During the month of October, PDO will focus its “How I Got My Job” feature on women who have made successful careers at law firms. We begin with a profile of Joelle Kesler, an associate at the law firm Dart, Adamson & Donovan and a 2006 alum of the S.J. Quinney College of Law.
What do you do?
I am an attorney with the law firm of Dart, Adamson & Donovan in Salt Lake City, Utah. My practice is focused on civil litigation. I have a broad litigation practice, but I try to focus on real estate, contract, and business tort cases. I have been in practice since 2006.
Where are you from and where did you go to law school?
I was raised in Idaho Falls, Idaho. I have lived in Salt Lake since 1999, and I received both my undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Utah. While my practice is based in Salt Lake, I have done quite a bit of work in Idaho in recent years.
What kind of activities did you do in law school?
In law school, I co-founded Students for Appropriate Dispute Resolution, a student organization focused on ADR. I also participated in the Representation in Mediation Competition. During my first summer, I did an internship with the Office of the Guardian Ad Litem. During my second summer and my third year of law school, I worked for Questar Corporation as a law clerk doing legal research and writing interoffice memos in a wide variety of fields.
How did you first make contact with your employer and how did you get this job?
I first made contact with my employer when the law school posted a job opening with Dart, Adamson & Donovan in the civil litigation division. I had heard about this firm from another law student, who had recently accepted a job offer in the family law division of the same firm. Based on my conversations with him, I knew that the firm was small and had reasonable billable hour requirements. Although I was not entirely sure what I wanted to do at that point, I was pretty sure I wanted to work at a firm, preferably a smaller one that valued its associates’ quality of life. I also felt that civil litigation suited me well. After a few interviews, I was lucky enough to be selected for the job.
What does your typical day involve for you/your work?
A typical day for me involves writing briefs, drafting correspondence, doing research, meeting with other attorneys in my office to strategize about our cases and make decisions, and participating in phone conferences or meetings with clients and witnesses. I am also in depositions or in court from time to time, which varies greatly depending upon the stage of litigation my cases are in. On occasion, I also do work for minor transactions, such as drafting or reviewing a contract or lease.
What are the best (and worst, if you want) parts of your job?
The best part of my job is that no two cases are exactly alike. Every case is a little different, with its own unique facts and challenges. While I do the same type of work over and over again (i.e., writing briefs, responding to discovery requests, etc.), I can honestly say that I am rarely bored. I really enjoy the challenge of coming up with a creative argument, finding the perfect case, or developing a winning strategy.
What tips and advice do you have job-seeking students and/or alum?
1) Take advantage of your fellow law students’ connections. They can speak candidly with you about the places where they have worked or interviewed, and can give you a leg up over the competition by recommending you to attorneys they know. A recommendation from a trusted attorney makes a huge difference.
2) Proofread, proofread, proofread. Typos are not acceptable in resumes and cover letters, especially for a job where good writing skills are paramount.
3) Keep your resume to one page. You are not the exception. Also, tailor your job history and cover letters to make them relevant to the job you are seeking. For example, if you are applying for a civil law position, but you only have criminal law experience, emphasize the skills you acquired in your criminal law job that carry over into civil practice.
4) Keep an open mind. I was fortunate because I have loved and kept my first job. But when I accepted the position, I did not know whether I would like my job, let alone being a lawyer. (During law school, I seriously considered abandoning the idea of becoming a lawyer because I thought I would hate it. Thank goodness my husband talked me out of it!). In other words, it is very hard to know whether you will like the day-to-day work of a particular position until to you try it. You could be pleasantly surprised—I was.