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Meet Kelly Swanson

Meet Kelly Swanson

SHJ is proud to welcome our largest-ever class of summer associates to the firm.

Kelly Swanson is a rising 3L at Tulane Law School. Prior to law school, Kelly was a reporter at Global Investigations Review, where she covered government agency and internal corporate investigations of issues relating to international anti-bribery and corruption, financial services misconduct, fraud, and money laundering. She earned an M.A. in Journalism from Stanford University and a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications from Washington & Lee University.

When did you decide to pursue law? How did your journalism career influence your decision?

I always figured I would end up going to law school, actually. My dad, who’s a lawyer, would drive me to all my sports games and practices when I was a kid, and he would take a lot of client calls in the car. I liked listening in and learning about the different kinds of strategies he would use for different trials. Growing up, he always told me that to be a good lawyer, you have to be a good writer, so I took that to heart and decided to study journalism.

I thought I might as well stick with journalism after I finished undergrad, so I went to Stanford to get my master’s, then took a job at a legal trade publication in Washington, D.C. I was writing about a lot of law-related topics for that publication, which pushed me back toward law school. I wanted to immerse myself in the stories I was covering.

So far, my journalism background has helped me immeasurably in my law career. Both fields require you to quickly figure out the basics of a subject you know nothing about, then present it clearly and accessibly to a lay audience.

How did you connect with SHJ?

I’d taken a couple of energy law courses at Tulane that were really interesting, so I wanted to explore a summer position at a firm known for its energy work. I started looking at firms in Houston, an area known for its oil and gas/energy activity. When I came across SHJ, they immediately ticked several key boxes for me: high-quality energy matters, Houston, a small boutique where I could get real hands-on experience. I checked out their website and noticed that Brandon Winchester had also gone to Tulane Law. I thought, “Maybe this guy will be open to talking with me,” and sent him a cold email. I did the same for a bunch of other firms I was considering for the summer and didn’t hear back, but Brandon replied pretty quickly and offered to chat with me on the phone. On our call, he emphasized that he’d been able to gain substantive experience early on at SHJ, which is not usually the case at large firms; he also just seemed really excited about the work he was doing. Afterward, he was great about keeping in touch and helping me out any way that he could. I loved the idea of having someone like that as a mentor.

What is your day-to-day like? How are you finding the work and the culture?

I’ve gotten to work on matters related to several different practice areas. Even though I set out to concentrate on energy law, I’ve actually ended up enjoying working on a bankruptcy litigation trust case the most. I’ve also gotten to sit in on a few depositions, which is a brand-new and extraordinarily valuable experience for me.

Even in the three weeks I’ve been at SHJ, I’ve already absorbed so much from all the lawyers here. They all have so much trial experience, so it’s been really cool to see how everyone handles trial differently based on their unique personalities, approaches, and backgrounds.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I definitely want to be on the partner track and have plenty of trial experience under my belt. Beyond that, I want to be someone that younger lawyers trust and seek out for advice. The team at SHJ have been great role models in that respect.