8/12/20 - News
Meet Dave Finkel
SHJ is pleased to welcome summer associate Dave Finkel to our team. Dave is a rising 3L at the University of Chicago Law School, where he has served as a staff editor on the University of Chicago Legal Forum journal, president of the Law School Veterans, treasurer of the Jewish Law Students Associate, and member of the Latinx Law Students Association. Last summer, Dave worked as a judicial intern with the Honorable Lee H. Rosenthal of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division. Prior to beginning his legal career, he spent eight years as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army.
We’ve asked Dave to share some thoughts on his military service background, experience at SHJ, and love of Houston.
When did you become interested in pursuing law?
After graduation from West Point, I owed a five-year commitment to the army. While I’d never planned to stay until retirement, I had a few goals in mind: Principally, I wanted to command a company, which would take me past my initial commitment and potentially up to eight years. For me, it was the pinnacle of my army service and immensely rewarding in terms of personal and professional growth. By the time my service had ended, I’d been deployed to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Poland, and Germany, and I finished up commanding a mechanized infantry company out of Fort Riley, Kansas.
I always knew I wanted to go back to school after leaving the army. Law school won out because it felt like the best fit for me as a person—in addition to the intellectually stimulating parts of the job, there’s also the service component. You’re helping someone out, whether it’s an individual or a company, and problem-solving and guiding them through the system so they can achieve their goals.
How did you connect with SHJ? What were your first impressions?
I was able to secure a summer internship with the Honorable Lee H. Rosenthal, the chief judge of the Southern District of Texas, in Houston for the second half of summer 2019. While I was there, I reached out to some local University of Chicago law alumni for insight into the area’s legal community. One of them introduced me to Andy Hicks, who’s also a UChicago graduate. I knew I wanted to learn more about working at a litigation boutique firm, so I went to lunch with Andy and some SHJ associates to see if we might be a good fit. I could immediately tell that we were.
I then formally interviewed for a position with SHJ, who happened to be onboarding a new associate, another UChicago law grad, at the same time. It was great to be able to pick the brain of someone who’d just gone through the same process, and very helpful to see if the firm was also a good fit for him and vice versa.
I was thrilled when SHJ extended me an offer for summer 2020. Right from the start, I knew it was the kind of firm I wanted to work at; everyone was incredibly welcoming and interested in me as a person, and the environment felt really familial.
Has it been challenging to start a new position remotely?
Since the last quarter of law school was completely online, I was already an old hat at working remotely—hundreds of hours on Zoom calls, configuring my desk setup, the routine of virtual communication—by the time I started my summer associate position. Unlike a lot of other 2020 summer associates, however, I actually moved to Houston temporarily. I’m renting an AirBnb with another UChicago law student, and it’s been great. Even though SHJ is operating remotely, I feel closer to the people in the firm knowing we’re all in the same geographic area, and if I need to use any of the tech in the office I can drop in easily.
How does your military experience complement your legal practice?
I think I have the same tools as anyone else who went to law school, but the ways I go about using them might be a little different. I have a lot of experience establishing good communication with my superiors, facilitating candid discussions, and never being intimidated by a situation. I like to package these qualities up and call it all “perspective.”
As lawyers, our work is vital and often makes or breaks livelihoods—but if we surrender to all that stress, we won’t be in a good position to deliver optimal service to our clients. You want to be serious and hardworking, but also someone whom colleagues and clients like and want to work with again.
Do you see yourself launching your career in Houston?
I’d been leaning toward Washington, D.C. as my home base of choice, but after working in Judge Rosenthal’s chambers, I fell in love with Houston. It’s a much better fit for me. People are so friendly, and the weather is great. I’ve been enjoying the wide range of outdoor activities Houston has to offer, including golfing and polo.
After I graduate from law school next year, I’ll be coming back down to Galveston for a clerkship, then returning to Houston afterwards. I think Houston is a wonderful place to put down roots and raise a family.