Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

Considering the number and variety of legal jobs in the Washington, D.C., area, it's no surprise that the nation's capital is home to more alumni of the University of Virginia School of Law than any other area. Graduates heavily populate the government (particularly the U.S. Department of Justice), top firms and businesses, advocacy groups and think tanks. Five alumni serve as U.S. senators, and four are U.S. representatives. We talked to several D.C. 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 in Washington, D.C.

E. Wade Ballou Jr. '83

Legislative Counsel, Office of the Legislative Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 
Of the many outstanding aspects of UVA Law, there are three ways that it prepared me for a career drafting federal legislation. First, the “philosopher king” approach to contract law from the first day in Professor Bob Scott’s class taught me to approach questions from a system-wide perspective. This is part of the mind shift required for the drafter to “think legislatively.” Changes to federal law can have far-reaching ripple effects that must be identified and presented to the policymakers to limit the unintended consequences of their legislative actions. Secondly, every controversy affects real people, and all viewpoints should be considered in working toward satisfying solutions. Who owns the fox (Pierson v. Post) and whether an injury is compensable (Palsgraf v. Long Island RR Co.) matters. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I learned the importance of working the “UVA way” — of civility and collegiality with respect for all.


Matthew Barblan '09

Vice President, Public Policy, Association of American Publishers

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 
One great thing about UVA Law is that it doesn't just prepare you to practice law, it helps you become a well-rounded individual in both personal and professional spheres of life. My time at UVA taught me that successful careers are built on a combination of intellect, hard work, and finding great people to work with and a job that you love. UVA Law taught me to stay intellectually curious and to tackle my career with an open mind and a deliberate approach. These lessons served me well as I transitioned from litigation to academia. When I think about my life and career, I'm sincerely grateful to UVA for mixing a top-notch education with an environment that encourages students to pursue rewarding careers and a well-balanced life.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?
D.C. is a great place to practice law — you won't find anywhere in the country with a wider range of interesting legal and policy jobs for lawyers. My advice to new grads: Don't be shy. Reach out to people to learn more about potential careers, make sure people know that you're looking for a job in D.C., and keep an open mind when opportunities arise. Personal connections go a long way, and your job search will be a lot easier if you have friends and colleagues helping you out.


Benjamin C. Block '01

Partner, Covington & Burling

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
Learning from professors who take great joy in teaching complicated concepts in an understandable, entertaining and engaging manner was a great way to embark upon a legal career. Doing so alongside so many smart, enthusiastic, and collegial classmates was a great environment, and one to aspire to find in the workplace.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?
Whether it be private practice, public practice, or non-practice of law, look for jobs and fields where you will like those with whom you will work and interact. Chances are, that will be a law firm, agency or field with lots of UVA alums.


William M. Bosch '92

Partner, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
As I review a law practice replete with tricky legal issues, challenging business circumstances and sometimes hostile people, I know that professional success is the product of teamwork and an abiding respect for the power of civility and humility. My experience at the Law School instilled a recognition that a "win at all costs" attitude harms both client and soul. The Virginia lawyer graduates with an understanding that it is possible to be a gladiator without losing touch with humanity. In fact, it is essential to a long and successful career — especially as a trial lawyer and litigator.  

Clients often come to me when they've seemingly run out of options, and when blood pressure reaches the boiling point. The nature of trial work, and litigation more broadly, is combative and inherently adversarial. Conflict is the starting point, and our job is to seek peace through victory. While we can retreat to the library or an office to deploy our critical and logical reasoning skills, it's in the realm of human interaction that we actually solve problems. I'll never forget the jury trial when a witness was called to show that my client and I were bullies, and instead regaled the jury with stories of how he was always treated as a gentleman. The case very well may have been decided when he came down from the stand and shook my hand on the way out. All I did was allow this man to tell his story. Having spent three years in Charlottesville surrounded by a community of genuine, caring (and highly intelligent) individuals, I've never lost sight of the need to treat everyone — even adversaries — with dignity. Mr. Jefferson wouldn't have it any other way. 

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?
Washington, D.C., is dynamic, it's open to outsiders, and it rewards competency — not just connections. Read "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss, and take the good doctor's advice to heart. Your career may feature unexpected twists and turns, and sometimes you may need to force yourself to go down an unanticipated path. But if you proceed confidently in the direction of your dreams, the next professional opportunity is always around the corner. In the years ahead, I think foreign language abilities will be increasingly valuable, along with a proficiency with technology (IT, life sciences and otherwise). Law students should make sure they complement their legal studies with other endeavors, and should prepare themselves for increasing competition from international lawyers. 


Tillman J. Breckenridge '01

Partner, Stris and Maher

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
UVA Law was foundational to my career in a variety of ways. It was where I, to quote Professor Kenneth Abraham, learned to “make a noise like a lawyer,” but just as importantly, it was where I learned to make a noise like a business person. As an appellate lawyer, in-depth understanding of how law fits together among disciplines is critical. At UVA Law, I got the tools to develop that understanding over the course of my career. I also developed the business and social acumen needed to strive in any profession, no matter whether I work in private practice, at a public interest firm, in-house, in a non-legal career, or for the government. Also, the UVA Law experience and network were integral to finding my way in my specialty. The appellate clinic was seminal, and it started the snowball of experience that led to ultimately being able to land a job with an appellate boutique in Los Angeles, when I emailed a fellow Wahoo out of the blue. UVA Law prepared me, gave me the resources and continues to enrich my career to this day.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?
Be open to all the possibilities. Particularly here in Washington, there are myriad paths you can choose, and whatever path you take, you can bet there’s a UVA Law grad who has trod it before and is willing to show you the way. Far more doors were open to me than I ever realized, and I hope that future UVA Law grads can use their imaginations better to recognize the opportunities that await.


Andrea Bridgeman '80

Proprietor, Bridgeman Associates

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
What distinguishes UVA from other highly ranked law schools is the spirit of mutual respect, camaraderie and even fun among its students that has existed for decades. My non-UVA lawyer husband marvels at this after every Law School event he attends with me: Our graduates seem to enjoy each other and to enjoy what we do. A legal recruiter’s blog stated recently that hiring partners in many national firms seek out UVA Law grads “because they already know how to get along.” While timeliness and quality of work are important, personality counts too — for effective, rewarding relationships with clients and colleagues, and staff mentoring — even in adversarial settings. A lawyer’s innate drive, skepticism and sense of urgency are best tempered with a dose of sociability, and UVA Law has always fostered this mix. Is this why UVA Law has an enviably high percentage of alumni donors among peer institutions …?


Susan L. Fox '91

Vice President for Government Relations, The Walt Disney Company

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?
Don't let inertia keep you in a job that isn't leading you in the right direction. Be open to nontraditional jobs and work in government and policy fields to expand your horizons.


Alice Hill '83

David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, Council on Foreign Relations

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 
UVA prepared me well for a career that has taken me from private practice to prosecution, and from the bench to policymaking. It taught me to "think like a lawyer," and, importantly, to write like one. Beyond the technical skills, the Law School's collegial atmosphere gave me the space to work on the skill that plays one of the most prominent roles in success, that of building strong relationships. UVA's emphasis on collaboration and community demonstrated the value of finding ways to work effectively with co-workers, clients, and even competitors. The Law School fostered an environment that allowed students to get to know each other and faculty in ways that helped them become not only superb lawyers, but also great colleagues. I suspect UVA's encouragement of "people skills" is among the reasons that Washington's legal scene has so eagerly absorbed its graduates.


Roscoe Jones '03

Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 
The Law School has a deep commitment to public service. With an excellent public service office, a strong alumni network, and a wide array of public law courses and clinics taught by a world class faculty, a degree from the Law School will ensure that you are well prepared for a career in public service.  

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?
Practicing law in Washington puts you at the intersection of law, policy and politics. I would encourage students to intern in Washington during one or both of their summers. There's no substitute for being in the city and exploring its unique career options. Also, Washington is a town built on relationships. So keep in touch with the contacts you make there and find a mentor in the city; you never know when that one contact will open up a door for you to walk through.


Mike Lincoln '91

Vice Chair, Cooley

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
Obviously, UVA Law provides a top-notch legal education, but where the school really stands out in my mind is its culture and its work-hard, play-hard ethos. UVA Law puts an emphasis on being well-rounded and having fun, and not just book-learning. Students do not take themselves too seriously, and I think students by and large like being at the Law School and thrive in the environment. As a result, UVA Law fosters people skills and collegiality. As a corporate lawyer, I work primarily with tech entrepreneurs and tech investors and I really do believe that people skills and emotional quotient matter as much as raw intellect and legal skills.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?
I would really think long and hard about your passions in life and then do your homework and try to identify the law firms, corporations, agencies or nonprofits that align with those passions. If you love sports, try to find a place and a position where you can pursue that passion. If you love environmental matters, try to find a place and position that allows you to be fully immersed in those matters and so on. Because my firm focuses on the tech sector and entrepreneurs, when I meet someone who has really honed in on what we do and conveys that he or she is passionate about what we do, it stands out and it really matters in the hiring process. Try to put your finger on the culture of the place you are considering – obviously all organizations have a culture and I think that you need to find an organization that aligns with your own values, or you are much less likely to thrive.


Jonathan E. Lowy '88

Founder and President, Global Action on Gun Violence

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
Now that I've interviewed, hired and worked with lawyers from many other law schools, I've come to truly appreciate how UVA Law prepares graduates for a career in law. I think UVA provided me with the perfect mix of theoretical/philosophical aspects of the law, and practical legal knowledge. Both are needed to effectively litigate and advocate. I've also come to appreciate the collegial environment of the Law School — the fact that the fiercest dispute I had in my three years was over an umpire's call in a softball playoff game. (I was not out of the batter's box, by the way!) That left me with a love of the law and legal practice that remains vibrant almost 30 years out.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?
If you want to work in public interest, where I've spent the past 20 years, my advice is to develop the specific skills that the organization of your dream needs, and make a powerful, well-tailored pitch. Unlike law firms, most public interest organizations don't have the money to train, or hire generalists.


Janet S. Nolan '89

Deputy Associate General Counsel, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
Coming out of law school, I did not know exactly what area of law I wanted to focus on. Indeed, I may have known more what I did not want to do than what I did! Thus, much of my “substantive expertise” in health care law I learned on the job over many years. However, UVA Law more than prepared me to be a well-rounded lawyer — teaching me to think on my feet and to communicate effectively both orally and in writing. UVA Law also taught me to welcome legal challenges by seeking out new legal areas of expertise, and ingrained in me the academic rigor necessary to learn them. But perhaps what I learned most from my experience at UVA are the intangibles, namely to engage in productive and reasoned legal debate with attorneys, even if they disagree with your legal position, and to always be an attorney whose integrity and professionalism is unquestioned. Luckily for all of us, I think that everyone in the legal community recognizes that these intangible qualities are inherent with being a UVA Law grad.


Mary Ellen Powers '80

Partner-in-Charge, Europe, Jones Day

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
UVA Law provided great training on the basics — learning to think like a lawyer, creativity, rigorous analysis, written advocacy. But it also drove home the fact that culture matters, whether in school or in your career. The Law School was full of fun, interesting people who were committed to helping each other get through some grueling times. I had a great three years in Charlottesville and the vast majority of the UVA Law grads I’ve met over the years feel the same way (a sentiment not shared by most of the lawyers I know who graduated from other schools). UVA Law showed us the value of teamwork and cooperation in what is generally considered to be a pretty cutthroat profession. I was lucky to find a firm right out of law school that shared that same spirit, and I’m still there 36 years later.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?
The fact that I ended up in Washington was purely serendipitous. I never interviewed a D.C. firm on campus, and I viewed the legal community here as a boring place focused on administrative law and procedure. That was one of the least-informed opinions I held in law school. Sure, things have changed a bit in 36 years, but the Washington legal community today is broad, dynamic and endlessly fascinating. It is an obvious draw for those attracted to government and politics, but it is also a great place to be for a broad range of other cutting-edge legal issues. And (except for the traffic), the metropolitan area is a great place to live.


Scott A. Surovell '96

Member, Surovell Isaacs & Levy, Virginia State Senator

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
The level of academic competition steeled my skills for real-world litigation and client service, serving as the executive editor of a journal honed my writing, while my relationships outside of the classroom prepared me to lead in the community and my state. At one point in my career as a Virginia state legislator, UVA Law grads occupied four of eight top leadership positions in the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the Virginia General Assembly. UVA lawyers are leaders. 

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?
A UVA Law education provides graduates with the foundation to succeed in dozens of fields and the Greater Washington D.C. metropolitian area presents legal career choices available in no other area in the United States or probably the world. Where else can you establish a Supreme Court practice, staff a government agency, prosecute spies, serve as staff of U.S. senators or members of Congress, and build a regulatory practice (as well as all of the practice areas seen around the country), or have the option to do divorces, car accidents and DWIs like I do? Call on your alumni for career advice, case advice, referrals or job leads. Do not limit your career options to practicing in a law firm.


Peter S. Vincent '95

Vice President for International Policy, Borderpol

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
UVA Law instilled in me a tremendous sense of commitment to my country, my community and my profession that has served me well throughout my career. There are obviously a number of stellar law schools in the United States and abroad, but over the years I have found that what truly sets UVA Law apart is its unwavering emphasis on collegiality and integrity. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to have had worked at major law firms; at the legal department of a major multinational corporation; as the U.S. Department of Justice attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia; as a political appointee at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and now as general counsel of Thomson Reuters Special Services. In each of these positions, I have worked closely with extraordinarily smart, patriotic and hard-working professionals, but the UVA Law graduates have been — even when we strenuously disagree on substantive legal and policy matters — the most willing to genuinely entertain and consider divergent perspectives and creative arguments. This has been especially true in the national security and counterterrorism space where reasonable minds often differ as to the appropriate tools and methods for protecting the homeland. As terrorism has sadly become our new normal, I am heartened by the fact that so many UVA Law graduates bring great integrity and collegiality to these literally (and I do mean literally) life-and-death discussions and debates.   

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?
The networking, stupid.


More in the UVA Law Network Series

2,800+ Alumni

Leaders in Washington, D.C.


Benjamin C. Block '01
Partner, Covington & Burling

William M. Bosch '92
Partner, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Tillman J. Breckenridge '01
Partner, Stris and Maher

Jeremiah Buckley '69
Founding Partner, Buckley Sandler

William J. Curtin III '96
Partner, Hogan Lovells

Sarang “Sy” Damle '05
Partner, Latham & Watkins

Thomas Donilon '85
Senior of Counsel, O’Melveny & Myers

Lee Goodman '90
Partner, Wiley Rein

J. Warren Gorrell Jr. '79
Chief Executive Officer Emeritus, Hogan Lovells

Elizabeth P. Gray '83
Partner, Willkie Farr & Gallagher

Hal Hicks '85
Retired Partner, Skadden 

Roscoe Jones '03
Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher 

Eric J. Kadel Jr. '97
Partner, Sullivan & Cromwell 

Jeffrey K. Lehrer '96
Managing Partner, DLA Piper 

Mike Lincoln '91
Vice Chair, Cooley 

Christopher McIsaac '85
Partner, Clifford Chance

Robert Mueller '73
Retired Partner, WilmerHale

Raqiyyah Pippins '06
Partner, Arnold & Porter

Trevor Potter '82
Member, Caplin & Drysdale

Mary Ellen Powers '80
Partner-in-Charge, Europe, Jones Day

Terrence Ross '83
Partner, Katten Muchin Rosenman

Catherine E. Stetson '94
Co-Director, Appellate Practice Group and Partner, Hogan Lovells

Jonathan Traub '94
Managing Principal, Deloitte Tax


Katie S. Bagley '05
Supervisory Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice

E. Wade Ballou Jr. '83
Legislative Counsel, Office of the Legislative Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives

Edward Burley '90
Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Columbia

Nicole Bynum '87
Deputy Director, Federal Reserve Board

Chris Herren '90
Section Chief, Voting Section, U.S. Department of Justice

Trevor McFadden ’06
Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Amit Mehta '97
Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Janet S. Nolan '89
Deputy Associate General Counsel, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Marci B. Norton '91
Senior Counsel, U.S. Food and Drug Administration

India Pinkney '98
General Counsel, National Endowment for the Arts

Karl Racine '89
Attorney General of the District of Columbia 

Judith W. Rogers LL.M. '88 
Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit


Alma Angotti '82
Partner, Financial Services, Guidehouse

Donald A. Baer '81
Senior Partner, Brunswick Group 

Donna Cooper '93
Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, BET Networks

John Cullina '91
Vice President, Verizon 

Tom Davis '75
Partner, Holland and Knight

Donald Dell '64
Group President, Lagardere Unlimited 

Jeffrey W. Ferguson '91
Managing Director and General Counsel, The Carlyle Group

Susan L. Fox '91
Vice President for Government Relations, The Walt Disney Company

Yuri Horwitz '06
President, CEO, Sol Systems Inc.

Cynthia L. Hostetler '88
Board of Directors, Vulcan Materials 

Jeffrey Humber '78
Senior Vice President, PNC Financial Services Group

Stewart Jeffries '00
Senior Government Affairs and Public Policy Counsel, Google

Brian Leung '08
Senior Vice President & Executive General Counsel, Vox Media

Heather Podesta '97 
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Invariant

DeMaurice Smith '89 
Executive Director, NFL Players Association


Elizabeth Beardsley '07
Senior Policy Counsel, U.S. Green Building Council

Claire Blumenson '11
Executive Director, Co-Founder, School Justice Project

Tracey E. Braun '86
Senior Counsel, Export-Import Bank of the United States

John Bridgeland '87
President and Chief Executive Officer, Civic

Catherine Connor '03
Vice President, Public Policy and Advocacy, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

John M. Copacino '79
Director, Criminal Justice Clinic and E. Barrett Prettyman Program and Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

Alice Hill '83
David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, Council on Foreign Relations 

William Irelan '65
General Counsel, ADCI/VOCA

Jonathan E. Lowy '88
Founder and President, Global Action on Gun Violence

Scott A. Surovell '96
Virginia State Senator, Member, Surovell Isaacs & Levy, 

Rebecca Vallas '09
Senior Fellow and Co-Director, Disability Economic Justice Collaborative, The Century Foundation

Peter S. Vincent '95
Vice President for International Policy, Borderpol

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