PUBLISHED:February 23, 2024

ESQ gives 1L students pivotal starting point for careers in corporate law


More than 160 students and 63 practitioners attended the 22nd annual ESQ Career Symposium

Students networking at ESQ Duke Law students network with practitioners at the 22nd annual ESQ Career Symposium event.

As law students prepare for their careers, networking opportunities can often be as vital as the curriculum itself. Recognizing this need, Duke Law School has been hosting the ESQ Career Symposium for the past 22 years. Organized by the Business Law Society, ESQ is tailored to provide first-year students with the opportunity to explore corporate law and establish valuable connections with the professionals therein.

ESQ is an opportunity for 1Ls to interact with alumni and established attorneys in a range of businesses and practice areas, including corporate law. A highlight of this year’s event, held Feb. 9, was a Q&A with alumna Jocelyn Hunter ’87, vice president and deputy general counsel of The Home Depot, the nation’s 20th largest company by revenue. Hunter spoke to students about her own career path and detailed the breadth of opportunities awaiting them after graduation.

Her advice: Remain “endlessly curious” about the legal field, not only to stay sharp, but to take each opportunity it brings in stride.

“It’s important to ask yourself now and again, is this feeding your soul? If the answer is yes, you’re in exactly the right place. If the answer is no, and stays no for a bit, trust yourself to pivot,” Hunter said.

“Always be thinking about what your highest and best place is. As a lawyer, there are so many different paths that you can take. There are so many ways that you can practice law and so many ways you can give back to the community.”

Hunter speaking at the ESQ Career Symposium
Jocelyn Hunter '87 speaks with students during a Q&A session.

Hunter drove home the importance of networking as a vital foundation upon which to build your career in a law firm, something that did not come naturally to her at the start.

“I am, believe it or not, an introvert. One of things that is hard for me is just a big group of people,” she said.  

“I would say this to the introverts in the room: You’ve got to push through that and find a way to connect. Meet a couple of people and have a good conversation. I do this by delving into my natural curiosity. I never know what I might learn about somebody. Make your way through your natural introversion and talk to people, because it’s hugely important in life, and I wish I had done it better earlier.”

ESQ also featured structured networking rounds with firm representatives. These sessions provided students with a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities awaiting them in the corporate legal landscape.

“I found it really valuable to speak with attorneys at ESQ,” said Emery Hansell JD/LLM ’26.

“The conversation-based structure of the event allowed me to connect with attorneys and alumni over shared passions and interests. It was inspiring to hear about how they are pursuing these fields in the course of their work.”

While the networking opportunities afforded by ESQ are invaluable for 1Ls seeking to establish themselves in the legal profession, it also serves as a way to gather together members of the broader Duke Law community in a way that focuses on making both professional and personal connections.

“Gabriela Perez [’25] and I were thrilled to have the opportunity to manage ESQ this year. The highlight of our experience was connecting with 30+ Duke Law alumni from across the country,” said organizer Jack Bergantino ’25.

“We hope the 1Ls had the opportunity to learn more about the practice areas and markets that interest them, all while refining their networking skills.”

Lead sponsors for ESQ were Paul Weiss, Latham & Watkins, Simpson Thatcher, Weil, Kirkland, Baker Botts, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Schulte, and Goodwin. Additional participating firms included Paul Hastings and King & Spalding.