Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law alumnus Brandon Sylvia (’08) discovered his interest in the law as an undergraduate student working on an assignment to compose a Supreme Court opinion for an English course. That experience led him to attend law school at Chapman where he participated in the school’s On-Campus Interview (OCI) program during his second year. His interviews led to a summer associate position with the prestigious Orange County law firm Rutan & Tucker, which offered him a full-time position upon graduation.
Continue reading below to learn more about Brandon and his advice for current students.
Can you share a little bit about your career path with us?
When it came time to select a law school, I chose Chapman for a few reasons. First, the school was in Orange County, where I lived with my high-school and college sweetheart (who became my wife during my 1L year) and wanted to remain. Second, Chapman offered a generous scholarship. Third, Chapman’s recruiting efforts really convinced me that it had professors who were passionate about teaching, it was a place where I could get a great education, and it was a school that would allow me opportunities to work in Orange County.
While at Chapman, I became close with now-Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Administration Jayne Kacer, who was my Legal Research and Writing professor. She is a former Rutan & Tucker partner, and she mentioned that I ought to interview with the firm during OCI. I interviewed – both at OCI and at a call-back – and was offered a summer associate position, which I accepted on the spot. I had a great time working at Rutan & Tucker during the summer of 2007 (and again during early 2008, when I moonlighted during law school for a few hours a week), and have been with the firm full-time since I joined in August 2008.
Describe your day-to-day activities?
I specialize in employment litigation and counseling on the defense side. I manage a number of cases simultaneously, and am constantly working to ensure that we’re advancing my clients’ positions – whether preparing for trial or creating conditions that will lead to a favorable settlement. When my young children ask me what I do at work, my answer usually involves some combination of the following: I talk on the phone; write papers for the judge; write letters; talk to the judge; have long meetings where people have to tell the truth (which is kid-speak for a deposition); and, I read a lot. One of my undergraduate professors, who is also a practicing lawyer, told me that the job of an attorney is basically to “read, write, and think.” In my experience, that’s pretty on-point.
What skills did you learn at Chapman that proved instrumental in your career?
Law study at Chapman was rigorous, especially when combined with participating in Chapman Law Review and Moot Court activities. Learning to juggle and schedule numerous time-intensive tasks has been useful, since that’s what practicing law is like. Also, my writing improved greatly at Chapman, as did my ability to analyze cases. The day-to-day reading and analysis of court decisions is a crucial skill for litigation.
What advice would you give to current students?
There is the obvious stuff – take your studies seriously, engage with professors, etc. – but, perhaps less obviously, I’d encourage students to form good relationships with their classmates. The legal profession is one where networking is very important, so it is great to connect with others at Chapman, many of whom will likely practice in Southern California.
What did you find most surprising about your time at Chapman?
I really liked how accessible the professors were. I took advantage of office hours to get to know a number of my instructors and talk through what we were learning. Their doors were always open. What I had been told during recruiting was true – the professors at Chapman really are passionate about teaching, and about developing intelligent, informed, and able attorneys. I did not expect that professors with such impressive CVs would be so accessible, but they absolutely were.