Boston is a hotbed for alumni leadership in the legal industry.

More than 330 alumni are located in the greater Boston area on LinkedIn, including managing partners in three firms, leaders in finance and key positions at Harvard. We talked to some of our Boston alumni to gather their work experiences and tips for students and graduates on how to succeed there.

The UVA Law Network is an occasional series on careers for graduates. The school's 20,000 graduates are located in 50 states and more than 60 foreign countries.

Advice from Alumni

Alfred Browne

Alfred Browne '94

Partner, Cooley

What do you like best about your job?
I love having the opportunity to solve complex legal problems for my clients. At Cooley’s Boston office, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to do that in a collaborative and entrepreneurial environment with a great group of lawyers who share a common vision for our firm and practice. It is very rewarding.

Aditi Goel

Aditi Goel '12

Senior Program Manager, Sixth Amendment Center

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or career?
There is no question in my mind that Virginia Law trained me. First, Virginia Law offers phenomenal classes for future criminal practitioners — criminal investigation, criminal procedure, criminal adjudication, evidence, trial advocacy, and more. These classes ingrained in me the most fundamental building blocks of criminal practice that I still rely on today when I am making arguments in court. Second, students are encouraged to participate in at least one of the many clinics that the Law School has to offer in order to gain practical, hands-on training. I participated in the Capital Post-Conviction and Innocence Project clinics; each clinic provided me with a unique experience and perspective of the criminal justice system. Finally, my participation in the Program in Law and Public Service and the Public Interest Law Association was invaluable because it provided me with a supportive, tight-knit community of students who were interested in having a career in public interest law.

What advice do you have for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?
Invest in a warm winter wardrobe! And remember, as bad as winters get, the fall, spring and summer seasons are absolutely gorgeous.

Gloria Cordes Larson

Gloria Cordes Larson '77

Director, Unum Group

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or career?
Because UVA is a national law school, at the outset course work focuses far more on legal theory than actual practice, requiring students to first learn to "think like a lawyer" before engaging in experiential learning. Then, as now, the law school opens the door to a wide array of summer associate positions in law firms across the country, as well as posts in myriad other organizations, where students can apply what they are learning. I benefited tremendously from firm internships as both a 1L and 2L, as well as from opportunities beyond the classroom to work with UVA Law’s mental health project and to serve as president of the Virginia Law Women.

The discipline of the classroom and diversity of options for putting theory into practice have served me well in a highly diverse career that has included statewide legal aid work, high-level federal and state government positions, a partnership in a major Boston law firm, service on four public company boards, and, most recently, the presidency of Bentley University. In addition, Virginia provided me with a great group of colleagues and friends who I maintain contact with on both professional and personal levels.

What advice do you have for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?
Boston represents a great opportunity for UVA Law graduates. In an area saturated with well-known law schools, Virginia has its own distinctive cache. UVA grads don’t enter the Boston market in the large numbers that those coming from schools in our immediate region do — and that’s a big plus. I interviewed UVA students for summer and permanent positions in my former firm, Foley Hoag, and it was clear that my partners placed a premium on snagging top candidates from Virginia and other top ranked schools outside of Massachusetts. And because Virginia’s reputation is so strong, there are numerous opportunities to explore legal posts beyond law firms in the government, education and nonprofit sectors.

Neil McKittrick

Neil McKittrick '87

Shareholder, Ogeltree Deakins

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or career?
In so many ways, UVA prepared me for my legal career. It enabled me to obtain a clerkship with Judge Frank Johnson in the 11th Circuit, which in turn was a great experience that exposed me to many civil rights and death penalty appeals, among other cases, and great lawyers from another part of the country. My work as a Dillard Fellow refined my writing and editing skills and helped me learn how to teach legal writing. My work on the Law Review's Affirmative Action policy debate helped me hone my advocacy skills on a potentially divisive issue. My work with Student Funded Fellowships impressed upon me the importance of funding public interest legal jobs and pro bono work. All of these experiences influenced my professional development and help me become the lawyer I am.

What advice do you have for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?
In the new legal market, networking is more important than ever. When I came out of law school, some legal employers in Boston did not believe UVA grads would ever move to, and stay in Boston to work permanently. This is less of an issue now, but with so many fewer jobs and so much uncertainty, new lawyers and more experienced lawyers need to develop their networks and keep their eyes open to change and new opportunities. 

Tim Palmer

Tim Palmer '83

Co-founder and Senior Advisor, Charlesbank

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or your career? 
The discipline of legal analysis would help anyone in any career. More specifically, in private equity, there are myriad legal issues in every diligence process and every purchase and sale or investment structuring challenge — I have a toolkit for thinking about those things that has been invaluable.

What advice do you have for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?
Bring a snow shovel and a sense of humor. Boston is a great environment for practicing law, with terrific and talented lawyers all over the place and at firms of all sizes. The practice is really very vibrant across the city in every area, and you can get whatever you want. And these firms value people who have been trained at Virginia.

Adrienne Penta

Adrienne Penta '03

Executive Director, Brown Brothers Harriman Center for Women & Wealth

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or career?
I was fortunate to have close relationships with several professors, who challenged me to think and communicate clearly. The time that I spent with professors during office hours is a very memorable part of my UVA experience.

What advice do you have for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?
Use the UVA network. There are more UVA lawyers than you might suspect in Boston, and we will all find time to speak with a Virginia Law student interested in working here.

Alan Rose

Alan Rose '72

Managing Partner, Rose Law Partners

In Boston, Rose has served as a law clerk to a federal judge, as an assistant U.S. attorney, a partner in a major law firm (which he left to start his own firm) and as a part-time teacher at Harvard Law School for three years. He is member and chair of the Board of Bar Overseers, a member of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Appointments and chair of the First Circuit Rules Committee.

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or your career?
In all my legal travels and based on the thousands of conversations, meetings, strategy sessions, discussions with opposing or co-counsel, I have always felt that I came to the practice of law with the best legal education. Concepts in the law of contracts (which pervade all areas of law), property, torts, administrative law, criminal law, and how to write and research were drilled into us in a way that I’m not sure happens at other law schools. I was fortunate enough to make it onto Law Review, which undoubtedly opened up lots of doors, but the basics, the legal education, occurred in the classroom with dedicated teachers.

What advice do you have for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?
Grads seeking work in Boston need to network, identify the partners in law firms who went to Virginia, email their resumes and interest, and be persistent. Ask for a face-to-face meeting to talk about ideas and opportunities in Boston. Or ask for 10 minutes on the phone. Graduates will no longer be asked if Virginia is the gentlemen’s law school, since Virginia is routinely placed in the top 5 to 8 law schools these days; I know this from my paralegals, who stay with our firm for two years and then go to law school.

James D. Smeallie

James D. "J.D." Smeallie '78

Partner, Holland & Knight

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or career?
I am a litigator. UVA began a trial practice clinical program while I was there, and I learned much from it. Likewise, my team advanced pretty far in the moot court competition, and that taught me a lot about speaking on my feet.

What advice do you have for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?
It is not as insular a legal community as it once was. Make an effort to get to Boston to speak to firms if you don’t get callbacks here. Also, try to connect with UVA grads in Boston who might be helpful.

Ruthie Ma Swilling

Ruthie Ma Swilling '03

Executive Director, Chief IP Counsel, Raytheon Technologies

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or career?
Immediately after graduation, I found my experiences working at the Patent Law Clinic during my 3L year, as well as my IP classes to be the most helpful and relevant. It helped having a basic foundation into the field.

As I have progressed in my career, I have appreciated the legal writing and analytics that I learned and practiced in various courses throughout my time at the Law School. I appreciated the time I spent working on the Law and Technology Journal. 

An additional distinct memory that stands out for me: During my 1L year, Dean Robert Scott taught my Contracts class. He is both a tremendous person and professor. For the last day of class, he ended the lecture by telling us that we were all good at "climbing ladders." He explained that this is a large part of why we were attending this esteemed law school. But he cautioned us to pause once in a while and question "Where is this ladder headed?" I've carried those words with me throughout my career. In fact, it was during my fourth year working for a Big Law firm in Boston that I decided to assess "Where is this ladder heading?" and made the choice to switch to an in-house position. It has been one of the best decisions of my career.

What advice do you have for new UVA law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?
Boston can be a tough legal market due to the fact that there are so many law schools in the region. That being said, if you have top grades from UVA Law, it would open a lot of doors for you. If possible, I think it is important to secure a summer position in the city, as it demonstrates your commitment to the city. Also, there are a lot of UVA graduates in the Boston area, and I would not be afraid to tap into the alumni network during your job search process.

Tracy Welch

Tracy Welch '96

Managing Director, Head of Wealth Advisory, Clarendon Private

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or your career?
After two years practicing corporate law, I did a career switch and went to Harvard Business School and joined an Investment Bank. My law degree is not applicable to my day job, but the school trained me to think and write logically, which is a lifetime skill.

What advice do you have for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?
My impression is that Boston law firms can be reluctant to hire people that don’t have existing ties to the city. As you interview, if you aren’t from Massachusetts, make sure you have a plausible reason of why you want to work in Boston.

James Yeagle

James Yeagle '07

Senior Counsel, WHOOP Corporation

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or career?
More than anything else, learning to write and communicate has been crucial. I have worked in four very different jobs in my career already — clerking, big firm, non-profit in-house, and now technology company in-house — and in each my success at some level has turned on the ability to crystalize ideas into words and to listen to understand the individuals with whom I work.

What advice do you have for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?
If you have any interest in the field, and any background to match, try practice in the life sciences or technology industries. It is a thriving practice in Boston with many firm and in-house opportunities. Working in the field will also give you great exposure to intellectual property issues which is an invaluable toolset for many practice areas. Plus, the people are interesting and passionate, and you’ll learn something new!


More in the UVA Law Network Series

330+ Alumni

Leaders in Boston

Alfred Browne '94
Partner, Cooley

Charles Cheever '95
Co-Managing Partner, Choate

Frederick Downs '86
Partner, PAR Capital Management

Gloria Cordes Larson '77
Director, Unum Group

James Hammons '93
Knowledge Management Lawyer, Counsel, Goodwin Proctor

Susan Murley '86
Co-Managing Partner, WilmerHale

Tim Palmer '83
Co-founder and Senior Advisor, Charlesbank

Adrienne Penta '03
Executive Director, Brown Brothers Harriman Center for Women & Wealth

Top Employers

Chart of top Boston employers