Skip to main content
“A real revelation into how the law can change someone’s life”

August 2021: As a second year law student, Gabriella Klein already decided on pursuing a career in litigation. Numerous successes in national mock trial competitions and a summer working in the Queens County District Attorney's Office in New York had given Gabriella a taste of the courtroom. 

Then came an invitation from Professor Stefan Krieger, who ran the law school's Law Reform Advocacy Clinic. "After taking one of his courses, Professor Krieger asked me to research and write portions of an appellate brief before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and I immediately said yes!" 

A timely assignment became a real passion

Gabriella explains why she could not turn down the chance to work on the appellate brief. "As a student, it is rare to have the opportunity to write a federal appellate brief before one of the most estimable courts in the United States." 

Yet the prestige of the assignment was not the driving force for her: "As more stories about instances of police brutality and social inequities began to make the news, I was working on the assault and battery and harmless error portions of this civil rights-grounded brief. Knowing how important this case was for our client—a disabled immigrant from Peru who protested during the Occupy Wall Street movement—it was easy for me to passionately work on the brief." 

The reality of preparing to go before the Second Circuit

Before joining White & Case as a summer associate and during her final year of law school, Gabriella maintained focus on the brief. "In addition to my regular course load, Law Review assignments, and preparation for mock trial competitions, I worked on this brief at every available opportunity over the course of a year, including evenings, weekends and holidays.

When you are preparing a brief for the Second Circuit, you anticipate a forensic level of scrutiny: the arguments must be well developed and articulated, the law must be precise, and the format must be correct. The workload that comes with that is intense."

"Our client will get another trial, another day, another chance"

In March 2021, Gabriella was delighted to hear that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed judgement on the issues that she researched and wrote, affording the client a new trial. 

"It's very inspiring to think that I've made such an impact so early in my career as an advocate," she says. "For me, it's also been a real revelation into how the law can change someone's life. I'm so pleased to have been able to help our client in such a meaningful way—our client will get another trial, another day, another chance."

The benefits of taking part in a clinic

Even though most students signing up for law clinics will not experience a successful circuit court petition as a result of their work, Gabriella emphasizes that simply doing the work is beneficial. "Taking part in a clinic makes you a better critical thinker, researcher, and writer. You'll gain so much from stepping outside the classroom and applying your knowledge to real cases that impact real people. And you will become accustomed to learning the intricacies of local rules and court procedure. This will all help you get ahead of the curve when transitioning into the work force." 

Clarify expectations, keep an open mind: Advice for current and future associates

How has this experience shaped Gabriella's first few months as an associate at White & Case? "Like all new associates, I am eager to make my mark and challenge myself every minute of the day." She gives an example of how she achieves this: by clarifying expectations before starting a new assignment. "I ask the assigning associate or partner what format they prefer, how and when I can reach out with questions, and when the assignment is due. I usually repeat the assignment back to the assigning attorney in my own words to make sure I captured exactly what is needed." 

"Keep an open mind and work with different practice groups"

Finally, what advice does she have for any current or future summer associates who want to make the most of their time at the Firm? "Keep an open mind and work with different practice groups on a variety of assignments. I've always been interested in litigation, but I felt that it was important to gain exposure to corporate matters during the summer program." 

She explains: "It's really important to understand the moving parts of a deal or a case and working on the corporate side gives you a deeper understanding and a different perspective when litigating an issue. I was also able to develop my network across various practice groups."