Alumni Spotlight on: Ira Steinberg, Class of 2005

Profile-PicWhat is your current position?

Litigation Associate, Sedgwick LLP
What year did you graduate from UConn? 2005
Where did you go to law school? How did you choose that school?
UCLA School of Law. I chose UCLA based on national reputation, quality of the alumni network in the geographic area I wanted to work and availability of scholarships and financial aid. That the law school was also attached to a large university was also a bonus because of all the educational and recreational benefits available to students at a major university.
What year did you graduate from law school? 2010

UConn Experience

Major: Political Science, Minor in Economics

How did your major help you prepare for law school and for practice?
My major helped prepare me for law school and practice in two ways: First, the emphasis on writing skills was crucial. Most political-science exams are essay exams, so learning to write well under pressure was useful preparation. Additionally, the classroom discussion in my political science classes (as well as other general education requirements, such as philosophy) prepared me to be able to analyze an issue from multiple perspectives, which is a crucial skill in law school and in litigation. My participation in the Honors Scholar program was also very helpful because of its emphasis on oral and written communication skills.

What organizations and activities (e.g., clubs, sports, study abroad) did you participate in while at UConn?
My primary extra-curricular activity at UConn was Undergraduate Student Government. I ultimately served as Speaker of the Student Senate from 2004-2005. I was also active in a number of campus political groups and attended a lot of the extracurricular events put on the Political Science Dept.

What jobs or internships did you have while at UConn?
I interned on Capitol Hill for Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd and on the campaign of former California Assemblyman Mike Gordon. Less notably, I also worked at Ryan Cafeteria/WEBB Site and as a fundraiser for the UConn foundation.

Did you take any time off?
Yes, I worked in politics for two years between college and law school. Specifically, I was a district staffer for Congresswoman Jane Harman, who was the then ranking-member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and also a member of the Homeland Security Committee. She has since retired from Congress and now is the head of the Woodrow Wilson Center.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to a current UConn student?
If I could give one piece of advice it would be to take advantage of all the extracurricular opportunities you can. Some of the best and most informative experiences you will have while at UConn are through extracurricular clubs and programs on campus as well as internships that you can get either through, or with the support of, the University. Class is important, and be sure to take all the writing classes you can, but you will learn much more in the classroom if you are enhancing your academic work with substantive extracurriculars.

Law School Experience

What programs did you participate in during law school?
Moot Court, Mock Trial, Journal/Law review. I also attended a 10 person Law & Literature seminar with Justice Anthony Kennedy the summer between my first and second year and worked as a Research Assistant on Administrative Law issues my second and third year.

Were you active in any student groups? Which?
Student Bar Association and the Mock Trial Association.

Did your involvement with those specific programs or organizations help you in your career path or in any other ways?
Absolutely. Even if you never try a case or make an appellate argument, mock trial and moot court are outstanding preparation for thinking on your feet, speaking concisely and writing effectively. When a partner calls you into his or her office to discuss an issue, they want to see the same poise, preparation and explanatory skills that you hone in mock trial and moot court.

What is one piece of advice you wish someone had given you before law school?
Begin your networking and job search early. Do not assume that because you are near the top of your class or in a good school the perfect job will just fall into your lap. Sometimes it does, but be aggressive in networking, reaching out to mentors and preparing for a career.

Work Experience

Describe your practice setting.
Large Firm, several hundred attorneys with offices throughout the US as well as London and Bermuda.

Area(s) of practice.
Civil Litigation,Insurance

How did you choose this area of law?
I knew I liked Commercial Litigation and cast a wide net (particular since I graduated in 2010, an extremely difficult year) and, as many lawyers do, more or less fell into my current specialty.

Is there a typical day? How would you describe it?
There is no routine day, but my day is usually filled with a combination of the following (1) drafting dispositive motions such as motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment, (2) researching legal issues and drafting memos concerning the research, (3) drafting and responding to discovery, including discovery motions, (4) analyzing documents and conducting factual research to develop the underlying facts of a case, and (5) preparing for witness depositions.

How many hours per week do you work? What is your schedule?
Litigation is very up and down.  Some weeks are slow (30-40 hours) and others are more intense (60+ hours). My firm makes a genuine effort to encourage attorneys to maintain a healthy work-life balance, though with any large firm you are going to be expected to work hard and put in substantial hours.

Describe your work/life balance.
My work life balance is good, but mostly because I make a conscious decision to ensure that it is good. It is easy to let work consume you and crowd out other areas of your life, and it is also easy to become lackadaisical about work and let your hours slip. I found it important to not just go through my year on auto-pilot but to make considered choices about how I will balance my work and personal pursuits.

What do you like most about your job? What would you change?

My favorite part of my job is the 3-D chess game of litigation. I like sitting around the conference table to work out complicated problems and case strategy and I also like getting a box of documents relating to something I have no experience with and putting the facts together like a puzzle in order to develop a theory for the case. If I could change one part of my practice I would prefer to resolve more discovery disputes informally.  While some discovery disputes will always require judicial resolution, often-times there are informal solutions to discovery disputes that save time and the client’s resources while still achieving the client’s strategic objectives.

If you couldn’t be a lawyer anymore, what would you do? If you had a career before becoming a lawyer, what was it?
Before practicing law I worked in politics, and though I enjoyed it, I’m not sure I would go back to it as a career. If I had to pick a second career I would probably do something involving aerospace, which is my out of work passion. I have pilot’s license for single engine aircraft and gliders and am also certified for aerobatics (stunt flying), so if I had to pick a second career I would aim for something in the aerospace industry.

Roughly, how much are you student loan payments?
Currently $900, but they will be increasing as I near the completion date.

How long do you expect to be paying your student loans?
10 years from graduation, which is slightly less than 7 years from now.

Have your student loans impacted your career choices or other life choices in any way? How?
Yes and no. I definitely did not consider lower paying public service or government jobs because of my loans, but I also had hoped to work for a large firm and so I might not have considered them in any event even if I had no debt.

Just for fun: If you could have dinner with any lawyer, real or fiction, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Clarence Darrow, mostly because I would want to hear the inside story of the Scopes Monkey Trial.