As a law student, Katya Stynes didn’t see herself going into private practice. But when she learned about a new firm founded by the lawyers who had faced down – and won against – major Wall Street banks, she decided to take a chance.
As Selendy Gay Elsberg’s first-ever 1L summer associate, Katya took on work that was “uniformly substantive and genuinely interesting.” Now a full-time associate at the firm, Katya spoke to us about handling high-impact litigation, including a $2 billion breach of contract case against a medical devices company, and a group of fast-moving cryptocurrency matters.
How did you first learn about Selendy Gay Elsberg?
I started law school with no intention of doing commercial litigation, or really any form of private practice. I had an idea of what (I thought) Big Law entailed—essentially, defending large corporations—and wasn’t looking to pursue it.
I’d heard about the work Selendy Gay Elsberg’s founding partners had done (back before Selendy Gay Elsberg existed) in taking on the big banks after the financial crisis. That was the kind of legal work I thought I could get excited about, but I assumed cases like that were anomalies—certainly not something I’d get to experience right out of law school. So when I learned that those same lawyers had started a new firm that aimed to recreate and expand upon the model of those financial crisis cases, I knew I wanted to be part of that.
The firm was so new at that time that it hadn’t officially launched its summer program, but I took a chance and sent them my information. They also took a chance, and I became the firm’s inaugural 1L summer associate.
What made you want to join the firm?
I hadn’t fully appreciated, before I started looking into Selendy Gay Elsberg, the variation among how commercial firms are structured, and how those structures affect the kinds of work one can expect to do. I particularly liked two things about the SGE model: the firm’s 50% split of plaintiff-side work, and its exclusive focus on litigation, which meant it wasn’t encumbered by conflicts that would prevent it from going up against large institutions.
Selendy Gay Elsberg does great public interest work, which is very important to me, but what also distinguished the firm was its thoughtful process for selecting commercial clients. On a more personal level, I just really liked everyone I met. The firm is full of people with interesting, sometimes nontraditional, backgrounds, which wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting from a law firm environment.
What has your first year been like?
The pandemic has made this a strange year to become a lawyer. I finished my law school exams, took the bar, was sworn in, and am coming up on my first year of practice, all from my home office many miles from New York City. But, as it turns out, my work has been very manageable remotely. It would be nice to see my colleagues face to face, but the substance of my first year wasn’t so different from what it would’ve been under more normal circumstances. Both by design and necessity, Selendy Gay Elsberg gives associates significant substantive responsibilities from the start, so I’ve felt fully involved from my first day at the firm.
How has the firm helped you develop professionally?
As someone at the very beginning of a legal career, I’m grateful to have gotten work that has been uniformly substantive, challenging, and genuinely interesting. In recent months, I’ve worked on appeals in the Second Circuit defending the constitutionality of rent stabilization, a $2 billion fraud and breach of contract case against a major medical devices company, a suit on behalf of public servants to fix the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and a group of fast-moving and novel actions in the cryptocurrency space.
Selendy Gay Elsberg is committed to giving even the most junior associates considerable responsibility. In my first year, I’ve met one-on-one with clients, negotiated with opposing counsel, handled large portions of briefs, and generally felt as though I’m on the front lines of each of my cases.
It’s also been nothing short of amazing to watch my colleagues work. I knew coming in that S&G was full of exceptionally talented lawyers, but I’m routinely blown away at what they’re able to produce.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?
This one’s easy: I sincerely like my colleagues and am looking forward to seeing them in person.