Asked & Answered: Cayla Ebert ’18, First-Year Associate at Hogan Lovells
Last fall, Cayla Ebert ’18 joined the Washington, D.C., office of Hogan Lovells as an associate. Prior to joining the global firm, she clerked for Minnesota Supreme Court Justices G. Barry Anderson ’79 and Paul C. Thissen.
Can you describe your time clerking at the Minnesota Supreme Court and what it meant to you professionally?
Clerking for Justice Anderson and Justice Thissen was a huge learning experience for me. I was able to grow as a lawyer in my writing and advocacy skills, but also learn the inner-workings of an appellate court and observe many different lawyers’ styles and approaches. It was a great opportunity to connect with the Minnesota legal community and give back to my state.
How did you connect with your current job?
I applied to be a summer associate at Hogan Lovells when I was a 1L through the off-campus recruitment program. My goal was always to work in D.C. in international law, but I wanted to make sure I was aware of every opportunity available to me. My career counselor assisted me in applying within the on- and off-campus recruitment program at Minnesota Law to firms, non-profits, and government organizations in Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, and D.C. as a 1L. I had dozens of interviews and received a summer associate position offer at Hogan Lovells, and a few other firms in Minneapolis and New York. I ultimately decided to be a summer associate at Hogan Lovells and loved the experience. I focused mostly on international trade work during my summer experience which lead me to pursue a career in it. The firm offered me a full-time position after graduation which I happily accepted (although I deferred for a year due to a clerkship).
What does your job as a first-year associate entail?
I am currently participating in a “Pro Bono Rotation” which is a special opportunity incoming associates are offered at Hogan Lovells. During your first year at the firm, you can spend four months working on only pro bono matters. I have really enjoyed my rotation so far – it has given me the opportunity to try many different areas of law, work with many different associates and partners in the firm, and help our community directly. So far I have filed immigration applications, helped draft an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit defending prisoner rights, assisted in an anti-gun violence litigation case, provided translation services in a variety of matters, represented a 7-year old boy as a guardian ad litem in his parents’ custody case, assisted in a petition to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, and assisted in a number of Civil Protection Order/Domestic Abuse cases. After my rotation, which ends at the end of the month, I will start working with the International Trade and Investment Group at the firm.
How do you enjoy living/ working in the D.C. metro area?
I love living and working in the D.C. area! There is so much life and activity in the city – you feel a part of something bigger than just you. While I am still adjusting to D.C. traffic and the fact that I don’t live two minutes from a Target store, I enjoy the hustle and bustle. On weekends I can explore museums or check out a concert, or try one of the amazing restaurants. My fiancé and I love taking our dog for a walk in our neighborhood and visiting the nearby parks.
Being an associate at a large law firm is stressful. How do you maintain wellness and/or what do you do to de-stress or maintain life balance?
I make sure to make time for myself and my family. I try to exercise, take my dog for a walk, and eat dinner with my fiancé every day. I also set aside time on the weekends to go do something fun – whether that be seeing friends, checking out a museum or show, facetiming my sisters, or just unwinding at home. I’ve also made a lot of close friends at work so even during the work day I make it a point to stop by someone’s office to chat or grab lunch with a colleague. Everyone needs a break once in a while, and most of the time the never-ending pressure to bill hours can wait 30 minutes!
What advice would you offer a prospective Minnesota Law student concerned about degree portability to markets outside Minnesota/ the Midwest?
You truly can go wherever you want with a Minnesota Law degree. The Career Center was helpful, even from the beginning, in tailoring to my goal of working in D.C. The D.C. off-campus recruitment program opened the door for me. My 1L Civil Procedure professor was actually a partner at my current firm and helped me navigate the interview process and summer associate program. I think that if you have a goal, you communicate it well, and work hard to achieve it, Minnesota Law can help you get to where you want to be.
What was your favorite Minnesota Law experience?
My favorite part about Minnesota Law was the people. I made life-long friends in law school and felt very supported by the community during my time there. My favorite classes were the international law classes by Professor Gross and Professor Ni Aolain.
What are your thoughts on the experiential learning opportunities at Minnesota Law?
I think anyone can find something for them within the wide array of experiential learning opportunities Minnesota Law offers. Clinics and corporate and judicial externships are a phenomenal way to receive real life, hands on training. I personally really enjoyed the Law and Practice course. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a practicing courtroom attorney and the class gave me the ability to try out my skills and learn from practicing attorneys in the area.
What advice would you offer to a current student who wants to work in D.C.?
Focus first and foremost on your personal growth and academic success in law school. So much of the first hurdle in applying for jobs is your transcript and your personality. Once you feel confident in your studies, start working with the Career Center to tailor your job search to the D.C. area. They can connect you with alumni like me to talk to about their work in D.C. and what path they took to get there.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your Minnesota Law experience?
When I started law school, I thought it was going to be a long, challenging, exhausting three years. At Minnesota Law, although it was still very rigorous and time consuming, and you learn more than you ever thought was possible, it was exciting and fun. I enjoyed walking into Mondale Hall every day to see smiling faces, to be challenged by my courses, my journal work, and to connect with my community through student organizations.