San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco

It's a hotbed for the tech industry and business — the San Francisco Bay Area is also a region where University of Virginia School of Law alumni have thrived.

More than 375 alumni are located in the Bay Area, according to LinkedIn, including general counsel at Google and Netflix; in-house counsel at Apple, Yahoo and Chevron; entrepreneurs and the dean of Stanford Law School. We talked to some of our Northern California 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 Bay Area Alumni

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Shanti Ariker '95

Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Zendesk


How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
The practice of law has really changed over time, but the best solid law school education will prepare you for any direction your career takes. Really understanding the law and how it works in each subject was really helpful over the years. Adjunct professors in later years were helpful to understand how law practice really works.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?
The market is really good right now, but cyclical. Try to get an internship out here if you can during school so you will have contacts. Reach out to alumni who can help you. Do pro bono, as that builds your skills.

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Paul Belonick '10

Assistant Professor of Practice and Director, Startup Legal Garage, University of California Hastings College of Law


How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
Our outstanding faculty. It takes very talented professors to re-wire young students' brains to "think like a lawyer." I realized fully only after I graduated that no matter what field of law I turn to, or no matter what kind of practice I do, there are constants to good lawyering: precision, good writing, attention to detail, clear communication and the ability to question. UVA gives its students a good mix of theory and practical knowledge, but running through every class are the threads that make a good lawyer in any endeavor.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?
A large proportion of your colleagues will come from California law schoools, but that's part of your unique appeal: we're a national law school with a reach in every major market, and our graduates are well-known even out here for being not only very smart but also very well-rounded. Firms are always interested. Also, reach out to alums in the area — we're always willing to lend a hand and give advice.

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Mark Brazeal '93

Chief Legal Officer, Broadcom


How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
Beginning with Professor [Stanley] Henderson's Contracts class, I learned to cut to the heart of a matter and how to apply judgment in the exercise of solving problems. The ability to think critically, spot and analyze issues in a logical fashion, and construct rational arguments in support of my point of view really was developed in law school.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?

If being in the Bay Area is what you really want, don't give up if you don't get there straight out of school. I interviewed for law firm jobs during a recession, so having never lived in California at that time, I had a harder time getting the same kind of traction with California firms as I did with firms in Washington, D.C. So I went to D.C. and spent several years getting as much training as I could in private practice before an economic upturn (the first dot.com boom) offered me a chance to crack the Bay Area legal market. I guess I am a living example of that old adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

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Ryan Coonerty '01

Santa Cruz County 3rd District Supervisor


Why did you choose Virginia Law?
I chose Virginia Law because of its long tradition of educating leaders, including my hero Robert Kennedy ['51]. 

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
There are many aspects of my education at UVA that prepared me for my career. A couple are: an emphasis on analysis of complex issues, real-world clinics (Child Advocacy and First Amendment), access to alumni and faculty who are world-class thinkers and doers, and a friendly atmosphere that taught me excellence need not require a cutthroat attitude.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?
Two things: There is a small but committed group of alums in the area who are willing to help, and the Bay Area is ground zero for entrepreneurship, so don't choose the conventional positions.

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Gary Gansle '98

Senior Counsel, Perkins Coie


How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
While the formal legal education was first-rate, the people at UVA (students, faculty and administration) are what has been a TRUE game-changer for my career. From help getting my first job out of law school, to some of the most loyal clients I have today, UVA people have played critical roles in helping me advance my career and enjoy the type of practice I wanted to build for myself. It is a network of people who WANT to help each other succeed, and it cannot be beat.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?
Do not be deterred by the fact that Northern California isn't New York City or Washington D.C. Northern California is where some of the most exciting industries of the future are being born today, and getting to work with them and grow with them makes the practice of law even more exciting and enjoyable.

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John Glynn '65

President and CEO, Glynn Capital Management


How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
Although I only practiced law for four years and have been an active venture capitalist in the Silicon Valley technology world for the last 45 years, my Law School education taught me to think clearly and analytically. I learned to weigh the critical factors in dealing with challenging problems and reach a balanced decision. It also taught me to express my thoughts in writing and speech with both clarity and precision. Integrity and transparency with others became a stronger cornerstone of my life. Active class participation improved my self-respect and my ability to deal with others. The Honor System reinforced the important values I have had in my life.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?
Law graduates have a significant array of career choices in Northern California. It is important for anyone to find an opportunity that they love and can devote their life to with enthusiasm and vigor. The legal opportunities in large and small corporations are excellent here and with devoted networking and personal marketing are readily available. We have a number of excellent law firms and most of the national law firms have offices here. There are Virginia graduates in most of these firms. The unique opportunity here is to be part of the entrepreneurial world whether in private practice or as part of the management team working to make these small companies successful. The pace of innovation here continues to accelerate and it provides a broad array of excellent career opportunities. 

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Bradley Handler '95

Co-Founder and Chairman, Inspirato; eBay's first lawyer


How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
UVA fostered a sense of independence combined with opportunities to try new things. For example, usually class participation was the start of a conversation and not an opportunity to demonstrate the "right" or "wrong" answer. Understanding a continuum of outcomes is an important part of any career. Or, for example, as managing editor of the Virginia Law Review, I had the independence to set up a whole new system for our printing and distribution. We also changed the investment philosophy of the VLR to build for a financial future. These experiences helped give me the confidence to take future career risks — including leaving the law altogether.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?
Be flexible. eBay was looking for business development help when they found me, not legal help. The chance to do legal work came as a result of already being there. Not all risks provide financial success, but they all help you learn and grow. 

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Erin Hawthornthwaite '97

Director, Legal, Google


Why did you choose Virginia Law?
First and foremost because of its excellent reputation, top-10 ranking and cost. Also, I went to UVA undergrad so was already well acquainted with the Grounds and Charlottesville — all of which I loved.

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
UVA Law has that certain something — much like undergrad — that attracts and/or makes its graduates really desirable to employers. Professors were excellent. Graduates work hard, play hard, and generally don't take themselves too seriously. Graduates are well-rounded and there is an extraordinarily strong alumni network.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?
Come on out! This is the land of great opportunity! There are firms out here doing amazing work of all kinds. Later, when and if you ever want to go in-house, we at Google/YouTube are always looking for great legal hires, but we don't get many people applying from UVA. 

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David Hyman '93

General Counsel, Netflix


How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
I've had a wild ride of a legal career ... from the East Coast to West Coast, from dirt lawyer to tech lawyer [Hyman has also worked in transactional real estate affairs as an attorney]. Virginia provided me a great foundation to take on any challenge. I learned to think critically and approach issues in a thorough and logical manner. I learned to communicate effectively and to do so with a collaborative and problem-solving attitude. I didn't merely learn legal concepts at Virginia, but gained valuable insights into how those concepts work in the real world.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?
There are a lot of opportunities in Northern California, so one piece of advice is simply to come out and look. My general impression is that the best place for a new graduate to start is with a law firm. Most of the in-house positions will require some level of law firm or other practice experience. Most importantly, be flexible. Northern California is full of entrepreneurs and rapid change. Be willing to take on new challenges and explore new areas of legal practice while at the same time bringing some level of knowledge and expertise to the position. 

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Nicholas Jellins '82

Founding Member, The Jellins Group


How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
The Law School grounded my understanding and practice of the law in a framework of ethics and service to the principles of justice.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?
New UVA Law graduates seeking to begin practice in Northern California should confidently espouse their heritage of Southern courtesy gained through their experience at the University. 

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Amy Lincoln '02

Senior Counsel, Environmental and Safety Law Group, Chevron


Why did you choose Virginia Law?
Virginia Law ticked all the boxes on my "what do I want from a law school" list. I knew going into law school that I wanted to practice environmental law, but based on what turned out to be very sage advice from a few practicing lawyers, I was looking for a school with a strong overall program, as opposed to one specialized in environmental law. Virginia strikes a perfect balance on that front: nationally recognized excellence in legal education plus a robust environmental law curriculum thanks to the dedication of Professor Jon Cannon. But what truly put UVA Law over the top for me was the real love for the Law School experience that was so evident in Virginia students and alumni but glaringly absent at the other schools on my short list. To this day, when I say to other lawyers, "I loved law school," they have one of two reactions: They either look at me like I'm crazy or they say, "Oh, you must have gone to Virginia."

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
The legal education at UVA was top-notch — on all the basics, I felt as prepared as anyone coming out of the top-tier U.S. schools. But it's been the more practical classes and experiences at Virginia that have proven most valuable over time. For example, I still have my dog-eared "Accounting for Lawyers" textbook, because I've found nothing endears a lawyer to business clients more than the demonstrated ability to read (and understand) a financial statement and business plan. The Environmental Law Clinic was an invaluable "real world" experience. And I'm sure I wouldn't be where I am today — in a job that I love — without Professor Cannon's mentorship and the perspective he provides from his career in government, private practice and academia. What it comes down to is that UVA Law taught me so much more than just how to "think like a lawyer." It showed me how to move from that rote analysis to generating real solutions.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?

The Bay Area legal community is surprisingly small and in some ways quite insular. So take advantage of the UVA alumni database and work those connections. Also, as with any job search, try to put yourself in the employer's position and think about what they are looking for and what they really need. For example, employers here are often cautious about hiring from outside the area because so many people flock to San Francisco or Silicon Valley for the "experience," but with the plan to ultimately settle down somewhere else. So look for ways to show them you're committed to Northern California for the long haul, and be ready to explain why it's right for you. At the same time, own your status as someone different from the candidates they are used to seeing and how your unique background or experience makes you valuable to them. 

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Jay Mitchell '83

Professor of Law and Director, Organizations and Transactions Clinic, Stanford Law School


How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
The classes and material were challenging and pushed me to study hard. More importantly, though, were the examples set by, and the inspiration provided by, the professors there. The faculty modeled how to do things right, how to combine intellectual ability with integrity, conscientiousness, curiosity, and civility. To this day I sit up straighter when I think about teachers like Bob Scott and Stanley Henderson.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?
Go for it, but go in with open eyes. There is a lot of great legal work and there are a lot of great firms here, and the place is wildly welcoming of talent. There are also a lot of people who want to be here, so you need to be prepared for a competitive marketplace (as well as crazy housing and other prices). A great thing is that there is such variety and volume in the legal practice and among potential employers generally; you might be on a product team in a startup, you might run a nonprofit (there are lots of them), or you might be in a major firm doing Pacific Rim M&A. All kinds of things to explore out here, and the UVA Law experience will prepare you well. 

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Michael Purdy '06

Senior Counsel, Google


How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
Honestly, it was probably things like first-year oral arguments, moot court, singing in the Libel Show band and doing gigs around Charlottesville — stuff that required performing at a high level in front of an audience. There's something terrifying yet exhilarating about performing in front of people. If you embrace it and get good at it, whether you're arguing in a courtroom or speaking to a board of directors, it gives you the confidence to take some risks in your career, because you know you can be at your best when the pressure is on. 

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?
The easiest way would be to get a job at a big West Coast firm. If you're an East Coaster like me and want to work in-house, you should get trained up as a lawyer as quickly as possible, have an interest in tech and get experience in that world through whatever private, public or nonprofit job you're in. Tech very much has its own language, so learn it. You don't have to be a superstar, just be conversant and you'll be miles ahead of most lawyers and business people. Then start dropping resumes, attending conferences, reaching out to alums, meeting people who work in tech. Silicon Valley is enormously dynamic, so job situations are rarely static and advancement is rarely linear, even at established companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and HP. That means you have to take opportunities when they come, not when it's convenient for you. If you get your foot in the door there's a great deal of opportunity, because there's an enormous demand for competent, business-savvy lawyers in Silicon Valley.

 

More in the UVA Law Network Series

375+ Alumni

Leaders in San Francisco and Silicon Valley

T.J. Angioletti '92 
Chief IP Officer, Netflix

Mark Brazeal '93
Chief Legal Officer, Broadcom

David Burke '93
Co-founder and former CEO, Makena Capital Management

Sean Cameron '06
In-House Counsel, Apple

Gary Gansle '98
Senior Counsel, Perkins Coie

Angie Hankins '98 
Director of Intellectual Property, Samsung Strategy & Innovation Center

Erin Hawthornthwaite '97
Director, Legal, Google

Christopher Kearney '85
Partner, Keker, Van Nest & Peters

David Hyman '93
General Counsel, Netflix

R. Hewitt Pate '87
General Counsel, Chevron

Brian Powers '74
Chairman Emeritus,
Hellman & Friedman

Joseph Saveri '87
Antitrust and Class Action 
Trial Attorney, 
Joseph Saveri Law Firm

Wilma Wallace '89
Vice President, 
General Counsel, REI

HIGHER EDUCATION

Jay Mitchell '83
Director, Organizations and Transactions Clinic, Stanford Law School

Janet Napolitano '83
Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley

Janet Norris '76
Senior Counsel, Office of the General Counsel, University of California

Lucy Ricca '06
Fellow, Center on the Legal Profession, Stanford Law School

George Triantis LL.M. '86
Charles J. Meyers Professor of Law and Business, Stanford Law School

Top Employers

Chart of top employers
As of March 31, 2021