Liah Burnley, Celia Cohen, Sarang 'Sy' Damile and Jeffrey Stump

5/10/15/25

Liah Burnley ’15, Celia Cohen ’10, Sarang ‘Sy’ Damle ’05 and Jeffrey Stump ’95 Photos by Samuel Stuart, Steve Waller and Dot Paul

How’s Life 5, 10, 15 and 25 Years After Law School?
Liah Burnley

5

Liah Burnley ’15

Attorney, Churchwell White
Sacramento, Calif.

Describe your work: I represent cities, counties, special districts, local agencies and private businesses. My work focuses on government relations, public policy, regulatory matters, and municipal and special district law. There is never a dull moment. My time is spent handling a variety of matters, including drafting municipal ordinances and public contracts; advising public officials on homelessness, cannabis regulations, public records requests, policing, and employment and labor issues; litigating election contests, code enforcement actions, and water and land use disputes; and, recently, helping our clients navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

What activities do you enjoy outside of work? I love the outdoors and take full advantage of Sacramento’s mild winters and Delta Breeze. If I am not at work, I am probably swimming, skating, snowboarding, hiking, biking or kayaking down the American River. I am also a volleyball enthusiast and play in several recreational leagues.

Are you where you expected to be at this stage of your career and life? I began my career as a deputy attorney general at the California Attorney General’s Office, and through a series of events accepted a position lobbying to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy as the senior policy adviser at Tesla. I knew immediately upon joining Churchwell White that I would be surrounded by a talented team of attorneys, but I did not expect to find so many mentors who enthusiastically invest in my development as an attorney. The best things in life are truly unexpected. I look forward to the next stage of my career and to many more opportunities for personal and professional growth.

What do you like about your life 5 years after law school? I believe that an important part of being a lawyer is to provide a public service to the community. In fact, I went to UVA Law because of its commitment to public service and programs that support public service attorneys. I appreciate that I have a fulfilling career that is both impactful and intellectually engaging. Most importantly, I am so grateful for my family and friends who are an endless source of love and deep belly laughs.

Celia Cohen

Photo by Samuel Stuart

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Celia Cohen ’10

Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York
New York City

Describe your work: My work focuses predominantly on violent and organized crime. I often work on cases from the inception of an investigation all the way through trial. In our office, we are also responsible for handling our own appeals. I’ve had the opportunity to try four cases in my first three years in the office. Most recently, I was part of the trial team that successfully prosecuted leaders of the Luchese crime family for murder, racketeering and other crimes.

What activities do you enjoy outside of work? I love anything that gets me outdoors. My husband and I also enjoy traveling and cooking (and eating!), and we’ve been lucky to combine those interests with our love of the outdoors on some recent hiking trips in Scotland and Argentina.

Are you where you expected to be at this stage of your career and life? When I decided to apply to law school, I hoped one day to be a prosecutor. One of the reasons I chose UVA Law was its Prosecution Clinic, and I’m so glad that I did, because that experience was both deeply rewarding and impactful. I firmly believe that lessons I learned during the clinic continue to guide me in my life as a prosecutor. I can’t say, though, that I anticipated being an AUSA in the Southern District of New York. I’m incredibly lucky to have had great mentors both while at UVA and during my career, and their encouragement and advocacy are a big part of how I ended up where I am today.

What do you like about your life 5 years after law school? I’m profoundly thankful to have a job that is not only intellectually stimulating but also driven by a mission of public service. My interactions with victims and their families have been particularly meaningful and serve as a reminder of the importance of achieving justice for those who might otherwise feel unseen. I’m also fortunate to have practiced law — and to continue to practice law — with wonderful colleagues from whom I learn every day.

Sarang 'Sy' Damle

Photo by Steve Maller

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Sarang ‘Sy’ Damle ’05

Partner, Latham & Watkins
Washington, D.C.

Describe your work: I specialize in copyright litigation, regulatory and counseling work. Irepresent a wide range of technology companies, particularly in the software and digital music industries. I joined the firm two years ago after a long stint in the federal government.

What activities do you enjoy outside of work? I have three young children, so I spend much of my free time with them — playing video games with my sons or putting together puzzles with my daughter.

Are you where you expected to be at this stage of your career and life? In life, definitely yes. My wife, Yael Berger, and I started dating before law school and are both Class of 2005. So, it is no great surprise that 15 years later we are married with three wonderful kids, living in the city we met in. In my career, most definitely not. The best advice I can give to young lawyers is to stay flexible in your career. I went from not taking a copyright law class in law school to becoming general counsel of the U.S. Copyright Office — just because I kept myself open to new and interesting opportunities.

What do you like about your life 15 years after law school? The early part of my career as a lawyer was so nervewracking — looking back, I really did not know what I was doing. Now, 15 years later, I feel like I am hitting my stride. Obviously, there is a lot more to learn, but at least on most days I do not feel like an imposter.

Jeffrey Stump

Photo by Dot Paul

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Jeffrey Stump ’95

Senior Assistant Attorney General, Georgia Department of Law
Atlanta

Describe your work: I have the honor of representing several state agencies that perform myriad important functions, including the Department of Insurance, Secretary of State and Commission on Equal Opportunity. Representing such a diverse client base has afforded me the opportunity to appear in both trial and appellate courts, provide advice on complex issues of state and federal law, and work alongside some of the most dedicated, top-shelf attorneys in the state.

What activities do you enjoy outside of work? I have always enjoyed exercising and have created a home gym. I recently added long walks with my family and guide dog, Sadie, which have become the most rewarding part of my day. I am also a voracious reader, and, after a long hiatus, I recently rediscovered the art of reading Braille (though I admit that I still have a preference for audiobooks that I dare not share with my Braille instructor).

Are you where you expected to be at this stage of your career and life? I wish I could give a straightforward answer. But I have learned that expectations, though valuable at times, are shaped by experience and unexpected life events. When I lost my sight at 19, I believed I had lost any opportunity to have a successful career or fulfilling life. I was wrong. It took time and healing, but I eventually discovered that the loss of my sight opened the door to self-discovery and opportunities that I never expected to have. I never expected to graduate from college, and I did as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. I never expected to graduate from law school, and I did on a full scholarship. I never expected to have a loving family and a successful career, and I have both. Perhaps it’s a much more straightforward answer after all — I exceeded my expectations.

What do you like about your life 25 years after law school? I have two brilliant and amazing daughters (Mackenzie and Macey), whom I get to coach, teach, make laugh and, at times, embarrass with all the love and respect a proud father can summon.

Media Contact

Mary M. Wood
Chief Communications Officer
wood@law.virginia.edu / (434) 924-3786

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