As a first generation college student, Kaleigh McManus Hartigan always felt that it was difficult to make the same connections as other law students, until she came to the Lavender Law® Conference and Career Fair.
Kaleigh completed her undergraduate degree at Worcester State University in Massachusetts as an Urban Studies and Planning Major. Toward the end of her undergraduate studies she began to see law school as a possibility, and after taking a couple years to explore her passions, ultimately decided to pursue her JD at DePaul School of Law in Chicago. As a passionate advocate for human rights, Kaleigh worked at various NGOs abroad and wanted to pursue international human rights work – DePaul Law was a perfect fit for her due to its International Human Rights Institute. As a part of DePaul’s Advanced Human Rights Law practicum, she worked in Chile and Kenya on various human rights issues, mostly concerning sexual- and gender-based violence. Kaleigh is particularly proud of her work on a complaint submitted to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, regarding the 2003 Ethiopian Genocide against the Anuak People. Kaleigh has brought her passion into her career, practicing international employment law with Fisher Phillips, as well as practicing domestic law for various employment issues like defense against discrimination claims, employment contracts and employee defection trade secrets and restrictive covenants. The international employment practice group drew Kaleigh to Fisher Phillips, as she wanted to continue to build on her studies by representing multinational corporations, small to medium enterprises, and NGOs.
LAVENDER LAW® AS A STUDENT
While in law school, Kaleigh also became involved with the DePaul OUTLaws, from whom she first heard about the Lavender Law® Conference and Career Fair and with whom she attended after her 2L year. As a first generation college student, she didn’t have a lot of opportunities to network, and described it as “really difficult. Definitely no one in my family has gone to law school or known anyone who’s gone to law school so it was just kind of tough to talk with lawyers and meet people.” Kaleigh says, “It was just more comfortable to network [at Lavender Law®]. Everyone has so much in common even though everyone’s in different practices, so that’s when I really started to learn about different practices and what lawyers do.”
Kaleigh attended the career fair again following her 3L year because as she said, “I didn’t know what I was going to be doing after law school; I had just taken the bar exam and I had no idea what I was going to do, so I went to the career fair and went to different employers, and met Fisher Phillips – my perfect match!” The rest is history! Her advice for helping other law students find their dream job is to go in with a plan. “There are so many tables and you’re not going to be able to get to everyone, so it’s important to figure out what tables you want to go to beforehand and reach out to them if possible. Make a point to go to those tables first. Have specific questions about the firm because it makes you stand out. If you’re really going to look for a job you have to prepare beforehand, make sure you have hard copies of your resume to hand them, bring extra pens, and you just want to look prepared.”
Kaleigh never felt comfortable in other networking experiences, but the Lavender Law® Conference and Career Fair was different. “It took a lot of pressure off of networking. I would feel out of place sometimes going to other networking events with attorneys that I didn’t know. When you go to Lavender Law, since for the most part everyone is LGBT, you don’t have to worry about how your personal life is different, that that’s not going to be an issue and you can just focus on what you came there for.” That personal connection makes all the difference in the culture of the event. “At Lavender Law it’s more of a family environment, it’s kind of like a family reunion. Everyone’s there for a professional reason but they’re there to have fun too, and hang out. It’s kind of a mix of both, like a networking event and also kind of like a family party.”
LAVENDER LAW® AS A RECRUITER
Kaleigh returned to the 2020 Lavender Law® Conference and Career Fair as a recruiter for Fisher Phillips, so she has had the unique experience of being on both sides of the table. The experience was different due to the switch to a virtual environment, but “from my experience with the recruiters at Lavender Law®, everyone is just there to help students.” Being there as a recruiter after two years as a student was exciting: “I was proud to recruit at Lavender Law on behalf of a firm that is committed to the diversity and success of LGBT attorneys.”
Kaleigh’s advice for law students is to “meet as many different people as you can, you never know who’s going to connect you with your next opportunity, so you need to have good relationships with your classmates, your professors, because that’s really going to be your starting point in your law career. Never miss an opportunity to have coffee with someone or get to know different people because it is a people profession, you need to have those connections to succeed in your career.”