Anna Oh, Associate Counsel, EMC
Working in-house is a future goal for many new attorneys, but for Anna Oh (’13), it’s a career opportunity realized right out of law school. Thanks to her natural aptitude for transactional work paired with Boston University School of Law’s In-House Counsel Fellowship Program, Oh is working as an associate counsel for multinational tech giant EMC.
Oh knew vaguely that “some area of business law” would be a good fit for her since her undergraduate days at Cornell University, where she majored in policy analysis and management. “I liked that my major was very research-oriented and interdisciplinary, with a mixture of political science, sociology and psychology, and a lot of economics,” she says.
Oh chose to attend BU Law after visiting campus and learning about students’ positive law school experiences—not to mention attending Professor Mark Pettit’s mock class. Upon enrolling, the faculty’s top-ranked teaching reputation lived up to her expectations, and she cites Professor Pnina Lahav’s Constitutional Law course as one of her all-time favorite classes.
But Contract Drafting with Professor Tina Stark, founder of BU Law’s Transactional Law Program, is the course Oh appreciates most in hindsight. “My supervisors during my 2L summer, as well as in my fall externship, constantly expressed how great it was that I knew how to read and interpret a contract, which is not something most law students can do,” she recalls. “It also confirmed my strong interest in transactional work—I enjoy breaking down contractual language and looking out for the risks in reps and warranties of a contract. This class also taught me to think about a deal from the client's perspective, rather than a lawyer's.”
Applying such skills to real-life situations was another significant component of Oh’s law school experience. During her 2L summer, she interned with RSA, the Security Division of EMC. The position ended up “being the best possible fit” for her, as she drafted, revised, organized and terminated contracts and spoke with internal clients about various risks associated with certain deals. But, most importantly, she learned that in addition to handling detailed matters, working in-house means thinking big-picture. “You learn to be both a lawyer and a businessperson—you are not thinking just about the law in a vacuum,” she says. “I was constantly reminded that I can't simply look at the contractual language, but that I also have to consider the position we are in within the context of the deal.”
Oh, eager for more hands-on experience, participated in the Legal Externship Program upon returning to BU Law for her 3L fall. For her placement, she chose the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to foil her RSA experience. “I thought that it would be an interesting and a different kind of in-house work from my summer experience at RSA, since the Fed is a public/private hybrid and is a financial institution,” she says.
She not only gained exposure to timely banking law topics—think Dodd Frank, Gramm-Leach Bliley—Oh was able to make an impact within the department because of her previous experiences. “I had an opportunity to suggest revisions to standard contracts that had been in use for about 10 years,” she says. “My supervisor drafted most of them, and she wanted my fresh input on how we could improve them.”
When it came time to think about post-graduation plans, applying for the In-House Counsel Fellowship with EMC seemed like an easy decision. “EMC is one of the largest public company based in Massachusetts, with more than 110 lawyers worldwide in all different practice areas doing much of the work in-house. So, I thought that this would be a fantastic experience for someone like me right after graduating from law school.”
Oh has thrived during her year as a fellow at EMC, where she works in the corporate group, often with partner-level attorneys. The breadth and depth of experience she is gaining keeps her engaged every day—she does everything from M&A to litigation—and the challenge of constantly switching gears is helping her grow professionally.
“The most rewarding part, though, is that I get a lot more direct hands-on experience than I would almost anywhere else,” she says. “For example, EMC's privacy counsel is having me participate in numerous data privacy negotiations right now so that I can actually lead some of these negotiations myself in a few months!”
Oh knows that such an opportunity is rare for an entry-level law school grad and advises students interested in in-house work to instead to focus on becoming an expert on particular practice areas of interest, "so you could apply for an in-house position later that seeks such expertise,” she says.
Reported April 21, 2014