Graduating Law Student Sets Her Sights on Working For ‘Big Law’
In a few short weeks, Kate Googins will graduate from the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law and will prepare for the bar exam. She will finish near the top of her class and already has a job lined up with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, an international law firm with an office in Denver. It’s not the career path Googins expected when she graduated from high school.
At the age of 18, Googins decided to move 2,000 miles from her California home to study anthropology at the University of Chicago. She jokes that her parents, although supportive, raised an irony alert over her choice to study a subject not known for its lucrative career paths at a notoriously expensive school.
“I felt like anthropology would give me the best grounding in the things that I was interested in, which was how to exist in this world and talk to other people, make a difference, actually understand what is happening and where your perspective is coming from,” Googins says.
This foundation would help her when she came out as queer early in college. Googins also began playing rugby and found that the sport provided her with a strong community.
However, after four years in Chicago, Googins was uncertain of her future after graduation.
“I had no idea what I was doing at the time,” she remembers. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I had put a lot of pressure on myself.”
Googins’ parents, who are both attorneys, encouraged her to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) before moving back to southern California. Once home, she started working at a cookware store and coaching a girls high school rugby team. It wasn’t until she embarked on a national parks road trip with a friend that she began to discover what was next for her in life.
“I think I became a lot more sure of myself during that trip,” Googins says. “I learned how to take a lot more risks, and I think I became more comfortable with starting to chart my own path.”
Googins discovered her interest in women and girls’ empowerment and decided to start working for the Girl Scouts of San Diego as a support specialist and regional recruiter. She says the opportunity taught her a lot about nonprofits and how challenging and rewarding they can be. She continued working with Girl Scouts even after moving to Denver in 2017 with her partner.
Googins then decided it was time for a new challenge. As a Mexican-American who is passionate about the environment, she became interested in the changes then taking place in the country. She thought she could help make a difference in the community by fighting for different causes. Enrolling at Denver Law seemed like the best way to prepare for maximum effect.
As she approaches the end of three years in law school, Googins is grateful for the opportunities she has had and is already seeing the success that comes with taking on new challenges. She served on the steering committee for the second annual Civil Rights Summit, worked as vice president of student affairs with the Law Student Ambassadors, participated in the Tribal Wills Project, joined the Colorado LGBT Bar Association and served as a student representative with DU OUTLawsthe LGBTQ student organization in the Sturm College of Law.
“The LGBT community to me has always been very important in terms of how I think about my identity and how I think about my orientation to the public good and the community more broadly,” Googins says. “Being connected to the LGBT Bar Association and DU OUTLaws have provided me and my partner with an outlet.”
Googins also has had the opportunity to work in different externships, including with the Colorado Office of the Attorney General and with a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. However, it was only after working last summer at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher that Googins realized her passion for working with a big law firm.
“I loved the opportunity that I’ve already had there,” she says. “They provided me the opportunity to work on government investigations, false claims act, federal tort claims, really complex areas of the law where there is a lot of opportunity to learn new things and be challenged.”
She is also excited that the law firm has encouraged her to continue pursuing matters of public good that she is passionate about. Tackling issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and taking on pro bono work in the areas of immigration and impact litigation are important to Googins. Reflecting on the four years she took off from school after finishing her undergraduate degree, Googins believes it made a significant difference in her life and where she is today.
“It mattered a lot to take that time off,” she says. “I learned during that time what I wanted and refocused on the things that I wanted to accomplish, and that became a much stronger motivation for me than what I had before.”