PUBLISHED:March 25, 2016

Students learn about the business of business law at ‘ESQ’

ESQ 2016 participants

More than 100 Duke Law students joined about 50 practitioners, many of them Law School alumni, for the Business Law Society’s 14th annual ESQ Career Symposium in late January.

The event, which featured presentations, panels, and small-group discussions as well as numerous networking opportunities, is designed to give first-year students a face-to-face introduction to the practice of business law. Topics covered ranged from finding a job and choosing a mentor to the details of working in areas such as private equity, M&A, and corporate litigation.

Devon McLaughlin ’17, co-president of the Business Law Society, said one goal of the symposium was to give students “knowledge that’s going to carry them not only through their introductory [on-campus] interviews but also give them a better sense of what kind of practice they might fit best in when they start practicing law.”

At a plenary panel, Caroline Gottschalk ’90, a corporate partner specializing in mergers and acquisitions at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and a member of Duke Law’s Board of Visitors, emphasized the importance of students going through that process of self-reflection while they’re in law school.

“Ask yourself what kind of work you want to do, where do you feel the best fit, and where are you going to be able to do the things that you want to do – it may be a firm, it may be a corporation or it may be something else entirely,” she said. 

Keynote speaker Lin Chua LLM ’00 encouraged students to think entrepreneurially about their careers. Chua spent nearly a decade as an “intra-preneur” at GE Capital before co-founding InterNex Capital, a technology-enabled asset-based lender, last year. “One risk we frequently forget to take into account is the risk of not doing anything at all,” Chua said.

Chua also endorsed a new class at Duke, Financial Technology and the Law, taught by Lawrence Baxter, the William B. McGuire Professor of the Practice of Law. “I am so proud and impressed that Duke is already embracing Fin Tech and putting this class on the books for you guys. I highly encourage you to take it,” she said.

Mitchell Brunson JD/LLMLE ’17, co-president of the Business Law Society, said he found Chua’s talk especially resonant. “The job market for the generation that’s in school now is going to require that entrepreneurial mindset and skillset. There’s going to be so much uncertainty and change in the market that if you don’t have those you’re going to fall behind or fall out. And I think Lin highlighted that really well and served as the perfect example of that.”

ESQ, which was sponsored by Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Sullivan & Cromwell, Cravath Swaine & Moore, Cadwalader, K&L Gates, Paul Weiss, and Weil, also provided students the chance to speak directly with corporate law practitioners, both during the Friday night cocktail reception and at a speed networking session prior to lunch on Saturday.

“I really enjoy getting to know the students,” said Gottschalk. “Students don’t know that much when they’re first-years about what it means to actually practice, what a big law firm is. Participating in ESQ helps educate them; it helps de-mystify the practice of corporate law a little bit.”

Added Adam Harris ’11, an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York: “This is a great networking opportunity for students, especially 1Ls, who haven’t even done OCI yet. But if they leave an impression, the recruiters are going to remember them.”