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Two-time summer associate Vanessa shares her story

For Vanessa Ajagu, her dual Canadian-Nigerian identity and interest in world affairs led her to White & Case.

"I seek out opportunities to live and work internationally," says Vanessa, who is currently studying for an LLM in International Law in Amsterdam.

“Many law firms claim to be global, but I was drawn to White & Case because of the Firm’s international reach.”

Experience as a 1L Diversity Fellow

Vanessa joined White & Case as a 1L Diversity Fellow in 2018. She reflects on the ten-week program that saw her rotate through a series of different practices. "I spent time with the Arbitration, Litigation and Antitrust practices," she says. "It was great exposure to the range of work that the Firm does, as well as the different skills that you need to be a successful lawyer. Over the summer, I worked on business development, on a major international energy deal and spent time in-house with a client." 

This two-week client secondment showed Vanessa another side to the role of a lawyer: "Being embedded with a client was a fascinating experience. I really got a unique perspective of the business and learnt how White & Case—as outside counsel—could best serve the business's needs."

As well as the diverse work, Vanessa describes the Summer Program as "sociable and fun!" She is still in touch with others from her class and praises the numerous opportunities to meet partners and associates in informal settings. "I found the lawyers at White & Case to be friendly and collaborative, and this extended to outside of the workplace," she says. "Getting to know lawyers from different practices was really useful in terms of thinking about what teams I'd like to work with."

Summer associate life in Japan

For the summer of 2019, Vanessa returned to White & Case as a summer associate, including two weeks in our Tokyo office. She explains why the chance to work in Japan appealed: "It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to immerse myself in the ever-expanding Asian legal market. I enjoyed the fact that the workplace culture in the Tokyo office was similarly supportive and welcoming to my experience in the New York office." 

The move also offered Vanessa the chance to work in international trade, an area of particular interest for her. "I'd never worked on trade before, so it was a chance to broaden my skill set and knowledge of the law." 

She also worked on a cybersecurity matter during her time in Tokyo, and notes that, "getting the chance to do a wide variety of legal work is a huge bonus at this stage in my career." 

Vanessa points out that her experience in Tokyo made even more salient the importance of adapting to local sensibilities. "In our line of work, you need to respect and understand the local culture in order to be successful. For instance, in Japan, addressing lawyers as "senseis" is a sign of cultural competence that allows for more cohesive collaboration."

“Ready to handle anything”

So, what's next for Vanessa? After her studies, she is planning to continue to broaden her legal experience by clerking for a judge. Wherever her career takes her, she values the network and contacts that she has made at White & Case. "I'd say that what sets White & Case apart from other law firms is that its people are both approachable and adaptable. I know that the channels are open for me to keep in contact—and after my two summer experiences at the Firm, I feel ready to handle anything!"

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