WCL Alumni Gear Up for Law Firm Challenge

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When Vanessa Burrows (’06) heard about WCL’s first Law Firm Challenge, she immediately jumped into action by signing-up to serve as Simpson Thacher & Bartlett's Team Captain and recruiting fellow alumni to join the Challenge.

“I got a great response. Then I sent a couple of reminders near the end of the Challenge to let people know that we were close to 100 percent participation of alumni within the firm,” said Burrows, who works in health care law.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and the alumni team from Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft both clocked in at first place in the total amount of money raised category. Burrows’ efforts also helped her team emerge as one of three—along with Bredhoff & Kaiser and Jacobson Burton Kelley—tied for highest alumni participation in the Challenge.

Burrows is gearing up to put her firm in the winners’ circle again during this year's Challenge, which kicks off on March 29 and runs through April 28, 2023. The LFC webpage allows alumni to direct gifts to any area of the law school they choose.

To date, over 35 firms have taken part in the Law Firm Challenge, competing in several categories, including highest individual donation, total dollars raised, and total alumni participation.

Jason Schwartz, WCL/JD ’09, a tax partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, and previous highest-donor award recipient noted, “As chair of the WCL Business Advisory Council, I decided to provide a good example.” Schwartz designated his donation towards the Business Law Program, and continues: “Going to law school is an investment in yourself but also an investment in the school that you ultimately decide to attend. All WCL alumni benefit from WCL continuing to maintain a good reputation,” Schwartz said. “It’s on our resumes forever, so I really want the law school to succeed and to be a feeder to law firms and government positions and other transactional practices.”

Burrows, meanwhile, earmarked her philanthropy for health care law.

“WCL didn’t have a health law program when I attended. I was pursuing administrative law,” Burrows explained. “After I graduated, I started working at the Congressional Research Service, with a focus on administrative law and Food and Drug Administration issues. FDA and health regulatory matters became the bedrock of my career.”

Beyond its fundraising goals, the Challenge is designed as a reminder that WCL, well known for its public interest law programs and alumni, also sees about a third of its graduates begin their careers in private practice. The Law Firm Challenge lets WCL highlight firms where its alumni work and helps students know where there are networking opportunities. 

Not all Challenge participants were WCL graduates. Jerry Buckley, an adjunct faculty member at WCL and founder of Buckley LLP, also donated. “The law firm I happened to found has a very large number of American University law school graduates, including some of our very best lawyers, as partners and attorneys in the firm,” said Buckley, who teaches consumer financial services law. 

Burrows is looking forward to building upon previous year’s momentum to again rally her team. Although the Challenge is designed to support the school, she said it had the added bonus of continuing her connection to WCL.

“The relationships I forged at the school are longstanding. I maintain friendships with my law school peers and classmates. And I am grateful for the professors who helped me make decisions that shaped my career trajectory,” she said. “Now I’m able to give back and support current students.”

Check-out the firm rankings, and support the WCL fund of your choice through the Law Firm Challenge!