Spider Spotlight: Latosha Ellis, L'14

December 2, 2019
Alumna reflects on how hands-on experience set her up for success

Latosha Ellis, L'14, labels herself as a non-traditional student who decided to pursue a JD after having worked in marketing and product strategy for a large corporation. Now she is an associate at Hunton Andrews Kurth in Washington D.C.

Why Richmond Law?
I was very intentional in my decision-making related to this career. My research showed that outside of Boston and Washington, Richmond had the highest number of courts. At the time that I applied to Richmond, I thought if there are courts there, then there will be some sort of employment opportunities after graduating law school. That was probably the primary reason I chose Richmond. Also, Dean Rahman was very integral and involved in my recruitment. It seemed like a bit of a family when I came to visit Richmond. I attended a minority open house where I met other people who looked like me. I met people like me who were interested in similar things I was, and we just kind of decided we would all attend Richmond so we could have at least a handful of friends when we started.

Can you describe your career path from law school to now?
I actually attended Richmond as a non-traditional student. I say non-traditional because I had an entire career prior to starting law school. I had an MBA and I worked in marketing and product strategy for a large corporation. I also worked for a few insurance companies in product development and market strategy prior to going to law school. I was intentional in choosing Richmond for a number of different reasons, one of them being that I thought I wanted to be a lobbyist. When I attended Richmond, I summered at the Supreme Court of Virginia and with Judge Gibney in the Eastern District of Virginia. I also spent some time at the General Assembly of Virginia and I did a stint for the Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel in an in-house role. I literally had four jobs throughout both summers of law school. I never had a summer break!

Through those experiences, I knew that I did not want to be a lobbyist, but they did pique my interest in litigation. After law school, I clerked at the Henrico Circuit Court where I had the opportunity to spend more time observing attorneys, and that experience essentially confirmed my interest in litigation.

After my clerkship, I went to a small litigation firm in Richmond that did primarily commercial litigation and product liability work. From there I went to Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in D.C. to do insurance coverage work for corporate policyholders and complex litigation.

I am now at Hunton Andrews Kurth, still doing insurance coverage work exclusively for corporate policyholders.

What led you to change your area of interest while in law school?
I think my change from being interested in lobbying to an interest in litigation – and knowing that litigation was for me – was partly driven by a business litigation course I took with Professor Jessica Erickson. It was a very hands-on, practical type of class and it was the first time I actually understood from start to finish what it means to be in litigation. I did take a number of advanced trial advocacy type of classes that also probably underscored my interest in litigation, but I am more of a writer. I could only see myself in some sort of appellate area, until I took Professor Erickson’s business litigation course.

Even then, I did not think business litigation was something I could get into right away. There are not a lot of women in complex business litigation, there are not a lot of people of color, and there are definitely not a lot of young attorneys. I was fortunate because of the time I spent at the different levels of the court — at the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Federal District Court, as well as my clerkship — that right after my clerkship I was able to get into complex commercial litigation.

What advice do you have for students?
Across the board, whether you're interested in law school or whether you are currently in law school, I think that you have to manage your career. You have to be as resourceful as you possibly can and be intentional with your decision-making. I was intentional in the classes that I chose, I was intentional in the activities I was involved in, and I certainly leveraged the Career Development Office. You have to manage your career, and I think I did that. I think the students in my class who took a very active role in managing or attempting to manage their career and were not complacent about it are the students that excelled early.

Interview conducted by Alexandria Brown.