The alumni program is a perfect medium for Kirkland & Ellis lawyers and alumni to connect and enhance professional and personal relationships. - Jeffrey C. Hammes, 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.
Mateja Maher / General Counsel, Campbell Lutyens
Alicia Davis / University of Michigan
Soraya Rudofsky / Walmart
Brandy Kuentzel / San Francisco SPCA
Carolina Paschoal / Kate Spade & Company
Jackie Sloan / The Children’s Ranch
Jon Shepard / First Ascent Climbing and Fitness
Always passionate about education and research, alumna Dr. Francesca Strumia has brought her Kirkland experience to the University of Sheffield School of Law. As Senior Lecturer, Francesca combines her deep knowledge of international law and practical experience to educate and connect university students to valuable career experiences.
Interested in exploring the intersection of legal education and legal practice, she believes in the importance of clinical legal education and integrates the lessons she learned at Kirkland in her teaching and research.
“The legacy of being a part of an international law firm like Kirkland was rewarding and influential in my academic career,” said Francesca. “I always look for the practical and seek opportunities to engage with outside partners like other law firms, NGOs or the government.”
“I think working with Kirkland lawyers from other countries gave me the ability to speak with different types of professionals, and consider cultural sensitivities and perspectives. That experience has helped me when communicating with students, colleagues and external partners, or speaking at conferences and transitioning from one professional audience to another.”
Global Education and Experience
Currently living in London, Francesca has lived, learned, and practiced law all over the world. She grew up in Italy and attended the University of Torino where she majored in law. Fascinated by the U.S. law school experience, she applied and was accepted to Harvard Law School. After receiving an LL.M., she continued her research and pursued Harvard’s prestigious Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D).
After finishing at Harvard in 2009, she joined Kirkland’s London office an exciting opportunity to practice as a U.S. lawyer but be closer to family. She spent three and a half years at the Firm in the corporate practice where she worked on several international cases.
“Kirkland felt like a completely new universe. It was very competitive but also friendly and inclusive — especially as a junior lawyer,” said Francesca. “It was an interesting place to be and a professional melting pot of high caliber, motivated people from international backgrounds committed to doing quality work.”
Francesca left Kirkland in 2012 to return to Italy where she joined a Milan firm and also worked as a post graduate research fellow at the University of Torino. In 2014, she decided to transition full time to academia and joined the University of Sheffield School of Law in London.
She currently teaches and focuses her research on European Union Law and International and Comparative Immigration Law. As Co-Director of International Law Firms Relations, she identifies opportunities for students to network or learn about a global career.
Lessons from Kirkland
Through the years, Francesca has stayed connected with Kirkland personally and professionally.
In her job at the University, she collaborates with Kirkland’s Munich and London offices to arrange student visits and contributes to research on global law trends and the internationalization of the legal profession.
“A couple of years ago I attended a Harvard alumni event at the London office and it was so nice to reconnect,” said Francesca. “Leaving the Firm wasn’t an easy decision, but Kirkland was extremely gracious and supportive when I decided to join and ultimately leave.”
“I had some fantastic mentors at Kirkland — both junior and very senior and that’s something that’s stayed with me so I try to apply with my students.”
“A lot of students come to school with a lack of confidence, but hearing a lawyer’s personal and professional story is inspirational and formative. It’s something they can really relate to when considering their own future.”
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.
Jerry Masoudi / Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary, JUUL Labs
Kirkland alumnus Jerry Masoudi leads the legal team at JUUL Labs, the fast-growing U.S. based e-cigarette company. As chief legal officer and corporate secretary, Jerry and his team help the pioneering company navigate legal and regulatory issues to achieve its mission to improve the lives of existing adult smokers by providing an alternative to combustible cigarettes.
Jerry joined JUUL Labs in the summer of 2018 and has built a talented team to match the company’s growth and demand.
“It’s been exciting to join a start up and be part of a mission I believe in – using technology and innovation to eliminate combustible cigarettes,” said Jerry. “The company has a great opportunity to change the world.”
Looking back, his interest in science, nearly a decade in litigation at Kirkland, and roles in government and with biopharmaceutical companies provide deep experience for his current role.
Kirkland Training Ground
Before graduating from the University of Chicago School of Law, Jerry got his first taste of Firm life as a summer associate in Kirkland’s former Denver office. Immediately following graduation in 1993, he clerked for Judge Frank H. Easterbrook of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He rejoined Kirkland in 1994 and worked as a litigation associate in the Washington D.C. office. His strong leadership and track record paved the way to partnership in 1999.
Jerry is proud to be part of the Kirkland alumni network and reflects fondly on his time at the Firm and opportunity to be part of – and learn from – teams representing landmark cases in appellate matters, arbitration, patent cases, antitrust and more.
“Kirkland gets great results for great clients,” said Jerry. “I had a lot of fun working on a broad range of interesting trial and appellate matters.”
“As an associate, I remember thinking the partners I worked alongside were very accomplished,” reflects Jerry. “It’s impressive to think of the people who were practicing at Kirkland during that time period and where they’ve landed – the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, the White House, and in leadership at the Firm.”
Getting the Government Perspective
After a decade of practicing litigation, Jerry decided to follow his interest in public service. He left Kirkland in 2004 and spent four years in government at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Justice.
At the FDA, he served as Chief Counsel, where he supervised agency litigation and advised the FDA’s senior leadership on regulatory and enforcement matters. While the government culture and pace were different, his Kirkland background representing corporations provided valuable perspective on how an industry makes decisions.
“When you are in the government, it’s important to see how industry works,” said Jerry. “Working from the inside, you see the reality of what a company faces to get things done and have a better perspective on innovation and how companies make things happen.”
Between stints at the FDA, Jerry joined the U.S. Department of Justice and served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for international, policy and appellate matters in the Antitrust Division.
A Pharmaceutical Focus
In 2009, Jerry left government and joined Covington & Burling LLP as partner and co-chair of the firm’s food and drug practice where he advised FDA-regulated companies on a wide range of regulatory and litigation matters.
Following his deep interest in healthcare, he left Covington to go in-house at Celgene Corporation, a leading biopharmaceutical company. As general counsel and corporate secretary, he enjoyed combining his vast legal experience to help bring products to market.
“It was fantastic to switch to in-house,” said Jerry. “In prior roles, I saw pieces of product development but never from start to finish. Working in-house, I was able to see the clinical development, research, manufacturing, and marketing. Seeing how a company takes a product from an idea to a reality that changes people’s lives is really fascinating.”
In 2018 he was recruited to join the fast-growing JUUL Labs. As Chief Legal Officer, he oversees legal matters relating to litigation, FDA regulation, employment, M&A, intellectual property, and compliance. He works closely with the board of directors as Corporate Secretary. He also oversees JUUL Labs’ brand protection and anti-counterfeiting efforts.
He likes being part of the JUUL Labs’ fast-moving culture combining his interest in healthcare, economics and science.
“No two days are the same, and there are always new and interesting problems to solve,” said Jerry. “I’ve made a bunch of changes in my career and every step has been an opportunity to learn more.”
Kirkland is proud of Jerry and we look forward to following his career journey and continued success.
Karen Huoth / Senior Counsel, Litigation and Intellectual Property, Hulu
Alumna Karen Huoth has brought her deep Kirkland IP litigation background to Hulu, a streaming service offering live TV and on-demand shows and movies as well as Hulu original series such as Handmaid’s Tale and Catch-22.
As Senior Counsel, Litigation and Intellectual Property, she oversees a team that is responsible for managing all of the company’s litigations as well as maintaining Hulu’s patent portfolio and copyrights. She joined Hulu in 2013 and has seen the company and legal team grow as Hulu’s innovations and profile elevate.
“I love our product — it’s an easy thing to advocate for,” said Karen. “We are doing a lot of interesting work on the technology and content side and I get to support that and make sure Hulu’s best interests are represented.”
Path to Patent Litigation
Karen’s undergraduate degrees in computer science and philosophy from the University of Washington complemented her eventual career journey in patent litigation for technology companies. After graduating from Columbia Law School, Karen started her career practicing litigation in big law.
In 2009, she decided to join Kirkland because of the Firm’s breadth of experience and reputation in patent litigation. Karen hit the ground running and practiced in both the New York and Palo Alto offices — becoming partner in 2011.
“I found that if you worked hard, did a good job, and worked well with others, there were a lot of opportunities for interesting cases and senior level work,” said Karen. “There is a Kirkland method of litigation that has helped me as in-house counsel.”
Keeping a Kirkland Connection
Karen left the Firm in 2013 to go in-house at Hulu.
“Kirkland gets the big cases and is constantly breaking new ground. I enjoyed the challenge, but I wanted to go in-house at a company where I was closer to the product and was able to understand a company’s risk profile,” said Karen. “I like to be in a proactive position and understand risk analysis and early decisions before we go in and negotiate to avoid litigation if possible.”
“Kirkland is very thorough and explores creative options, which is something we do at Hulu as well,” said Karen. “Think outside of the box and come up with interesting strategies to be more efficient but still get great results — it’s a great Kirkland foundation that I use with my team.”
Karen stays connected to past Kirkland colleagues and Hulu is now a Kirkland client. She’s currently working on a case with Dale Cendali, Josh Simmons and Diana Torres.
“We just hired Kirkland for a case,” said Karen. “I know their style. We have a Kirkland short hand. I don’t need to tell them what to do – I know they will handle it and they will get it done right.”
Anjelica Bader / Counsel, ESPN
Kirkland alumna, avid sports fan and former college track athlete Anjelica Bader has found her calling as counsel at ESPN. Every day, she combines her passion for law and sports to help the popular company deliver creative and cutting-edge programs to sports fans everywhere. Building off an early interest in becoming a lawyer, Anjelica has followed her curiosity and career dreams to practice in several different areas of law.
From playing a lawyer to being one
Anjelica laughs when asked when she first knew she wanted to become a lawyer.
“I played a prosecutor in my second-grade play. I prosecuted Hansel and Gretel for attempted murder and burglary,” jokes Anjelica. “I loved wearing a suit and shouting objection, so after that, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer.”
She followed that interest after graduating from Cornell University and worked as a corporate paralegal at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Anjelica’s time at WLRK solidified her interest in pursuing law. After two years, and many long days and nights, at that firm, she moved to Chicago and attended the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
Upon graduating from Northwestern in 2013 with honors, Anjelica moved back East to join the New York County District Attorney’s Office where she spent three years prosecuting misdemeanors and felonies.
“During my time at the office I handled a variety of cases, ranging from a turnstile jump to an attempted murder,” said Anjelica. “Being an ADA was both the most rewarding and the most emotionally draining experience I’ve ever had. I learned a lot.”
Career at Kirkland
Looking for a change and opportunity to expand her litigation, writing and research skills, Anjelica joined Kirkland in 2016.
She spent two years in the Firm’s litigation practice and enjoyed the opportunity to meet and work with great people – many of whom remain her friends. She also took on some pro bono work while at the Firm.
“Under the supervision of a partner, a first-year associate, a second-year associate and I took an excessive force case to trial in federal court on two weeks’ notice,” said Anjelica. “The partner really let us take the lead. It was a great opportunity.”
“One of the benefits of working at Kirkland is that you’re extremely marketable and you have an opportunity to go after what you’re passionate about.”
For Anjelica, that passion was sports and entertainment, which led to her current role at ESPN. To prepare for her interviews, Anjelica utilized Kirkland’s CareerLink Career Coach, Amanda Reiss.
“Amanda was an invaluable part of my interview process. Prepping with Amanda allowed me to feel confident walking into every interview. She worked with me on a confidential basis, always made time for me and provided me with extremely insightful feedback.”
Joining the ESPN Team
At ESPN, Anjelica works behind the scenes to help the company ensure sports fans have access to premium content anywhere, anytime. She works predominately in affiliate distribution to negotiate ESPN’s agreements with cable providers and does some production and programming work as well, helping ESPN create the shows that give sports fans an inside look at their favorite teams and athletes.
“I grew up in a sports family and always liked playing and watching sports. ESPN allows a passion of mine be a central part of my job,” said Anjelica.
Anjelica enjoys the fast pace and evolving media landscape ESPN plays in.
“I think my work keeps me young and engaged. I had to catch up on eSports and also get familiar with other online distribution platforms that are thriving,” said Anjelica. “Another thing I really value about working at ESPN, which is a subsidiary of Disney, is that often when I am in a negotiation, I’ve noticed and appreciated the gender, cultural and racial diversity among the staff that makes up our side of the table. The company’s commitment to that diversity is really admirable.”
Looking back, she’s grateful for the many different experiences she’s had that led her to her role at ESPN.
“I’ve been very, very fortunate,” said Anjelica. “My parents are immigrants from Jamaica and they worked very hard to make sure I have the best opportunities. So, I want to make the most of every opportunity I get.”
Kirkland is proud of Anjelica and we look forward to following her career journey and continued success.
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.
Matt Ritter / Comedian, Writer, and Senior Director of Legal Recruiting, Lateral Link
From practicing M&A law in Kirkland’s New York office to pursuing comedy in Los Angeles, Kirkland alumnus Matt Ritter has had quite the creative career journey since leaving Kirkland. He currently works as Senior Director of Legal Recruiting at Lateral Link, hosts a top rated legal themed comedy podcast “Legally Insane” and recently hosted a business podcast “Safe for Work”. He also tours the country as a stand-up comedian and has had great success writing and producing television shows. While he no longer practices law, he’s found a way to weave his legal background across his career.
Early Interest in Law, Comedy and Writing
Growing up in a family of lawyers, Matt says he always had an inkling for practicing law but also an interest in comedy, writing and performing.
“Maybe it was middle child syndrome but I was always the kid doing skits, the class clown,” he jokes. “Comedy and writing was always in the back of my mind, I just never thought I could make a career out of making people laugh.”
Following a management degree from Binghamton University, Matt attended law school at University of Pennsylvania and started his career at Mayer Brown. He eventually followed some of his teammates and joined Kirkland’s New York office where he worked in the Private Equity practice.
Outside of work he continued his love of comedy at open mic nights across New York City.
“At Kirkland, I worked for about two years on all different aspects of M&A and finance for different industries,” said Matt. “I worked with great people and learned a lot, but really missed focusing on my creative side and needed to make a change.”
Launching an Entertainment Career
After leaving Kirkland, Matt moved to Los Angeles to pursue writing and standup – ultimately taking some of his legal background to the stage.
“Starting out, I quickly realized that being a lawyer was an advantage – no one else was doing anything like that when it came to comedy material for the lawyer audience,” said Matt. “So, I leaned in and started the world’s first and only legal comedy group ‘Comedians at Law’ with a few other lawyers. We’ve performed at law schools, firms, bar associations, and comedy clubs across the country. It’s been a lot of fun making people laugh – especially people who have shared a lot of similar experiences.”
Since moving to LA, Matt has found early success in television writing and production. He created and sold his own show for MSNBC called “Chained to My Ex” and produced shows including the Discovery Channel’s “Fat and Furious” and the award-winning “Duck Dynasty.”
He’s currently working on a few other writing projects, including optioning the rights to a best-selling book about big law, continues to travel the country doing comedy at all types of venues, including hosting a recent improv workshop for new associates at a firm, and runs a monthly show at the legendary club, The Hollywood Improv.
Recruiting Top Talent
In 2015, Matt was approached to join Lateral Link as senior director of legal recruiting – a career he’d never considered but really enjoys partnering with both firms and candidates.
“I like helping people find the right opportunity and I think my experience at large firms like Kirkland helps provide perspective,” said Matt. “I’ve been in their shoes and want to help them make the right choice.”
“As a recruiter, I was surprised and excited to learn that Kirkland is offering programs to help employees transition or explore a future career better aligned to their interest,” said Matt. “You don’t usually see that kind of long-term investment from a company but it makes sense for the firm and the employee.”
Offering Workplace Advice
In one of his recent ventures, Matt leaned into his background in comedy and recruitment as co-host of the business podcast “Safe at Work.” The top-rated Wondery podcast humorously tackles tough topics and offers advice to help listeners make the most of their work life.
“The podcast creators approached me about working on the show – I’m basically positioned as the funny guy your friends ask for advice while my co-host is the veteran with 30 years of experience,” Matt jokes. “It’s been a lot of fun sharing what I’ve experienced in my career and learning from our guests.”
“I feel really lucky and grateful for all the experiences I’ve had that have come together to build to what I’m doing now,” says Matt. “It’s been a pretty crazy path and nothing I could have ever planned for or predicted but I really enjoy it. I recently decided to move on and shift my focus to my law podcast ‘Legally Insane’ because frankly, there’s no one tackling everything going on in law from a fun perspective and I felt that I was filling a much-needed hole in the podcast market.
Keeping the Kirkland Connection
While a lot has changed in Matt’s career journey since leaving Kirkland, he still stays connected to many former colleagues and appreciates the lessons they’ve instilled in him along the way.
“Kirkland is shorthand for excellence,” said Matt. “I think I took for granted how excellent everyone was in their craft – there were so many great training programs and I was working with the best people out there.”
“Holding yourself to that same high level of quality Kirkland encourages stays with me in whatever I pursue.”
Kirkland is proud of Matt and looks forward to following his career journey and continued success.
Michael Meltzer / Director of Strategic Ventures, DraftKings
Every day, alumnus Michael Meltzer puts his game face on and works at the intersection of sports, media and technology at DraftKings. As Director of Strategic Ventures for the world’s leading skill-based Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) platform, Michael negotiates partnerships and navigates regulations and media channels so users can compete in online fantasy sports contests. Since joining, Michael has been part of DraftKings’ rapid growth and applies the early lessons he learned at Kirkland to his current role.Legal Training Ground
At an early age, Michael knew he wanted to study law. Growing up in Long Island, New York, in a family of lawyers, he heard a lot about the strong foundation law school provided and was determined to gain that skillset. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in political science, he moved back to New York to attend Cardozo School of Law.
While at Cardozo, Michael followed his interest in sports and interned at Major League Baseball. He made his first connection to Kirkland at Cardozo as a student in a class taught by Kirkland partner Henes. After learning more about the Firm, Michael joined Kirkland in the fall of 2011, spending almost four years in the restructuring practice.
Kirkland Lessons Lead to New Opportunities
“Kirkland is a true meritocracy, and I appreciated that there were always opportunities to build relationships, accept new challenges, take ownership of tasks and demonstrate your value,” said Michael. “Much like my current position, the projects in the bankruptcy group were often complex, high profile and required adapting and understanding the intricacies of various businesses and industries.”
Michael credits the restructuring group for instilling the value of networking and building great relationships across the Firm and within the overall restructuring community—skills he relies on every day.
Michael also applies the complex project management skills he learned while working on large bankruptcy cases. “Due to the nature of our work we were often counseling in crisis and tasked with tight timelines. It was critical to stay organized and follow a streamlined strategy,” said Michael. “Developing my skill set in that environment has been instrumental in my current role at DraftKings, a fast-paced company that is constantly optimizing its product and business model.”
Part of an Innovative, Fast-Moving Game
After meeting the founders, Michael jumped at the opportunity to join DraftKings in July of 2015—right as the company was raising a significant funding round and partnering with media companies and professional teams and leagues.
“As much as I loved Kirkland, I couldn’t pass up the chance to work at a promising start-up that is changing the way fans engage with sports,” said Michael. “One of my first tasks when I joined was overseeing a large-scale partnership with ESPN, which included product and marketing integrations across all digital and television properties. The core skills I developed at Kirkland, including negotiating contracts, building relationships and managing complex assignments were essential.”
Since joining the company, Michael has hit the ground running—negotiating deals and partnership agreements with teams and athletes in sports ranging from the NFL to NASCAR. As a company operating in an innovative space, DraftKings has been thrust into a regulatory environment that has required it to lobby for legislation in states throughout the country. Drawing on his legal background, Michael has helped DraftKings navigate the industry’s newly regulated environment and has met with state politicians across the country to discuss DFS’ legality.
Right now, Michael is focused on growing the user base and transforming DraftKings into a sports and entertainment destination. This includes exploring and executing strategic partnerships, creating live events, launching an e-commerce platform and further developing the company’s content offerings, including series featuring some of the biggest names in sports like Odell Beckham Jr., Draymond Green, Rob Gronkowski and Marshawn Lynch.
“This job has been more exciting than I ever imagined—it’s been a really interesting path” said Michael. “Similar to Kirkland, if you can prove yourself, there are endless opportunities to quickly develop and advance.”
Kirkland is proud of Michael, and we look forward to following his career journey and continued success.
Shima Baradaran Baughman / Professor, University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law
From lawyer, to professor, to author, Shima Baradaran Baughman has built an impressive career. Although her titles may have changed, one thing remains constant: Her passion for giving back and helping others.
Becoming a Lawyer
Shima didn’t always know she wanted to become a lawyer. But after excelling at her writing-intensive courses at Brigham Young University (BYU), she decided to pursue a law degree. She went on to graduate first in her class at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. She then clerked for Judge Jay S. Bybee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, before joining Kirkland’s New York office from 2005–2008.
Kirkland Experience and Influence Shima fondly recalls knowing she wanted to work at Kirkland right out of the gate. “When I was interviewing, it seemed like a place I wanted to be. The lawyers I met with were more upbeat and dynamic than I had seen elsewhere.” Shima also says she witnessed exceptional lawyering at Kirkland, “people were so careful with every email and every filing… I was so happy to be working with people that were so good at what they did.”
Currently hailed as a national expert on bail, after writing her book The Bail Book: A Comprehensive Look at Bail in America’s Criminal Justice System, Shima credits her passion for prison litigation to her time spent as an associate at Kirkland. “One of the things I thank Kirkland for, is that all our billable hours were counted even if they were pro-bono. In fact, we were encouraged to take on pro-bono work,” she reflects. “My colleague and I took on a prison litigation case for a Rabbi who wanted a clean area to conduct his prayers. They eventually accommodated him and this case went on to receive national press for its role in prison reform litigation,” she proudly recounts.
Growing Interest in Bail
After leaving Kirkland in 2008, Shima applied for and received a Fulbright Senior Scholarship — a prestigious American program that provides merit-based grants for international educational exchange. As part of her scholarship, she researched pretrial detention in Malawi and lectured criminal law at the University of Malawi. Shima says her experience while in Malawi reinforced her passion for reforming prison litigation in the U.S. “Initially, I became interested in pre-trial detention seeing how bad things were in Malawi and realizing we weren’t too far ahead in the U.S. Bail is low-hanging fruit in reforming criminal justice, and the last time anyone wrote about it was in the 90s. I started writing articles, which gained momentum and eventually led me to writing [The Bail Book]” she explains.
Motivated by her Past
Shima and her siblings grew up in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. She recalls hiding in the basement with her family, shrouding their faces with towels as bombs went off outside their house. “We were able to apply for asylum in the U.S. given my mom’s political activism. We were so fortunate to escape such a horrible situation, and now we have all the opportunities in the world.” Shima left her law career behind to become a law professor because she feels a deep obligation to do her best to improve the American criminal system. “I’ve always felt a duty to give back to this country for all that it has given me” she says. “I also really enjoy teaching and writing.”
Kirkland’s Influence on Teaching
Currently a professor at the University of Utah’s SJ Quinney College of Law, Shima says she applies the litigation skills she learned at Kirkland to her teaching, all the time. “At Kirkland, I had the opportunity to argue motions in court, conduct depositions, and argue real jury trials... All of this litigation experience has helped me to create mock trials and arguments for my students in class...improve my use of the Socrative method in questioning my students, and to feel confident in presenting material in class and at legal conferences,” elaborates Shima. “I overcame any lingering fear of getting up in front of an audience and making a legal argument because of my experience working at Kirkland. I do this daily as a law professor and I'm grateful for the excellent training I received.”
As a proud member of the Kirkland Alumni, Shima keeps up with several of her former colleagues. She is constantly on the lookout for alumni events that coincide with her New York trips.
Shima’s passion for teaching coupled with her unwavering commitment to bettering the American criminal and judicial system make her an unstoppable force of positive change. Kirkland is fortunate to call her one of our own.
Lindsey Oken / Senior Law Clerk, New York Court of Appeals
Alumnae Lindsey Oken’s Kirkland career journey began as a 2012 summer associate and led to an exciting path as a Kirkland litigation associate and her current role as Senior Law Clerk for the Honorable Michael J. Garcia, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, who is also a Kirkland alumnus.
Following an Interest in Law
Growing up in a medical family, Lindsey’s parents always joked about her determined arguing skills and encouraged her to pursue a law career. Turns out they were right. After attending the University of Delaware and graduating with a degree in criminal justice and political science, she decided to apply to law school.
After evaluating several schools, she chose Georgetown University Law Center. “For me, it was hard to find a better place to learn and begin my law career than Washington, D.C.,” said Lindsey. She made the most of her time in D.C. and pursued internships including the United States Department of Justice, the D.C. Court of Appeals and Georgetown’s prestigious Appellate Litigation Clinic.
Learning from the Best
When planning for the summer of 2012, Lindsey started looking into summer associate programs and received multiple offers. Between the connection she made with her interviewers and the recommendation from her counselors, she ultimately decided on Kirkland where she could focus on litigation.
“I loved that Kirkland’s summer associate program focused on integrating you both personally and professionally into the Firm,” said Lindsey. “Not only did I get a chance to learn about the litigation group, I had an opportunity to build relationships with my classmates in other groups – many who are still friends today.”
Upon graduation, Lindsey was excited to accept Kirkland’s offer and join the New York office’s litigation group. In addition to her client work, she enjoyed being part of several Kirkland Institute for Trial Advocacy (KITA) programs, which culminates into a two-day jury trial where Kirkland partners act as judges and instructors.
“Kirkland has such a strong reputation for litigating rigorously from beginning to end,” said Lindsey. “I really appreciate that the Firm makes such a substantial investment to ensure we all got solid training. There were lots of opportunities to learn from the best and apply that valuable feedback to client work.”
“I enjoyed the opportunity to really delve into the client work and take on new matters – learning from partners and fellow associates along the way,” said Lindsey. ”Kirkland has a work hard/play hard atmosphere that made working fun.”
Keeping the Kirkland Connection
Lindsey’s Kirkland colleagues definitely took note of her hard work. In February of 2016, after a few years of working together on several cases, Kirkland alumnus Michael Garcia was confirmed as a judge for the New York Court of Appeals and asked Lindsey to join him as clerk.
“I was honored to be asked to join Judge Garcia,” said Lindsey. “I really admired the work he led within the Government and Internal Investigations practice. I had also heard so many great things about clerking. While I knew I would miss Kirkland, I jumped at the chance to continue learning from Judge Garcia in a new role.”
In her current role as Senior Law Clerk, Lindsey enjoys the variety of cases the Court of Appeals sees and the opportunity to really dig into each case.
“I think the strong litigation background and practical knowledge I got from Kirkland really helped prepare me for my role as a clerk. It allows me to better understand each party’s position,” said Lindsey.
Aside from the Kirkland connection with her current role, Lindsey keeps in touch with mentors and friends she made as a summer associate and associate.
“During my time at Kirkland, I met so many great people who impacted my life personally and professionally – it’s so important to me to maintain those relationships.”
Kirkland is proud of Lindsey and we look forward to following her career journey and continued success.
Sudwiti Chanda / Counsel for Civil Rights: Office of the Solicitor, United States Department of Labor
As Counsel for Civil Rights in the New York Regional Office of the Solicitor for the U.S. Department of Labor, Kirkland alumna Sudwiti Chanda works to ensure the nations’ labor laws are forcefully and fairly applied to protect workers.
Passion for Public Service Paves the Way for a Career
If you look at Sudwiti Chanda’s resume, you immediately notice a common thread – a passion for protecting people and making a difference. As an undergrad at Cornell University, she started as a biology major with an eye on becoming a doctor, but decided she was more interested in understanding what drives human behavior and how policies can make a positive impact.
Knowing she wanted to end up in policy law, she moved abroad to attend the London School of Economics where she received her master’s degree in public policy and administration; followed by attending law school at NYU, where she interned at the United Nations and volunteered with the International Human Rights Clinic.
After graduating law school, Sudwiti joined Kirkland’s London’s corporate practice in 2001 and transferred to the New York office three years later to change her focus to litigation. Sudwiti devoted much of her time to the Firm’s pro bono work to protect human rights and received the Kirkland & Ellis Pro Bono Service award for her leadership. “I feel like my Kirkland experiences really set me up for a successful career through client work, pro bono opportunities and training,” said Sudwiti.
In 2010, she decided to leave Kirkland to follow her passion for employment law and public service and began working as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor to enforce federal labor laws related to discrimination, workplace safety, and federal contract compliance. After five years as a trial attorney, Sudwiti was appointed Counsel for Civil Rights and now oversees her regional team and also works with national policymakers in Washington, D.C.
“I love the fast pace and connection to our core mission to protect workers’ rights. I still get that adrenaline of researching in the field but also get to interface with the national office,” said Sudwiti. “The politics are interesting and it’s meaningful to see how policies can change into directives that make a difference in an individual’s life.”
“Understandably, working for the government is very different from a big firm as our resources are limited, so we often have to triage and creatively address problems,” said Sudwiti. “I feel like my experiences at Kirkland have helped bring a new perspective that shows the team there are different ways to be innovative and successful versus always doing what we’ve done before.”
Full Circle: Bringing Her Career Advice Back to Kirkland
Earlier this year, Sudwiti was invited to be on an in-house panel and share her career journey story at Kirkland’s In-House Insider Experience, an elite opportunity for 30 Kirkland attorneys and alumnae to gain perspective that deepens current client relationships or prepare for a future career transition in-house.
“I hope I helped other attorneys view in-house in a new light and see how their skills can be applied outside of Kirkland, if that’s the path they choose to follow,” said Sudwiti. “It’s hard to consider that long-term career perspective when you’re in the depths of a deal or trial. I think it’s fantastic that the Firm offers current and alumnae attorneys the tools and space to reflect and think about what’s next.”
“Kirkland appreciates attorneys while they are at the firm and when they go on to pursue other aspirations – the skills and support you gain from Kirkland allow people to do just that and stay connected.”