Our global alumni network connects the best legal minds in the industry, and we take pride in staying connected to what our alumni are doing long after they leave the Firm. At Kirkland we are colleagues for life. - Jon A. Ballis, P.C., Chairman, Global Management Executive Committee
Watch our "Alumni Minute (and a Half) Journeys" to see some of the remarkable things our alumni are doing.
Kirkland alumni are frequently at the forefront providing counsel across industries to help companies make bold decisions, market solutions and explore new opportunities – even in space. This month, we’re excited to catch up with alumna Amanda Rutenberg, General Counsel for the Space Business at Aerojet Rocketdyne, a developer and manufacturer of advanced propulsion and energetic systems for customers, including the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, and other companies around the world.
Growing up in South Florida, Amanda enjoyed watching Space Shuttle launches and remembers field trips to Rocketdyne’s manufacturing facility. It’s all come full circle now as she’s on Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Space Business leadership team and works across the company of scientists and engineers to provide legal advice on government and commercial contracting matters. The company is providing the engines that are being used on NASA’s Space Launch System for the upcoming Artemis mission, it builds thrusters for NASA exploration vehicles to propel through space and into other planetary orbits, and creates the battery system for the Mars rovers.
“It’s been fun to support these exciting space programs that tie back to my childhood, probably everyone’s childhood,” Amanda said. “I get to work closely with our teams to help the company make decisions from a legal and business standpoint and share in the successes of our amazing technology and missions.”
Before joining Aerojet Rocketdyne, Amanda worked as Of Counsel in Kirkland’s Los Angeles office, where she was recruited to the Firm to help litigate complex government claims. Her Kirkland connection remained strong after she decided to go in-house in 2014 as she hired the Firm to represent Aerojet Rocketdyne for a False Claims Act case which will go to trial this month.
“This is a very important litigation matter for us. I really wanted a top-notch litigation team, and that’s, of course, what you get at Kirkland,” Amanda said. “It has been wonderful working with them considering how experienced they are and the resources they bring. To put my trust in Kirkland for a major litigation matter wasn’t even a second thought.”
As an alumna and client, she really appreciates the investment Kirkland makes in training.
“I think the resources that the Firm provides for their lawyers and their clients are amazing,” Amanda said. “I wish I had started at Kirkland right out of law school. The training that’s provided to the team from the minute they enter is really incredible and impressive. The investment the Firm makes in their people allows attorneys to do a great job for their clients.”
Amanda is grateful for her career journey and connections she’s made along the way. Focused on the future, she’s committed to mentoring and connecting more women to careers like hers that support science.
“We need to get more women into engineering or legal roles that deal in more male-dominated industries. We should be in every role and share proportionately, but we’re not yet there,” Amanda said. “Promoting females into roles they wouldn’t think of and not having women self-edit their potential career opportunities is really important to me. I try to mentor as much as I can and really encourage women to pursue these interesting roles. The next year will be super exciting for space and should bring a lot of excitement for the next generation.”
A Few Quick-Fire Questions
In three words, how do you want to be thought of as a lawyer?
Responsive, creative and helpful
If you could provide one piece of leadership advice to new attorneys, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or admit that you made a mistake. You learn from your mistakes. I started as a government contracts attorney, and it’s a very complicated and highly regulated area of law. If I didn’t ask questions, I never would have gotten anywhere. I find that a lot of young people are afraid to ask for help, or admit they don’t know something. People want to help you; they want to watch you succeed.
Space travel is now a popular interest in the celebrity world. Any thoughts on that?
I think anything that draws interest in space is good. I do think there’s been such a shift with these billionaires with a lot of money to spend and sometimes it gets lost how hard it is. It’s created pressures on the established space companies that we’re trying to overcome, but I do think having more interest in space in general promotes kids learning more about science and math. If it puts dreams in the heads of kids in the future to explore space, then it’s a good thing, but it's certainly a hard balance for a publicly traded company like mine.
Wellness is a big topic in the legal industry right now. What’s your favorite way to destress and relax?
I destress when I’m in nature. I moved to Southern California because I love the mountains. Nature gives me peace and helps puts things in perspective. I also try to do yoga a couple times a week.
What did you read most recently?
I’m a big reader — it’s another way I relax. I really enjoy historical fiction right now; I’m reading a series called “Maisie Dobbs” by Jacqueline Winspear. It follows a female psychologist and investigator in England in the years after World War I.
What’s heavily played on your music playlist right now?
I just watched the documentary “Summer of Soul” that won the Oscar. Because of that, I’ve been really into old school R&B and soul like Nina Simone and Mavis Staples. I highly recommend the documentary.
Other than space, what’s your dream travel destination?
Travel has always been important to me, and I have traveled a lot. I would love to live in Italy; it feels like home, and I’ve been many times. As far as somewhere I haven’t been, I’d love to go to Argentina for the mix of skiing, city life and wine country.
Published May 2022
Bonnie Jarrett / Intellectual Property Counsel, National Football League (NFL)
Just in time for football season, we caught up with New York alumna Bonnie Jarrett, Intellectual Property Counsel at the National Football League (NFL), a Kirkland client. In her role, Bonnie leads brand protection, anti-counterfeiting, anti-piracy and various other intellectual property matters. We asked her former boss, longtime mentor and friend Dale Cendali, Kirkland IP Partner, to host the interview.
Dale Cendali: Can you tell us about your current role at the NFL?
Bonnie Jarrett: My title is Counsel, Intellectual Property, which means I am responsible for IP protection and enforcement for the League and all of its 32 teams. That includes everything from issuing takedowns and sending cease and desist letters, to working with law enforcement throughout the year.
DC: Does the NFL legal practice have a season?
BJ: It’s more seasonal than firm life – really busy times are around July and August and the Super Bowl. We also sometimes see increased activity if a certain player is doing really well or is in the news because he signs to a new team.
That said, the NFL has many events throughout the year, so the off season is getting shorter! The Draft and Combine are both big fan events that take place when games aren’t being played.
DC: What’s a typical day like?
BJ: Lawyers always say there isn’t a typical day, but I probably send a cease and desist letter or issue a takedown notice on counterfeit product nearly every day. There are always surprises though, in the new ways people try to free ride on the NFL.
DC: How has your job changed or stayed the same since COVID-19?
BJ: COVID closures started a month or so after the Super Bowl, and the first change for us was doing the Draft virtually instead of as a live event with fans. And things haven’t slowed down – counterfeiting is still happening, unfortunately, and one of the first things we noticed were lots of counterfeit masks, which we needed to address. More generally, the League as a whole is working hard to make the games happen. We started on time and the goal is to have the Super Bowl in February, but of course we all have to be flexible and adhere to the safety protocols and policies to operate safely amid the pandemic.
DC: What was the transition to in-house like?
BJ: Going in-house to do IP was always a long-term goal. I went to law school with that goal and you, Dale, were such a supportive mentor. You helped me make that connection and introduction to the NFL when you knew there was an opportunity for me to transition in-house. That’s why I encourage all attorneys to be open with their long-term career plans.
DC: What attracted you to the NFL?
BJ: Career wise, NFL teams are some of the most famous brands in the world, which is a lot of fun as an IP lawyer. And then of course, there are events like the Super Bowl which is one of the most watched TV events, not only in this country but around the world. You might think about the NFL as a sports company but it’s so much more than what I originally thought.
DC: So now you’re a Kirkland client. What’s it like working with us on the other side?
BJ: Sometimes it feels like I didn’t leave. I will still call on my Kirkland colleagues and ask questions – sometimes top-of-mind or ones that are more complicated. When we have those calls, it just feels the same as when I was at Kirkland. Because I started summering with you and Claudia Ray back in 2003, we know each other very well. It just feels like old times working together to solve a problem.
DC: How did your experiences at Kirkland and ascending to partner help prepare you for the transition to in-house?
BJ: Confidence. Having been an IP litigator for so long, I’m able to game out scenarios and predict how things may play out. Because of that experience, if a GC of a club or my boss calls, or I know something is on an executive’s radar, I can explain the law, how we can best address the issue, and what the pros and cons are to different options. I learned that working with you and Claudia and the high-caliber clients we had. Even though I’m in-house, I still have clients and advise them much as I advised my Kirkland clients. The experience that I got at Kirkland I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
DC: Looking back, what did you most appreciate during your time at Kirkland?
BJ: On the career side, the opportunity to work on high profile, precedent-setting cases for well-known clients.
On the personal side, some of my best friends are from my time at Kirkland. You go through the late-night hours working hard on a brief, and that time together becomes special. There was also the excitement of reading the first paragraph of a winning decision and calling each other to read your favorite parts and celebrate.
DC: Yes, just last week we found out we won a second circuit case that you helped win two years ago. It was fun to have a Zoom beer to celebrate with you and the rest of the team – some from Kirkland and some alumni. Now that you’re in-house, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to yourself as a former outside counsel?
BJ: Try to put yourself in in-house counsel’s shoes and get an understanding of what they’re trying to achieve from a business and relationship management perspective. That’s most helpful because you then know what information to provide. I learned that at Kirkland. You’re providing a service and the best way to provide that service is to get the right information to the right people at the right time.
DC: What do you enjoy doing in your free time outside of the office?
BJ: One of my most favorite things has always been reading – books, magazines. I’m a print person – there’s just something about it. I also enjoy spending time with my husband and kids, who keep me busy.
DC: It makes me very happy to hear you so happy. Thank you for 17 years of friendship and great work. This has been a lot of fun!
Published October 2020
Hunter Vanaria / Associate Counsel, TED Conferences
It’s the new year and there’s no better place to inspire fresh thinking than TED Conferences, a global organization devoted to spreading ideas usually in the form of short, powerful talks to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. Hunter Vanaria, former Kirkland associate in the New York office, is now associate counsel at TED Conferences. Each day is a new opportunity for Hunter, from reviewing and clearing scripts or rough cuts for talks or other TED Conferences original series or podcasts, to negotiating licensing deals or handling infringement issues and managing TED Conferences’ trademark portfolio. Hunter and his team at TED Conferences collaborate with speakers, producers and business teams as they create and distribute new content and forums for knowledge sharing.
“The opportunity to learn something new every day, or even every hour, has been one of the most attractive parts of my job at TED Conferences,” said Hunter. “Everything I look at is about a new idea, so I have the chance to be exposed to so many different questions and concepts that I normally wouldn’t have the chance to engage with or learn from if it wasn’t a part of my job.”
TED Conferences' mission to spread ideas and spark conversation across the world is a guiding principle and unique challenge for the legal team as they protect the brand and advise colleagues.
“One of the fundamental principles of copyright law is that ideas aren’t copyrightable, so that is something we have to keep in the back of our minds all the time in how we approach someone who might be sharing a TED Talk, or really the idea it contains, on a blog or website, even if it’s without our permission,” said Hunter. “Compared to my background as a litigator in IP, I think at TED Conferences we often have to take a different approach to potential infringements to understand if the sharing of our content may actually align with our mission, which may lead us to decide that sending a demand letter or take down is not the best approach for us. In protecting or enforcing a client’s IP rights, I think a lawyer’s first instinct can often be to think ’not authorized, not ok;’ but we often try to turn that on its head a bit and take a softer, more thoughtful approach to handling enforcement issues; that’s something I’ve really had to learn how to do coming to a mission-driven media organization like TED Conferences.”
Inspired by helping creators, Hunter always hoped to go in-house at a media and entertainment organization, particularly after interning at Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and Nickelodeon during his time at Columbia Law School. Before doing that, though, he knew he needed firm experience, which led him to join the Copyright, Trademark, Internet & Advertising practice in Kirkland’s IP Litigation group.
“Kirkland is pretty distinct in being a big firm with a committed copyright and trademark litigation group that’s doing cutting-edge work with some of the world’s biggest tech, entertainment and media clients. I really don’t think there’s anywhere else I could have gotten that same level of exposure and experience to practice the type of law in which I knew I wanted to hone my skillset,” said Hunter. “The level of responsibility you are given and the way you are relied on as a junior associate at Kirkland, particularly as part of a lean, dedicated group like CTIA (Copyright, Trademark, Internet and Advertising), really prepared me to step into that role as part of a small in-house team. That level of comfort with directly advising clients and coming to the table prepared to answer any question has been so important to my day-to-day at TED Conferences.”
“Looking back, I was really excited by how current and topical the work we were doing at Kirkland was. I had a chance to work on at least two cases that have since ended up at the Supreme Court, and I remember feeling as we were researching and writing our briefs that the work we were doing was really going to have an impact and shape the area of law that we were practicing. It was a very helpful motivator!”
Since leaving Kirkland, Hunter enjoys serving on the Communications and Media Law Committee for the New York City Bar Association with former colleagues from his group and looks forward to attending a future Kirkland Copyright, Trademark, Internet & Advertising Symposium — this time as in-house counsel.
In three words, how do you want to be thought of as a lawyer?
Prepared, intuitive and creative
What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
Traveling! I certainly don’t regret the decision to stay in New York during the pandemic, but I think it’s about time I saw some other places.
As we’re all stuck at home right now, what’s a favorite inspiring TED Talk that you’d recommend to others?
“Three Secrets of Resilient People” by Lucy Hone and “We Don’t Move on from Grief. We Move Forward with It” by Nora McInerny.
I think this is a time when so many people are feeling so much unexpected and incomprehensible loss; it can be hard to find your way through that. These talks offer simple, practical, research-tested solutions for how to reposition yourself in your grief, which I’ve found helpful, and I think a lot of people could use right now.
What did you read most recently?
“The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson; my mom and I trade book recommendations, and this was her latest.
What’s heavily played on your music playlist right now?
It would surprise no one to learn that I have had Taylor Swift’s new album “Evermore” and Kelly Clarkson’s Christmas album on loop this time of year.
Where was the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
A trip through Southeast Asia for my bar trip — Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. I met up with my twin brother, who was already there on a trip for business school, and we traveled around to different parts of each country. I’ll never forget it.
Published January 2021
Jackie Kelso / Attorney, Upstream, Concho Resources Inc.
We recently caught up with Houston alumna Jackie Kelso, an attorney at Concho Resources. Jackie enjoys navigating the fast-paced and innovative atmosphere of the energy industry, and she shares how her time at Kirkland prepared her for working in-house.
Can you tell us about your current role at Concho Resources? What are you responsible for and what is a typical day like?
I work on Concho’s legal team that manages all upstream matters. Depending on the deals that are in the works, my responsibilities range from working on large mergers and acquisitions to day-to-day upstream operational matters, such as negotiating our leases and joint operating agreements. While not my primary role, my work often also touches on regulatory matters, so I sometimes deal with state agencies and related regulatory issues.
What do you enjoy most about working in-house?
Working in-house provides a different perspective; I have the opportunity to be involved with business-side decisions, as well as legal decisions. In addition to our primary legal role, our team is also often able to weigh in on business questions, and we have the opportunity to see how our legal recommendations will impact Concho on a broader, company-wide level.
Why were you interested in working in the energy industry?
As someone who has lived in Houston off and on for the past 13 years, I know that energy plays a key role in the Houston market and more broadly in Texas. The focus, strategy and technology involved in the energy industry is constantly changing, which makes it an exciting and dynamic field.
How do you think your time at Kirkland prepared you for your in-house role?
Work ethic, precise drafting and client service were essential parts of my Kirkland experience and training, and these skills have been important in my in-house role. I learned the value of hard work and the level to which I can push myself to get the best deal for my clients. In my opinion, Kirkland provides the highest level of service to clients, and those skills have proven valuable in my current role. And, knowing Kirkland’s level of client service shapes my expectations when hiring and working with outside counsel because I know the degree of service that a firm can, and should, provide its clients.
Any learning curves when transitioning to in-house? If so, how did you handle?
Transitioning in-house required that I both narrow and broaden my legal skills. I had to narrow my skills in the sense that I needed to learn more specifically about upstream operations and how an energy company functions after the deal closes—I gained those skills by working hard, asking questions and taking CLE courses. In contrast, I also had to broaden my skill set by being flexible with the types of matters that I work on. While my primary role is upstream transactions, I sometimes also handle pre-litigation matters, governance matters and commercial matters—a necessity of in-house life is being flexible and willing to work on a wide variety of matters, when needed.
Looking back, what did you most appreciate during your time at Kirkland? Any favorite memories to share?
Kirkland provided constant opportunities to work on record-breaking deals—after working tirelessly on deals for months at Kirkland, it was a great feeling to wake up in the morning and often see my deals featured on the front page of The New York Times. While I’ve worked on big deals in-house, the frequency with which Kirkland constantly handles major deals is incredible.
How have you stayed connected to the Kirkland alumni network and why is that important to you?
I have stayed in close touch with the many friends and mentors that I had at Kirkland. Kirkland has also done a great job with reaching out to me through invitations to big events like Kirkland’s NAPE reception and CLE webinars (CLE opportunities are harder to find when you’re in-house) to lunches with my friends and former colleagues.
WLI is focused on supporting and empowering our Firm’s women attorneys at all stages of their career. What kind of support has been most beneficial to you as you’ve ascended in your career?
I’ve found that informal mentoring by other women in the legal field has made the most significant impact on my career. Find strong, smart women that you respect and admire—ranging from your peers to those far ahead of you in your career—and make friends with and learn from them. Those informal mentorships/friendships have been critical in supporting and furthering my career.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time outside of the office?
The Houston food scene is one of my favorite aspects of living in Houston. On the weekends, my husband (who is also an attorney) and I enjoy visiting restaurants ranging from the hottest new fine dining spot to taco trucks to hole-in-the wall restaurants. I also enjoy walking our golden retriever and am expecting a baby girl in August.
Published July 2020
Carolyn Edgar / Managing Counsel, Technology and Intellectual Property, BNY Mellon
We recently caught up with New York alumna Carolyn Edgar, Managing Counsel at BNY Mellon, a global investments company. Prior to BNY Mellon, she was in-house counsel at The Estée Lauder Companies and is a recognized leader for elevating diversity in the legal profession.
Can you tell us about your current role as Managing Counsel at BNY Mellon?
I primarily work on technology transactions that the bank is entering into and a lot of it is fintech focused. We are in the scary new era of machine learning, AI, and all sorts of ways that technology is being used to improve the customer experience, products and services; my team explores different ways technology can be used to improve the delivery and services we offer.
What do you enjoy most about the role?
I like that it is so different from anything I’ve ever done before. Every day I learn something new and it’s fun looking at the cutting-edge areas where the law hasn’t really caught up with technology development.
So, you started your career at Kirkland after graduating from Harvard Law and ascended to partner. Why did you choose Kirkland?
Of all the firms that I looked at or summered, Kirkland is where I felt I’d get the best, substantive work to continue to learn and grow.
What was your favorite part about working at Kirkland?
We worked hard but we liked each other so it was fun. We were all equally respectful of one another’s skills, talents and capabilities regardless of background, and we were out for the same goal – to produce the best quality work for the benefit of our clients. Not every company or organization is like that, where everyone is always motivated 100 percent in the same direction. I think that general camaraderie has made it easy for me to remain connected with the Firm. There was almost a purity at Kirkland that I have not experienced anywhere else.
How do you think your experiences at Kirkland prepared you for working in-house?
Every day I leverage something I learned at Kirkland. The substantive preparation was almost peerless in the industry. Some of the smartest lawyers I’ve worked with in my life were people I worked with on a daily basis at Kirkland. I think that early preparation was really foundational.
Looking back on your career, what life lessons have helped you be successful?
The best career advice I ever received was when I was an associate at Kirkland and it's advice I have since delivered to junior associates. I was told "this is your career and you have to figure out what you want to do and ask for the opportunities that are going to take you where you want to go. No one will assume that for you so if you see something you want; ask for it. If you want to be partner or head of a legal department someday, you have to find those people to talk to and identify the opportunities or experiences you need to get along the way."
Congratulations on the National Organization for Women leadership recognition and Metropolitan Black Bar Association Corporate Counsel of the Year award. What were those experiences like?
Those awards were completely unexpected but really meant a lot to me. It was nice to be recognized by outside organizations for work that I try to do on a daily basis – helping young lawyers and women of color raise the bar of what we can achieve and reach new heights in this profession. I think there’s still so much untapped opportunity and I’ve always taken it as a personal goal to reach out to the greatest extent I can and try to be a resource and help people. I enjoy doing that and I enjoy giving back.
What advice would you give to women of color or young female attorneys who want to succeed in the workplace?
I think success is about managing the soft skills – understanding how to work with different kinds of people, or how to understand and prioritize. It’s really knowing what your role is vs. the role of someone else. I think that’s the toughest thing for young lawyers to crack – when they’re supposed to step in and speak up vs. when it’s their job to sit and take notes and observe vs. when it’s their job to produce work product senior lawyers can rely on. All of that involves judgement. And judgement takes development.
How have you stayed involved with the Kirkland Alumni Network?
I enjoy attending Kirkland’s alumni events and connecting with former colleagues. I also go to a lot of industry events where I’ve met other Kirkland alumni who have recognized me from my involvement in the Kirkland Alumni Network, or the video from the alumni event, which is pretty awesome.
I was at a Women of Color networking event and a fellow Kirkland alumna partner recognized me from an old Kirkland attorney directory. She came up to me and we’ve stayed connected since.
What was your favorite alumni event and why?
The last New York event (at the Rainbow Room) certainly stands out, as a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a while were able to make it, so that was special. I also remember the event where there was an interview with Michael Strahan. I got to take a picture with him and that was kind of cool. [laughs]
Now, to end with a fun question, what was the last book you read?
Training School for Negro Girls, a collection of short stories by Camille Acker. I loved it. I recently finished my MFA in creative writing – something I’d thought about for a long time and proud to say I achieved. I’m currently working on a young adult fiction novel set in the 80s – not autobiographical but during a period when I know what being a teenager was like. I’ve been reading novels for similar themes about young black girls for comparison.
Published April 2020
Ben Levi / Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, InCloudCounsel
Kirkland alumnus Ben Levi is co-founder and COO of InCloudCounsel, the largest global provider focused on automating and enhancing high-volume legal processes. The legal technology company combines industry-leading software with a network of experienced freelance corporate lawyers to negotiate and manage routine legal work in an efficient, high-quality, and cost-effective manner.
Looking back, Ben reflects how launching his career at Kirkland in 2008 provided a strong background for his entrepreneurial success. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he interviewed at multiple Chicago firms but ultimately decided on Kirkland. He summered and spent five years in the Corporate Group where his focus was on mergers and acquisitions.
“Ultimately, I chose Kirkland because I loved the people and the culture was nice and hardworking,” said Ben. “I worked with – and learned from – a group who operated at a high caliber and expected and gave you the ability to do the same. I’ve carried that with me.”
He appreciated the fast pace, new challenges, and focus to think differently and find new solutions.
“Kirkland is good at presenting new options, not just doing things the standard way, and encouraging entrepreneurial thought to discover a new path that will work. As an associate, you are asked to do something you’ve never done before and you learn very quickly to say okay. That’s what building a business is – it’s about not being afraid to do something different and knowing you’ll be able to do it,” said Ben. “There’s no secret sauce. There’s no algorithm. It’s a group of innately talented people executing at a high level. That’s exactly what Kirkland is, and that training is invaluable.”
Ben ultimately decided to leave the Firm in 2013 to pursue his interest in legal technology. He co-founded and launched InCloudCounsel in early 2014 after identifying a unique value proposition that works for large companies seeking a scalable solution to handle their routine, time-consuming legal work, and a subset of top-tier attorneys looking for a remote, flexible work arrangement.
“We launched at a time when people were taking an Uber to work or starting to order their groceries online – why not offer traditional legal services in a nontraditional way?”
Ben and his co-founder’s instincts were right. InCloudCounsel has quickly skyrocketed in growth – they started with two attorneys and five years later, they now have a global network with hundreds of lawyers.
Now, as COO of InCloudCounsel, Ben oversees the company’s operations and growing network of offices across the world, but his favorite part of his job is the people he works with.
“Similar to Kirkland, we hire top-tier, high-energy talent, and it’s rewarding to offer a work arrangement that allows attorneys the opportunity to practice at a high level for some of the world’s leading companies, but still work around their own schedule and pursue interests like writing a book or the flexibility to be home for their kids.”
Ben still maintains strong ties with Kirkland, keeping in touch with past colleagues, even hiring some Firm alumni who have participated in Kirkland’s CareerLink program and decided to dial down or change their career path.
“We’ve had several Kirkland alumni join InCloudCounsel and I appreciate the relationship we’ve built with the Kirkland CareerLink team,” said Ben. “Their program is unlike what any other firm offers its attorneys or alumni and it’s been a great introduction to incredible talent.”
Published December 2019
Chanda Rice / Senior Counsel, Hyatt Corporation
Tell us about your current role - where are you and what do you do?
I currently serve as a Senior Counsel at Hyatt Corporation on our Operations legal team. I support our global information technology operations for the corporate office and our hotels. I am involved with any technology or software implemented in two or more Hyatt hotels. My primary responsibilities are: negotiating vendor agreements; preparing and negotiating technology related agreements between Hyatt and our franchisees for Hyatt’s proprietary systems and technology-related services; and advising on legislation affecting our technical operations, such as credit card processing and personal data collection.
How did your training at Kirkland prepare you for your current role?
My training at Kirkland was invaluable. I learned my practice under lawyers that were very knowledgeable in the areas of intellectual property and commercial services, and lawyers that were detail oriented and precise in legal drafting.
What did you learn from summering with us?
I enjoyed my summer because I was exposed to all of the training that Kirkland provides to its litigation and transactional attorneys. The free market system allowed me to figure out what practice paired well with my personality and what I enjoyed.
What has been the biggest surprise about your career path?
Really, how the relationships I formed at Kirkland have helped my career. I left Kirkland in 2013 for a smaller firm. This firm was outside counsel to Hyatt, and the primary point person at Hyatt had worked with me in the same practice group while at Kirkland.
What do you remember most about your time at Kirkland?
My favorite aspect of working at Kirkland was the ability to work remote/telecommute. I appreciated that Kirkland was the type of firm that did not care about face time…the importance was getting the work done. I was most productive while working at home. Since Kirkland, the smaller firm I joined after Kirkland and Hyatt are more face time companies. While I get my work done, I could be more efficient if enabled with the ability to work remotely on occasion.
What piece of advice would you offer young associates starting out their careers?
My advice would be to find a practice that you enjoy. And by enjoy, I mean the work and the people with whom you work. That makes coming to work every day enjoyable, and when you have to answer those emails and deal with issues on off hours and on weekends, there’s no stress involved because you truly enjoy what you do and believe that you are an asset to your clients and enjoy helping them resolve their issues and meet their goals and objectives.
Published August 2019
Alexis Tucker / Counsel, Original Series, Netflix
As Counsel, Original Series at Netflix, Kirkland alumna Alexis Tucker works behind the scenes on a team that produces some of the streaming network’s most award-winning and binge-worthy shows. She works with Netflix’s business affairs executives to negotiate and draft underlying rights agreements and contracts for actors, showrunners, writers, producers and directors.
“It takes a lot of talented people to create every second of content,” said Alexis. “I love working behind the scenes — advising our creators and crew members, collaborating with cross-functional colleagues on the production, marketing and engineering teams, and learning about the various cities where we produce our shows.”
Early Interest in Entertainment
Passionate about the arts, Alexis has always appreciated the power of media to convey a message and connect audiences. After graduating from Princeton in 2008 with a degree in French Language and a minor in African Studies, she deferred acceptance to law school when she was awarded the prestigious Fulbright-mtvU grant. Alexis spent one year researching the influence of hip hop culture on French politics and vlogging for mtvU.
“In many ways, Paris was the center of the hip hop community in Europe, with musicians, dancers and visual artists capturing the hearts and minds of young people from all backgrounds.” said Alexis. “As I spoke with artists about their work, I realized that many of these creative people weren’t fully protected by agreements for their rights or services. Many had never negotiated a contract. This experience reinforced my interest in the law to support the rights and intellectual property of artists.
In 2009, Alexis moved back to the U.S. to attend New York University School of Law and co-led the school’s Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Society which connects students with practicing lawyers through panels, receptions and other networking events.
Kicking Off Her Career at Kirkland
After graduating from NYU Law, Alexis joined Kirkland in 2012.
“I wanted to join a big firm to learn more about corporate law, be a transactional lawyer and get experience working on deals,” said Alexis. “The people I met during the interview process really reaffirmed that Kirkland was the right place to be.”
While at the Firm, Alexis enjoyed the fast pace, independence and opportunity to work on important projects with experienced attorneys.
“I had a lot of mentors that helped me become a good lawyer,” said Alexis. “Besides reviewing agreements, they took me aside and taught me how to execute a deal and develop the soft skills to be more effective, including negotiating techniques and time management tips.”
Following her passion to practice entertainment law, Alexis left Kirkland in 2013 for a unique opportunity to join a boutique firm, where she advised clients on a range of film, television and new media productions. After four years at the firm, Netflix offered her an opportunity to join the company.
Alexis loves the creative culture of Netflix and being part of a team that negotiates production deals for popular shows like GLOW and Stranger Things. “Working on a Netflix’s series from idea to streaming on your device of choice is always a thrill.”
Mentoring and Making Connections
Going in-house and joining Netflix has been a dream come true for Alexis, which is why she makes time to network and help others pursue their career ambitions.
“Mentorship is very important to me,” says Alexis. “I know I am where I am because of so many different people who have helped me — making introductions and encouraging me to follow my passion. Sometimes people think you need to be in your career for a long time to mentor but there’s a lot of power in peer-to-peer mentoring.”
One of those valuable peer networks for Alexis has been attending the Kirkland New York office’s Black Attorney Affinity Group’s events where she has made and facilitated career connections with Kirkland alumni.
“It’s always great to reunite at an event – everyone is doing very interesting things either at Kirkland or wherever they are now,” said Alexis.Published May 2019
Larry Cannon / Chief Administrative Officer and Corporate Secretary, American Heart Association
Kirkland alumnus Larry Cannon, brings a breadth of experience and leadership to the American Heart Association, the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. As Chief Administrative Officer and Corporate Secretary, he leads key corporate operations functions, supports mission-aligned businesses and emerging growth strategies, and oversees corporate governance matters.
From getting his start in public accounting to a successful career in corporate law at Kirkland and then moving in-house, Larry has had an interesting career journey that’s paved the way to his current role at the American Heart Association.From Big Four to Big Law
Larry graduated with an accounting degree from Baylor University and spent a decade at the Big Four accounting firm Ernst & Young. While he enjoyed the client service work, he always had an interest in law school and was pleased to learn that DePaul offered an evening program. Juggling his busy tax accountant role by day, he spent four years tackling law school at night. He got his first taste of law firm life at Kirkland as a summer associate in 1997.
“I knew I wanted to apply law school training in my career but was unsure about practicing,” said Larry. “But after summering at Kirkland, I knew a full transition to law was meant to be.”
Larry officially joined Kirkland in 1999 and brought his seasoned business knowledge to the corporate practice where he worked on corporate securities and M&A transactions.
“I wouldn’t trade my Kirkland experience for anything,” said Larry. “It was the very best training ground and I’m thankful for the intelligent, committed and highly motivated people I worked with – and learned from – every day.”
Larry left Kirkland in 2003 as he wanted to go back to Texas and the Firm didn’t have an office in the state at that time. He continued practicing corporate law at the firm Jones Day and then switched to go in house and became Chief Securities Counsel at FTS International, one of the largest oil field services companies in North America focused on well completions.
At FTS, he was elevated to the role of Chief Administrative Officer, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, which included overseeing legal, regulatory compliance, risk management, human resources, procurement, internal audit, and health, safety & environmental.
“I really enjoyed the transition to CAO and the opportunity to strategically lead multiple functions to achieve the company’s goals.”
Navigating to Nonprofit
Happy in the oil and gas industry, the switch to a nonprofit career was unexpected until Larry got a call from an American Heart Association recruiter interested in his CAO, accounting, legal and international experience. After learning more about the role he was drawn to the American Heart Association’s mission and powerful collaborations to make an impact – a cause Larry is especially vested in given a family history of heart disease.
He joined the organization in 2017 as Chief Administrative Officer and Corporate Secretary and oversees key functions including legal, HR, accounting, finance, treasury, risk management, information technology, procurement, and internal audit among others.
“I was both impressed and surprised by the breadth, complexity and fast-paced nature of the American Heart Association,” said Larry. “We’ve funded more than $4 billion in heart disease and stroke research and have the support of an incredible network of physicians, scientists and passionate volunteers.”
“We have a strong brand — so many people have a personal connection to the American Heart Association,” said Larry. “It’s our job to protect our organization so we can accelerate science, support the millions who need us and be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.”
Kirkland is proud of Larry and his leadership at the American Heart Association.
Published February 2019