2L Elizabeth Lee was a summer associate in Oakley’s legal department this past summer. Born and raised in Orange County, she says she was thrilled to spend the summer working for a company that offered the quintessential Californian accessory: sunglasses! Here she talks to us about the experience.
Q: What did you do at Oakley this summer?
A: My work was primarily transactional and included revising distribution agreements for compliance with local laws in foreign countries and analyzing various statutes affecting manufacturing, including the California Labor Code. As I learned more about Oakley, I was proud to be part of a company that is so committed to designing products that exemplify style, function and impressive safety.
Q: What were some valuable skills you practiced this summer?
A: This summer was an opportunity to practice client interaction and advocacy when your client is not just one individual but an entire organization. Calling on what I learned in my Contracts class last spring, I knew that each provision, whether it was one sentence or four paragraphs, was essential to the agreement’s effectiveness in protecting the company’s rights and interests. Reviewing and revising agreements was useful in understanding how a company like Oakley works to ensure that protection. I also learned that understanding factors outside the legal context is a key to ensuring that legal decisions are made in light of a company’s business goals and the market realities. Over the course of the summer, I realized that by having regular meetings with company employees, an attorney is not only helping the company as a whole but is also building a strong working relationship with individuals based on mutual trust and sharing of information. My experience time and again was that setting aside time for these meetings was essential to the decision-making process because it was an opportunity for the legal and business side to educate one another, ask questions and strategize on how to best move forward. Whether I will be working in a firm or as in-house counsel years down the road, I know that investing the time to build trust with individual employees will result in more effective work for the client as a whole.
Q: Why did you get into law in the first place?
A: It all started with a field trip to an Orange County courthouse when I was in the 6th grade. They filed us in to traffic court and we sat in the back of the courtroom as people were called up to speak with the judge. As the judge heard each case, I recognized how she didn’t simply hand down a standard punishment but instead focused on the individual standing before her. Looking for genuine remorse and a lesson learned, she evaluated the person’s sentiments and gave a warning or a punishment, as she deemed appropriate. Watching her, I knew I wanted to be a part of that – a part of a system where I could help people get back on the right track. The notion of treating each person as an individual has stayed with me, and it was a skill I used each day when interning at the public defender’s office several years ago. Looking ahead, I would like to help companies stay on track by assisting in the implementation of improved policies and the training of employees on what efforts are needed to ensure compliance with applicable laws.
Q: What is your passion?
A: I have a strong passion for doing what I can to make this world a more inclusive place. Having volunteered with adults and children with developmental disabilities for over seven years, it is incredibly important to me that these individuals feel included and proud of who they are. In sharing stories about the inspiring people I have met in my volunteer work, it is my intention to highlight their talents, humor and kindness so that others are less likely to make assumptions about those who are different from them.
I also enjoy opportunities to help people feel more included as they embark on new chapters in their lives. At the University of San Diego, I co-instructed a leadership course for freshmen students, and this fall, I am a teaching assistant for the Legal Writing & Research Department. I am humbled by the experiences in which I can offer support and guidance both inside and outside the classroom.
With my legal career, I hope to reduce instances of discrimination and harassment in the workplace by counseling companies, assisting in the implementation of more effective policies and providing training to companies’ employees on these legal matters and how to improve negative work environments.
Q: What career advice would you give to someone just starting out?
A: My advice would be that it is never too early to start building your professional network. In the past year, I have made so many connections through family and friends and attending events at Hastings. Something that surprised me about this is how many times one new connection led to another. Attorneys in San Francisco have connected me with attorneys back at home in Orange County and vice versa. My internship with Oakley all started with networking, so I am living proof that networking can lead to exciting opportunities!