Vikki Nguyen, Intellectual Property Associate at Gunderson Dettmer, New York City
While earning her undergraduate degree in communications and professional editing from the University of California - Santa Barbara (UCSB), Vikki Nguyen (’13) had plans to become a fashion magazine editor. Now as an intellectual property associate with Gunderson Dettmer in New York, she looks back on her career path and realizes that all began to change after taking a legal writing course at UCSB.
"I wasn't entirely sure I was ready to commit to a legal career, however, so I kept taking small steps into the field—first with an internship during undergrad, then by becoming a legal secretary with Gunderson Dettmer's Silicon Valley office after graduating, and then moving into a paralegal role with Gunderson Dettmer before ultimately taking the plunge to enroll in law school," says Nguyen.
She decided to attend BU Law after being won over by the Admitted Students Preview Day program. "I met a lot of people who seemed really friendly, well-adjusted, and overall a lot happier than I expected law students to be," she explains. "Additionally, many of them insisted that I would be able to continue a well-rounded life, even in my 1L year, which was important to me after having worked for three years."
At BU Law, Nguyen found BU Law’s welcoming community lived up to her expectations. She joined the Art Law Society, served as a student advisor, and was a member of OUTLAW, BU Law's student group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allied students, which seeks to provide leadership and educational opportunities.
In fact, Nguyen says the best thing she got from BU Law was the collection of relationships she made. "I met some of my best friends at BU Law, and they helped me handle the stress of on-campus interviewing, to ride out the entire experience until graduation day, and then to survive the bar exam."
In addition to a strong support network, BU Law afforded Nguyen the opportunity to gain practical experience during law school. “Experience doesn't just look good on your resume,” she says. “It helps every single aspect of your job search. It helps you interact more comfortably with the people who will be interviewing you. It helps you to organically integrate relevant vocabulary and talking points into your pitch. It helps remind you why you want to do what you want to do, which is so important when things get tough. Or, sometimes it will help you figure out that you don't want to do something, and that is just as important."
Nguyen spent her summers doing just that—first as a legal intern at Topspin Media, a direct-to-consumer marketing software development company, in Santa Monica, CA, and then as a summer associate at Gunderson Dettmer’s Redwood City office.
Further, she interned with Charles River Ventures, a Cambridge-based venture capital firm, during the spring semester of her 2L year through BU Law’s Legal Externship Program. This program allows students to work in real legal settings under the supervision of practitioners. Says Nguyen of her experience, “My externship with the general counsel of Charles River Ventures was the perfect fit, and it gave me lots of responsibility and excellent mentoring. My supervisor was a role model in many ways, especially how to be a real counselor in working with clients.”
As a whole, Nguyen’s time at BU Law prepared her well for the daily challenges faced by an intellectual property associate.
In this role, she and her group essentially act as general counsel for their startup clients, handling their commercial contracts and other day-to-day legal matters. The work varies each day and gives Nguyen a chance to tout her writing skills and gain valuable experience working with clients.
"The position is a great fit for me because we do a lot of writing. Our agreements have to be really customized to the particular client's business," she explains. Her tasks range from working on documents, like service or vendor agreements and website terms of service, to performing support work for their corporate team on financing or merger deals.
Nguyen has not entirely departed from her original career ambitions, as Gunderson Dettmer serves many companies in the media, fashion, and lifestyle industries. "We have a lot of really interesting clients, so when the work does pile up, it really helps that I feel like the work I am doing is going towards helping companies, individuals, and projects that I am excited about,” says Nguyen. "Also, the startup scene is growing so rapidly in New York City, so it is a really exciting sector to be a part of right now.”
Reported April 21, 2014