In-house attorneys talk to law students about the corporate counsel route
There’s not one single path to an in-house counsel position. At an event organized by the Association of Corporate Counsel Colorado Chapter, law students from University of Colorado and University of Denver listened to in-house attorneys talk about how they landed in their current positions and what makes in-house practice different from private practice.
The speakers each had different legal backgrounds and paths to their current positions, whether they always knew they wanted to work as corporate counsel someday or worked for several years between college and law school. Regardless of their own route, each speaker reassured the students that a person’s career doesn’t usually have a straight trajectory.
Amy Klemt, counsel at MarkWest Energy Partners, said she knew from the outset of law school she wanted to take the in-house path and did not want to do litigation work. But going straight from law school to a corporate counsel position was rare when she graduated, Klemt said, and she first worked as a corporate associate in WilmerHale’s Washington, D.C., office. Since then, she’s worked in-house at four different companies. In-house lawyers often have corporate and transactional backgrounds, she said.
“One of the things I really like about in-house practice is that you get to know the businesspeople, and you get to know the business,” she said. “A lot of the time, I’m putting on a business hat instead of my legal hat.” Klemt added that when she brings her legal perspective to the table, it still requires balancing with the company’s business interests.
Sadie Sullivan, who serves as associate general counsel at Children’s Hospital Colorado, spoke with law students about interviewing tips and how to make a résumé stand out.
She said including experience that speaks to an applicant’s personal interests can help set them apart from scores of applicants who may start blurring together.
“After a while, everyone has the same numbers, right?” Sullivan said. “I was in the Peace Corps, so anyone who puts something about the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps, I instantly think they’re great. Or if they’re a long-distance runner, they know adversity, they know commitment.”