Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Alumni Spotlight: Taylor Gissell '16

Taylor Gissell graduated from UHLC in May 2016 and is currently employed as a Senior Manager of Risk in the U.S. Compliance and Ethics Department located in Bentonville, Arkansas for Walmart Stores, Inc. Taylor's role at Walmart is to evaluate where regulatory, reputational, and operational risks lie and determine ways to mitigate those risks to ensure Walmart complies with all state and federal regulatory requirements. She took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions:

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

I earned my job at Walmart by obtaining a summer internship through Symplicity. My 1L summer, I began working as a Law Clerk for R. McConnell Group, a Houston-based boutique law firm that served as Walmart’s outside counsel for its International Compliance Division. Through this clerkship, I gained exposure to the client almost immediately, traveling to five countries to work hand-in-hand with compliance executives. When a position opened in the U.S. Compliance area at Walmart, clients I worked with in the past thought of me for the job.

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

It was at my summer internship for R. McConnell Group that I learned the nuances of corporate compliance and how to interact with the client. The summer of my 2L year, I worked in-house in the Legal Compliance and Ethics Department at Quanta Services, a Houston-based energy construction company. This experience helped broaden my knowledge of corporate compliance and provided me with the conviction I needed to know that working in-house after law school was a career path I wanted to pursue. 

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

The best advice I can give is to get as many people on your team as possible. Getting the legal job you really want isn’t always easy and having a team of people who will take the time to help you or recommend you for a position is by far your biggest asset.

Treat every opportunity as if it’s a job interview. By working hard on every project that comes your way, people around you will notice. The people who ultimately made the decision to hire me weren’t people I expected could do anything for my career when I met them.  But by treating every task and every interaction as though it was the most important item on my schedule, I was able to obtain a career from an unlikely source, through what I assumed was just a fleeting 1L internship.

Be intentional about expanding your network. Some people come into law school with strong ties to the legal community, and some of us don’t. Being the first lawyer in my family, I knew very little about the legal community and had no legal connections before starting law school. By my 3L year, I learned that professional connections must be intentionally made, and that wouldn’t happen without effort on my part. With this in mind, I got the business card of the man sitting next to me on a plane who turned out to be a partner at a prominent firm in Houston. I also attended a birthday party for a man I didn’t know, to meet a partner at a firm I knew would be there. It may be awkward at times, but you’ll never regret putting yourself out there and taking active steps to broaden your potential job market.

Take advantage of the CDO. Navigating through the labyrinth of the legal world is often confusing and intimidating, and the CDO is on your team from day one. By maintaining a relationship with my CDO officer, I was able to acquire honest and practical advice to help me deal with the everyday issues that arise when first entering the legal profession. Whether the CDO is sending job opportunities your way or simply being there to listen when you need to talk, they can be a great resource that you shouldn’t forget to utilize.