Laura McNabb found her career as an associate attorney for a commercial litigation firm through the networks she cultivated and by playing to her strengths. In her day-to-day work, she draws on her ability to connect with others, whether she is working with a client, collaborating with a fellow attorney, or tackling a new challenge her trial-focused work throws her way.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
I am an associate attorney at Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell (WTO), a national litigation boutique based in downtown Denver. My practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, including class action, insurance, and product liability defense. One of my favorite things about this job is that there really is no typical day for me. Depending on caseload, my day may consist of motions research and drafting, preparing for court or a deposition, coordinating with a client to collect documents or respond to discovery requests, conducting a custodian interview, developing an expert witness, or collaborating with a partner about strategic next steps in a case. And because the firm has a national trial practice, I travel frequently and practice in a variety of jurisdictions.
How did you find your job?
I knew I wanted to join a trial-focused firm with strong and experienced leaders who are committed to mentorship. I had several friends who were associates at WTO when I started my job search. These individuals, many of whom are Colorado Law grads, were gracious enough to tell me about the wonderful experience they were getting at WTO and to help me connect with the recruiting committee.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
My relationships with other Colorado Law grads made a huge impact on my job search. Colorado Law also provided me with opportunities to acquire the skills and experiences that I needed to be a competitive candidate. The faculty and the administration have gone above and beyond to help me pursue my goals, both as a student and as an alumna, by spending extra time getting to know me outside of class, writing letters of recommendation on my behalf, making personal calls to potential employers, or connecting me with other members of the legal community.
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis, and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
I spend a lot of my day collaborating with other people to solve problems. Sometimes the “problem” is a tricky legal analysis, a disorganized document production, a confusing procedural issue, or perhaps just a difficult opposing counsel. Thanks to the diverse experiences I received through externships, experiential classes, and fellowships—all supported by Colorado Law—I have developed the interpersonal skills necessary to work effectively with others to identify and implement solutions.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and networking specifically. How has your professional network made a difference in your career?
One of the partners at my firm advises that the best networkers are people who know what they are good at and seek networking opportunities that play to those strengths. I have always been good at connecting with people one-on-one, so that is how I most frequently network. As a law student, I had some very special mentors who helped me create these networking opportunities by connecting me with other lawyers in the community they knew personally and thought I might enjoy. The lawyers I met through these referrals had a huge impact on the decisions I made both during and after law school. Now in private practice, I continue to use the referral method to build relationships both within my 100+ attorney firm and beyond it. I also make a point to stay connected with my Colorado Law network, which includes the people I went to school with, professors and administrators that I got to know as a student and a post-graduate fellow, and an array of Colorado Law grads that I met through my judicial clerkships. And because my network has made such a huge difference in my career, I am always happy to meet with and support current students and recent grads.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Former Dean Phil Weiser gave me a lot of invaluable advice when I was looking for jobs. Three tidbits really stuck with me:
- Know that you have a lot to offer.
- Be able to articulate how what you have to offer fits into what the potential employer needs.
- Don’t take it personally when the potential employer “kicks the tires” during the interview because that just means they care enough to make sure you are a good fit.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
I do recommend Colorado Law to potential law students because I had a wonderful experience. Although law school can be challenging and stressful, I was supported every step of the way by people throughout the school—from my classmates to the faculty, librarians, administration, and everywhere in between. I left law school with the skills I need to someday become an excellent lawyer and with relationships that make the journey worthwhile.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
I chose Colorado Law because it is a high-caliber law school and because the students I encountered during my campus tour smiled at each other in the hallways and seemed genuinely happy to be there. I wanted to learn with other students who were excited by the challenge of law school. More importantly, I wanted to be part of a community that cared about me. Happily, that has been my experience, both while I was a student and after I graduated, thanks to the many professors and administrators who have taken a genuine interest in me as a person.
To see more Promising Starts: www.colorado.edu/law/careers/career-paths/promising-starts