped me figure them out, since I had already agreed to go back to Yates Campbell after graduation; but I’m grateful I had the chance to keep my trusts and estates skills sharp this year, and the work I’ve done in the practicum has only reinforced my desire to pursue this area of the law as my career.