This is not an academic exercise, because clients are paying for my time.”
Associate Attorney, Crowell & Moring
Alison Share never envisioned herself working at a firm with more than 450 attorneys. "Big law," as she calls it, was not what she had in mind when she came to Vermont Law School.
But things took a turn early in her second year, when Share attended the Lavender Law conference in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the National LGBT Bar Association, the conference brings together hundreds of practicing attorneys, scholars and law students every year, "the sharpest minds in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community," according to its website.
Share found herself at the conference's job fair, talking to one of two lawyers from Crowell & Moring who were on hand to recruit. Share and one of the Crowell attorneys talked about a pro bono case the lawyer was handling on behalf of an African woman seeking asylum.
Share, who was then co-chair of Alliance, invited the attorney to VLS to present her case to the student group, which she did. And Share found herself on a "call back" list at Crowell, with an invitation to interview at the firm's headquarters in Washington, D.C. She soon landed a summer job offer.
From May through August of 2007, Share worked on researching and writing memos in areas of environmental law and international trade, and took a lead role on a Violence Against Women Act petition, one of the firm's many pro bono cases.
With a solid background in immigration law, Share was given great latitude as a summer associate and found herself working with a Nigerian woman who had traveled to the U.S. with her husband, only to find herself stranded in an abusive relationship.
"We met with the client and helped her draft her affidavit. We started gathering evidence to build her claim," she says. Her summer work ended before the petition was filed, but the experience gave Share a taste for working at the firm - and new insights on what big law can be.
"The work was challenging and rewarding. I learned a lot about how the law works and how it impacts people," she recalls. "I felt it would be a very good fit."
During her third year at VLS, Share was offered a job with Crowell & Moring, where she now splits her time between two practice groups within the firm: the environmental and natural resources group and torts.
With six offices in three countries, the firm covers a broad spectrum of areas - antitrust, government contracts, environment, healthcare, intellectual property, public policy, tax and torts, to name a few. But a visit to its website shows that big law doesn't necessarily equate to big egos.
"We take our work seriously. But not ourselves," says the slogan that floats across the top if its web pages. As if to prove it, the firm displays a photo of rubber ducks and talks about the "stunning fountain" in the lobby of its D.C. offices, at 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
"Years ago, we arrived at work to find someone had left a rubber duck floating in it," the site says. "Since then, the duck population has grown, along with our sense of humor." And its client list, which includes such names as AT&T, BMW, and Siemens.
But Crowell & Moring is also committed to its pro bono work, particularly to helping children, the homeless, and victims of domestic violence.
"By giving to those in need, we enhance the legal expertise and character of our lawyers," says the firm, which figures that its 17,000 annual pro bono hours translate to more than a $4 million investment, ranking it twice as Washington's "Pro Bono Firm of the Year."
Among her projects, Share is currently working on a toxic tort litigation case, writing motions and draft orders and helping in the discovery process. Although she is not at liberty to discuss details, she says the work is giving her the practical skills she needs in her first year out of law school.
"I am doing substantive work," she says. And while acknowledging that her efforts might not "immediately change the world," as she had dreamed of when she decided to study environmental law, she now sees that law is not always about making the big impact at first.
"I also realize it's a progression and you have to get the practical skills first. I definitely have the law skills. I got a first-class education at VLS, I have no doubt," she says. "But a lot of it is about the technical way of doing things. This is not an academic exercise, because clients are paying for my time."
Share, whose D.C. office overlooks the U.S. Department of Justice building and the U.S. Capitol, plans to take a leave from Crowell & Moring next year to clerk with Peter W. Hall, a federal judge sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
She expects that experience will give her yet another view of the law, she says, adding, "I'm all for learning as much as I can."