Q&A with Lauren Graff ’19: From Paralegal to Lawyer at Chicago Office of McGuireWoods
Lauren Graff ’19 is taking her Minnesota Law degree to the Chicago office of McGuireWoods LLP, an Am-Law 100 law firm with offices in more than 20 locations worldwide. It’s a familiar locale to Graff, who spent two years in that same office as a paralegal. Having successfully made the leap to the lawyer side of the ledger, she is joining the firm’s Private Equity group as an associate. Graff recently took time out from her busy bar exam prep schedule to answer a few questions on her Minnesota Law experience.
Why did you go to Law School?
I very much enjoyed my role as a paralegal and found transactional work exciting. As a paralegal I played a smaller part in helping clients work towards their goals, whether that be mergers or acquisitions, restructuring, or long-term preparation for going public in several years. I hope my legal career can grow to become similar to the successful attorneys I’ve observed who not only provide quality legal services to their clients, but also whose counsel and advice are integrated into the strategic investment and business decisions of their clients’ ventures.
What made you select Minnesota Law?
Experiential learning opportunities were very important to me in making my decision. Minnesota Law has one of the largest clinical programs in the country, along with a growing number of internships, externships and fellowships. I was impressed at the hands-on experiences available as early as the 1L year through the Asylum Law Project.
What was your favorite class/activity?
The seminars provide a unique opportunity to learn from practicing attorneys in the Twin Cities area. The adjunct professors bring their practical experiences to the classroom, connecting those experiences to our curriculum, and often arranging panels of local professionals who are leaders in their field to speak to students about their work.
How does it feel to be returning as an attorney to the firm where you once were a paralegal?
It’s both comforting and nerve-wracking to be returning to the firm I worked at as a paralegal. I already know how fortunate I am to again work with incredible colleagues and learn from leaders in the field, but I also know that my prior experience and knowledge may bring higher expectations. I hope to rise to the challenge and capitalize on my prior work history.
How did Minnesota Law prepare you for practice?
I am a large proponent of the clinical program at Minnesota Law and participated in both the IP & Entrepreneurship Clinic as a 2L and the Business Law Clinic as a 3L. Both experiences exposed me to working directly with start-up businesses, listening to clients’short- and long-term goals, and advising on next steps based on their needs. These important skills simply can’t be learned in a strictly academic setting.
How would you describe the community here?
The Minnesota Law community, which includes current students, alumni, faculty and staff, truly care about each student as an individual. Whether it’s a professor who makes time for coffee with each of his 1L students every semester, or an alum who despite her busy, thriving practice as a partner at a local big law firm makes time to come to campus and meet with students, or 3L students who share their contact information with visiting applicants and offer to answer any questions they have during their decision-making process. This was my daily experience during my three years on campus, and I have already seen evidence of the support and resources continue on as an alum.
You are taking your degree to Chicago. What are your thoughts on the portability of a Minnesota Law degree?
It’s always going to be easier as a student to network with the local legal community, but that does not at all mean your job prospects after graduation are limited to the surrounding area. The professional careers of your professors and the practicing attorneys you meet have led them to a variety of areas of law and a variety of geographical locations. They may not be currently located out-of-state, but chances are that they have remained in touch with their old colleagues. Our alumni base is also located in all 50 states, and all it takes is a LinkedIn message to start a conversation with someone who was in your shoes not too long ago. All these contacts are out there willing to chat with students, and I think they often are untapped resources.
What advice would you give to someone currently contemplating going to Minnesota Law?
I absolutely loved my time with Minnesota Law. I learned from not only our world-renowned professors but also from fellow students who are supportive rather than competitive. With campus located in the heart of Minneapolis, the experiential learning opportunities both on and off campus are vast, and the faculty and administration are ready to help you make the most of every opportunity you want to take advantage of. It’s a decision you can’t regret.