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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Generation Tech: Students with Hustle Turn Summer Gigs into Valley Jobs

"This is the world's dominant tech ecosystem. It's where the action is." --3L Taylor Cashwell

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3L Taylor Cashwell will start in October as an associate at Fenwick & West.

From the moment 3L Matt Kovac started his summer externship at Apple, he was pulled into the company’s exhilarating go-go tempo.

After his 1L year, he worked in Apple’s transactions group, helping attorneys with licenses and co-development deals, and assisting on a large acquisition. “The pace at Apple is unlike any other company I’ve worked at,” Kovac says. “It’s a Fortune 500 company, but it moves as fast and nimbly as a startup.”

Kovac’s experience working in the high-speed tech world is becoming far more common for UC Hastings students. With its proximity to Silicon Valley and close ties to leading lawyers throughout the Bay Area, the school places students in externships and summer associate positions with exciting tech firms, from giants in the industry like Apple and Yahoo! to startups launching new apps and mid-tiers contemplating initial public offerings. Students also get invaluable hands-on experience working with startups through UC Hastings’ Startup Legal Garage and build connections that lead to Valley gigs.

3L Jacob True was an extern with Sony’s entertainment arm this past summer as the company prepared to launch its PlayStation 4 game console. True, who hopes to work in the video game industry after graduation, spent the summer researching legal issues related to the device’s “share” feature, specifically determining potential litigation threats from copyright holders and possible revisions to Sony’s licensing agreements.

“The Sony experience meant the world to me because I want my career to end up in the video game industry,” True says. “There was no better experience than working in-house for Sony PlayStation during one of the most important product launches in its recent history.”

During his externship with eBay, Tom Hadid ’13 gained litigation experience defending the company against small claims. He was victorious every time he went to court. “It’s a confidence booster,” says Hadid, now an associate in the Palo Alto office of Cooley. “I got to see how in-house lawyers work and what they want from outside counsel.”

In her 1L summer, 2L Katherine Stepanova researched infringement and antitrust law for SanDisk and attended witness preparations and depositions. 2L Kyle Gertridge worked in Yahoo!’s global legal operations department, researching European regulations and compliance, while 3L Katherine Webb focused on privacy research at Autodesk. Subsequently, Webb spent a summer at Cooley, where she will return as an associate after graduation. “Being a lawyer in the Valley is unlike being a lawyer anywhere else,” Webb says. “We get to be so much more than ‘just lawyers’ to our clients; we’re their business partners, too. We’re not only solving legal problems, we’re helping them build their businesses. That’s incredibly exciting, and something I can’t wait to be a part of.”

Transformative Summer Gigs

For some students, their 2L summer gigs were transformative and confirmed their career paths. “Sitting with Cooley’s clean-tech partner Gordon Ho and vetting energy startups at client intake meetings was incredibly validating for me,” says 3L Edward “Eddy” Mata. “I was able to use my engineering background to really connect with the entrepreneurs and their ideas, and then call upon my legal training at UC Hastings to help set them up for success. It was then that I realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be.”

UC Hastings alumni have been instrumental in helping current students enter the tech world. Jon Gavenman ’91, the head of Cooley’s business and finance group in Palo Alto, says the firm’s summer associate program gives students the chance to do actual client work like drafting deal documents for venture financing and public filings, and even attending company board meetings. Gavenman has taken summer associates to board meetings at Agari Data, Silver Tail Systems, and Jaspersoft. “They get the experience of being part of the decision-making process and learning how a board meeting runs,” Gavenman says.

Other firms offer similar opportunities. 3L Kaitlin Keohane assisted with a deposition and did research for a summary judgment motion during her stint as a summer associate at Quinn Emanuel. The firm represented the Russian search engine Yandex in a copyright infringement suit. The case settled after Yandex obtained summary judgment on the majority of its claims. 3L Michael LaFond also interned with Quinn, working on a case for a client being sued by the patent aggregator Acacia Research.

3L Sasha Hahn and Ali Alemozafar '10

3L Taylor Cashwell spent two summers at Fenwick & West working on startups and venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, and IPOs. He starts there this fall as a first-year associate. 3L Sasha Hahn spent two summers at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, working on IPOs, venture financings, and software license agreements, and will return to the firm as an associate after graduation. Ali Alemozafar ’10 also spent his 1L and 2L summers at Wilson Sonsini. He continued to work at the firm on patent prosecution and strategic patent counseling during his second and third years, joining the firm as an associate after graduation.

For students hoping to work in tech, the law school’s location is a boon. “This is the world’s dominant tech ecosystem,” Cashwell says. “It’s where the action is.”

Editor's Note: This story is excerpted from the Spring 2014 UC Hastings magazine, delivering April 22, 2014. 

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