Alumni Spotlight: Emily Christiansen J.D. ’12
August 26, 2014
Please tell us about your career path and how you ended up in your current position.
After graduating from Lewis & Clark in 2012, I sat for the New York State Bar and then moved to D.C. to search for a job in international law. While in D.C. I attended an event where I met one of the partners of Kessler Topaz, the firm where I now work. This particular partner offered to forward my resume on to some attorneys he knew that were working in international law in New York. After I sent him my resume I was asked whether I had ever considered moving to Philadelphia and began speaking with the firm about the possibility of me joining their operation. Kessler Topaz specializes in representing large institutional investors in securities fraud litigation and increasingly the firm has been working on cases outside the United States. I was hired as an associate attorney and my focus is almost entirely our non-U.S. cases.
What types of projects or varieties of projects have you been working on?
Securities fraud litigation outside of the United States is a constantly evolving and growing field. Prior to 2010 there was not much of an international securities fraud field, although a few cases had been pursued outside the U.S. in places like the Netherlands. Everything changed in 2010 when the Supreme Court issued an opinion in the Morrison v. National Australia Bank case that foreclosed the ability of investors to seek to recoup any losses through U.S. courts unless they actually purchased their shares on a U.S. market. The combination of that decision and the development of class/collective action mechanisms and more robust securities laws in other countries has led to more and more cases being filed outside of the United States. Kessler Topaz is currently involved in actions in the Netherlands, the UK, France, Italy, Canada, Japan, and Australia. Because the field is relatively new and many cases are often cases of first impression, there is no prototypical day or project that I might work on. Since I’ve been with the firm I’ve been responsible for researching securities laws and group litigation procedures in a variety of countries. I’ve also worked on cases that are in a variety of stages –from cases in the preliminary investigation stage to cases entering settlement negotiations and everything in between. I monitor legal developments around the world and routinely advise clients as to whether they should join a particular action in a particular country, search for local counsel, liaise between local counsel and our clients, and draft proposals. I’ve also put together presentations and conference panels on topics like corporate social responsibility.
What is the most exciting project you have been involved with?
Most of my work has been exciting. It’s nice to have the constant variety and new challenges that come along with a dynamic and evolving area of practice.
How did your Lewis & Clark Law School education prepare you for your current position?
Being hired into my position was definitely a result of being in the right place at the right time and having the right skills and experience to meet a need. Kessler Topaz was looking for somebody to focus on the international dimension of securities fraud litigation and the courses I took at Lewis and Clark, my participation in Jessup Moot Court, and my externship at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia prepared me for that. Although none of the courses were directly on point to what I do now, they provided me with a basic framework for understanding other legal systems and cultures and taught me how to research laws in other countries.
Did you earn the Global Law Certificate? Do you have any advice for students considering the Global Law Certificate?
Yes, I earned the Global Law Certificate. If you think you want to pursue a career in international law after law school then you should definitely consider the Global Law Certificate and make sure to take a wide variety of courses in international law and seek out an international law related externship.
What do you miss the most about Portland and/or Lewis & Clark Law School?
I miss Lewis and Clark’s close proximity to nature and the collegial atmosphere.
Did you undertake a foreign externship during your time at Lewis & Clark? Was it a good experience? Do you believe that the knowledge or skills you acquired would transfer well to a U.S.-based legal practice? Did you make any contacts that you believe will be useful in your career?
Yes! I externed in the Trial Chambers at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and it was an incredible experience! Working at the ICTY prepared me well for some of the demands of my current position. I developed skills for researching international law and gained experience working in a legal system that operates differently from legal systems in the U.S. While there, I made many contacts and formed many friendships with people from around the world, many of whom I’m still in contact with.
Did you participate in any moot courts or clinical programs while at Lewis & Clark? If so, what did you get out of the experience? Would you recommend it/them to others?
Yes! I participated in the Jessup Moot Court program and my only regret is that I only participated during one of my years at Lewis and Clark (my externship prevented me from participating for two years). Jessup, or any moot court for that matter, is great at helping you hone your formal speaking and writing skills and teaching you to think on your feet.
Did you receive any guidance or assistance from Lewis & Clark faculty, staff or alumni that you believe was helpful in your job search?
Yes, I benefited from the assistance and advice of many different people at Lewis and Clark. Professors, career services, and Lewis and Clark alumni all played a role in helping me to get where I am today. My unsolicited advice to current students is to attend events both on and off campus, take the time to speak with people in career services, and get to know and remain in contact with your professors. The Lewis and Clark community is a great resource and is very supportive – you just have to be ready to take advantage of all that is available to you.