Alum Spotlight: Amy Poulson, In-House Counsel for Savage Services Corporation

Interested in working in-house for a company some day?  Read on to learn about the career path of one Quinney alum, Amy Poulson (2001).  Amy currently works as in-house counsel for Savage Services Corporation, a large transportation services company which works within the rail, mining, and refinery industries.

Although she spent much of her life in Utah, Amy was born in San Francisco and lived in Germany until she was 6 or 7, where her dad was a dentist for the Army.  The family then moved to Salt Lake City.  Amy obtained her undergraduate degree at BYU in American Studies.  As she describes, this degree was a combination of history, economics, and political science.  Amy absolutely loved every history class.  As she completed her undergraduate studies, however, Amy knew she was going to law school.   “What else do you do with my degree?” she jokes.  Amy wanted to obtain a practical, professional degree, with an eye toward working in child advocacy.

Before law school started, Amy had the chance to work as a legal assistant for a small litigation Salt Lake City firm, which exposed her to real legal work, particularly medical malpractice defense.  The experience proved invaluable, allowing Amy to see how litigation worked and to become incredibly detail-oriented—a trait which has been critical in her legal work.  The twists and turns of litigation were also entertaining.  In one case, the claimant was a very attractive male model who claimed he had a foot injury which prevented him from doing runway work.  The defense attorneys Amy worked for obtained footage of him running at a gym in Nevada, essentially gutting his case.

During the summer after her 1L year, Amy took an unpaid part time internship doing fascinating criminal work with the U.S. Attorney’s office.  Needing to earn some money, she also took a part time job at a small firm, Woodbury & Kesler.  She learned about that job from a friend who told her they were hiring.  (Lesson: be nice to your classmates and colleagues!).   In the Fall of her 2L year, Amy participated in on-campus recruiting.  She had already decided that she wanted to be in California after graduation, and knew that she should go to a California firm in order to prove her interest.  She was hired by Best Best & Krieger in Riverside.  She enjoyed her time there, and liked the people at the firm a lot, including another Quinney alum.   Although she got an offer from BB&K, she decided she wanted to be in Los Angeles, and began sending application materials to L.A. firms.  Using her California network from the prior summer, one of her friends at an L.A. firm eventually put her in touch with a another firm which hired her, the firm eventually known as Reed Smith. Amy worked there for a few years, then decided to move to another L.A. firm.  First, however, she took 1 ½ months off of work to travel, ending her trip in Utah.  She visited a friend at the local office of Holland & Hart (whom she had initially met while working at BB&K), and Holland & Hart ended up making her a job offer.   A month later, she took it and moved back to Utah.  (Lesson: always do great work for your associates and partners, even if you are not sure you want to stay at that workplace forever).

Awhile later, Amy had the chance to interview for an in-house job with Savage.  She jumped on it.  In her view, the job would have the aspects of her firm work that she enjoyed the most—working in-depth with clients to solve problems, working with great attorneys, and doing corporate law—while leaving behind the billable hours and the more adversarial litigation.  Amy now manages litigation which is handled by other firms, including attorneys who impressed her in the past (for example, Savage recently had a big wage and hour employment case in California).  She also reviews contracts.  Although Amy misses being in the courtroom sometimes, overall, she loves working in-house.

Advice from Amy:

Make nice with everybody—classmates, colleagues, opposing counsel. You never know when they might help you!

Enjoy what you do and take the classes you love. Don’t necessarily take classes because they will be on the bar.  In law school, Amy loved being an ASP teaching assistant, trial advocacy, and her experience participating on the First Amendment moot court team (which won the entire national competition).

Get to know your professors. If there is something Amy wishes she had done differently, it would be to have been more interactive with professors.

Do the fun stuff in law school.One of the most memorable parts of law school for Amy was when she and several classmates traveled to Washington, D.C., to watch Professor Paul Cassell argue in front of the Supreme Court.

Seek out practitioners who do what you think you want to do. In law school, Amy sought out those who did child advocacy, which she thought she wanted to do.  It caused her to question whether she could do it emotionally, although she remains involved in children’s issues.