Friday, October 31, 2014

Alumni Spotlight: Sireesha Chirala '13

Meet Assistant Attorney General, Sireesha Chirala '13. Sireesha works in the Environmental Protection Division at the Office of the Attorney General in Austin, Texas and was kind enough to answer a few questions about her job search and career path. She practices civil litigation and environmental law and represents the State of Texas in environmental enforcement matters involving violations of State waste, air, and water laws.

How did you obtain your first job out of law school?

At the end of my 3L year, I secured a law clerk position in the Environmental Protection Division at the AG’s office and applied for the UHLC’s Graduate Fellowship program. After graduating and taking the bar, I moved to Austin and completed my fellowship. I tried to develop a relationship with as many lawyers in the division as I could, found some amazing mentors, and worked hard to impress the attorneys who gave me assignments. About a month after I passed the bar, a position opened up in my division. Since I had already been there for three months (I stayed past the official time period for the fellowship) and made a positive impression on the attorneys, I was interviewed with the endorsements and support of almost everyone in the division. I was in the right place at the right time.

Describe what led you to pursue your current position/practice area:

I was drawn to environmental law in law school. I took several classes in this area, wrote my journal comment on this topic, and tried to intern at places where I could develop the skills and experience necessary to start my legal career as an environmental lawyer. Through my internships, I also realized that I wanted to work in the public sector.

I knew that the practice area I wanted to specialize in was smaller and very competitive and that typically a law license is required to be hired in the public sector. But I decided I would give it a shot. Because of the successes that my friends who graduated the years before me had in obtaining positions through their UHLC Graduate Fellowships, I decided that a fellowship would be the best option. The fellowship allowed me to work at the place I wanted to work without the employer (or me) having to worry about pay.

What experiences/internships did you have that you found to be helpful or beneficial in your job search and career thus far?

Definitely my judicial internships. Potential employers always asked me about my judicial internships. Working for judges is an incredible experience and really links together what we study in law school with the practice of law. I was able to see how judges view cases and pleadings; interact with judges on a day-to-day basis; observe a lot of different practice styles, hearings, trials, and courtroom procedures; and hone my legal research and writing skills. My judicial internships have proven invaluable as a new lawyer.

Another thing that was helpful in my job search was the variety in my internship experiences. After 1L year, I interned or did research for a professor every semester and summer. As a result, I worked in the public and private sector and in criminal and civil law. This made choosing a practice area to specialize in, and basically my career path, a lot easier.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to current law students?

Try hard not to compare yourself to other people. It is almost impossible not to do it because of the nature of law school, but you will find the job/career path that is right for you if you pay attention to yourself instead of measuring yourself against others. Most of my friends went into the private sector, but I knew that I wanted to work for the government. Instead of following suit, I followed my interests and luckily, found my dream job.

I also think that varied internships are incredibly important because of the relationships you build with other lawyers from a broad spectrum of practice areas, the work experience you can discuss in interviews, and the exposure to the practice of law that comes with it. So intern or research with different professors while you are in school and if your schedule allows it.
And remember, it’s not a matter of if you’ll find a job; it’s a matter of when.

If you'd like to connect with Sireesha to learn more about her career path, talk to your counselor in the Career Development Office.