The Business Law Society’s 16th annual ESQ Career Symposium in early February drew about 200 Duke Law students and 75 practitioners, many of them Law School alumni eager to share their experiences of working in corporate law.
The event, which featured presentations, panels, and small-group discussions as well as networking opportunities, is designed to give first-year students a face-to-face introduction to the practice of business law. Topics covered ranged from litigation and mergers and acquisitions to the details of working in areas such as capital markets, technology, and private equity.
Lead sponsors for ESQ were Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Sullivan & Cromwell. Additional sponsorships were provided by Clifford Chance, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Kirkland & Ellis, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Weil, Gotshal & Manges and White & Case.
Keynote speaker Kathy Payne ’87, head of content acquisition management for Amazon Video Channels, urged students not to be cautious when opportunities arise that will enable them to grow and advance their careers. Women, in particular, are too often reluctant to put themselves forward, she said, but her own path from law firm associate to top television industry executive had taught her the value of jumping in with both feet.
“Speaking up, being confident, taking risks, and putting yourself out there is what positions you for the next big thing,” said Payne.
ESQ provided students the chance to meet attorneys face-to-face during the Friday night cocktail reception, a speed networking session prior to lunch on Saturday, and the Saturday afternoon watch party for the Duke-St. John’s men’s basketball game.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to network with practitioners from a wide range of markets and practice areas,” said Kim Grinhaus ’20. “As a 1L, learning about these associates' trajectories gave me a glimpse of what lies ahead.”
Added Dani Bembry ’20: “ESQ is an incredible opportunity for Duke alumni and current students to rally around our shared experience at Duke. As a student, it’s truly a privilege to learn from such accomplished practitioners who truly care about our personal and professional development.”
Alumni who participated in the event praised the students for beginning to explore possible career paths so early in law school.
“It was a real treat to be back at Duke, and it was terrific to have the chance to interact with such a bright, inquisitive, and thoughtful group of students,” said Ryan McLeod ’07, a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. “I encouraged them to focus on the culture of the firms they were considering in their job searches, and I recommended they tap into the vast network of Duke alumni across the country for resources to learn about those cultures.
“I’ve never met a Duke alum who wasn’t happy to chat with a current student — I know I, for one, always relish the chance.”
Steve Kessing ’05, a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, is a regular participant in the event. “ESQ is a wonderful opportunity to come back to the law school to network with fellow alumni and meet the next generation of future Duke lawyers,” he said. “The students are always enthusiastic, prepared with good questions and eager to hear about the experiences of attorneys in a wide range of practice areas and locations. ESQ provides a great forum for students to learn about firms and practice areas outside of the formal recruiting process and I look forward to participating every year.”
For 1Ls, who begin the process of career planning and development by meeting with counselors in the fall semester, ESQ kicks off a busy calendar of events. Most also participate in the Blueprint to LEAD in March as well as On-Campus Interviewing (OCI) in late summer.
“ESQ is a great opportunity to meet first-year students in a more relaxed environment before the overload of OCI,” said Mark Horosko ’15, an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell. “I enjoyed being able to talk about my experiences at Sullivan & Cromwell and make myself available as a resource as students head into their 1L summer and start considering firms ahead of interviewing. I am always impressed with the students I meet, and love coming back to Durham.”