Litigation Project Assistant, Kirkland & Ellis
English Literature Major
Japanese and Philosophy Minors
Law school is still in the future for Lauren Assaf '10, but thanks to her Knox
connections, she has already assisted the defense in a capital murder case
and is currently employed at one of the world's largest law firms.
The Faculty Connection
Assaf came to Knox from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, because of the reputation of Knox's creative writing program. With her varied academic interests, which became her minors in Japanese language and philosophy, Assaf shared with one of her professors she would not have time to pursue coursework in another area of interest to her -- law. That comment led to the professor recommending her for a part-time position at the Galesburg law firm of Alcorn Karlin during the fall of her junior year.
Over the next three years, Assaf would review and categorize more than 10,000 pages of discovery in a capital murder case, including coroner's reports, witness statements, and police reports. "Essentially, I was to learn all of the facets of the case so that when the trial came, and let's say a witness said something different than was in their statement, I could be there to sort of nudge the attorney on the case and let him know."
In addition to the murder case, Assaf also assisted with family law cases, child custody matters, a medical malpractice case, and an animal abuse case. Toward the end, she also helped with appellate work.
Her job title was paralegal, but Assaf's responsibilities were much broader. "The lawyers often joked that I was really a lawyer-in-training." She performed legal research, drafted sections of briefs, attended meetings with judges, experts, and state's attorneys, and participated in a death penalty conference. "But most importantly, I got to sit with the attorneys and listen to their legal strategy and what their reasons were for progressing in a particular way. It was those meetings that helped push my desire to be an attorney because I could only listen when I really wanted to participate and have an opinion or recommendation as to a path. Even with the amount of responsibility I was given, I wanted to be the person steering the course."
Another aspect of the legal profession that Assaf enjoys is that it takes everything she loves about literature and writing and makes it impactful on a very wide scale. "A lawyer has to find a law that's relevant to the case and frame it, as one would a good lit paper, around a theme. The attorney who can make the most persuasive argument determines how the law is going to affect others. It's a way to do what I love and have an impact, without the politics of being a senator," she laughs.
The Career Center Connection
Assaf began working at the Galesburg law firm full time after graduation, with a plan of staying until the end of the murder trial. After her last day in court for the case, she walked into her office, weighing her options for the future. There was a message waiting for her from Terrie Saline, director of Knox's Bastian Center for Career and Pre-Professional Development. Chicago's Kirkland & Ellis law firm had positions that needed to be filled immediately. Would Assaf be interested in applying?
"It was serendipitous," says Assaf. A month later she was in Chicago. As a litigation project assistant at the firm, her primary job responsibility is document management similar to what she did in Galesburg, only now she's travelling nationally and internationally for her job.
Assaf has her sights firmly set on law school in the next year or two and is receiving assistance and advice from faculty as she begins the application process. "Knox has everything to do with where I am and where I'm going."