August 23, 2023 — University of Houston Law Center alumna Iliana Karaoglan (J.D. ’14) was promoted to counsel earlier this year at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in New York.
As counsel in the Mergers and Acquisitions practice, Karaoglan advises private and public companies in mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures. She also provides counsel regarding general corporate matters, such as corporate governance issues and reporting requirements.
Karaoglan provided insight into her legal education at UHLC as well as advice to law students to seize all possible learning and networking opportunities and to take everything step by step.
What led you to pursue a legal education at UHLC?
Although I’m not originally from Texas, when I applied to law school, I was living in Houston and working in the legal department of Cooper Industries. I met a lot of great mentors at Cooper and wanted to go to a law school that would give me an opportunity to meet more professionals in Houston, build my network and go in-house out of law school; however, I also wanted a law school that placed students in “Big Law,” so that I still had that option (if I decided on that route instead). UH Law Center is perfect for all of that. It’s a great and comparatively affordable place to get a quality education, get job opportunities and meet professionals (who remain very involved with the law school); a school that is well regarded by industry and professionals, and also in Houston.
What were some of your favorite professors/memories here?
Professor Moll was an absolute favorite, and I took every class he taught. He has such a unique ability to teach in a fun way. He’s entertaining and memorable, and his lectures just had a way of sticking. As to favorite memories, UHLC was a wonderful place to meet down-to-earth, smart and ambitious individuals, many of who are now my life-long friends and colleagues and with whom I share so many fond memories. I find that everyone I graduated with has found their unique path and many have done a variety of really impressive things with their law degree over the past almost decade since we all gathered in the library to study or in the commons to have lunch. UHLC is a place that not only gives students an education but also practically prepares them for what comes after law school – which means different things for different people.
What does being a counsel in Weil’s Mergers & Acquisitions practice mean to you?
I started my career at Locke Lord in Houston and found a sense of family and community there; I remain close to my peers who are now partners and counsel at Locke, and my partner mentors there. When I moved to New York I was worried that I wouldn’t find that again, but I was very lucky because I did, within the M&A group at Weil. My mentors and peers at Weil are understanding, encouraging, invested in my development and appreciative of hard work. Being counsel here means a lot more than just the outcome of years of hard work; it’s the trust that the firm places in more senior attorneys to teach and mentor those coming up the ranks, to be involved in recruiting the new generation of attorneys out of law school, as well as to effectively counsel and guide clients on some of the most complex matters. Being counsel at Weil gives me an opportunity to work on unique, exciting, and newsworthy transactions alongside the best in the industry, manage large teams of attorneys, and be in the room with public company boards when impactful decisions are made.
In what other ways did a J.D. help you in your career?
Many people will tell you that law school doesn’t “teach” you how to be a transactional lawyer. And to an extent that’s true; when you initially start as a first year, not much is expected of you in terms of knowing how to draft documents or even knowing the aspects of a transaction. What law school without a doubt does, however, is teach you to: (1) be diligent and pay attention to detail, (2) think logically and recognize issues and (3) have the confidence that even if you don’t know the answer (and at times no matter how senior you are, you will not know the answer right away), you know that you can find the answer and how to go about doing that.
What is one valuable lesson you learned at UHLC?
During my 1L year, I felt overwhelmed at one point, as many 1L’s feel. Professors were assigning (what I thought at the time to be) an absurd amount of reading each night and the concepts were foreign and dense. I remember thinking how I could never digest all of the information in time. There was a professor at the time who I think sensed that the class was frustrated and gave us some advice that stuck with me. He said that if we don’t push ourselves to tackle what we think is impossible, we won’t realize what we are actually capable of, and we’ll be limited to what we already know we can do. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was absolutely possible to do all the readings, comprehend all the material, and 3 years later pass the bar exam with all that information and more. Since then, any time I feel overwhelmed, I go back to thinking that by taking everything step by step, things that once felt overwhelming eventually became things I’d already done before and could do again.
What advice would you give to law students who are unsure of their next steps?
Different roads can lead to the same destination. If you want to work for a big law firm, for example, and you don’t have the grades your first semester of 1L year for OCI purposes, try a different route. Write onto a law review, do a clinic, or get involved with a pro bono client. If you don’t break in during law school, work at a smaller firm or clerk, build your skills, reputation, and network, and you would be surprised what doors will open for you. There are different ways to meet professionals who will be more instrumental to your career than your grades. I found that expanding your network and putting your best foot forward every day makes a huge difference.For more news on UH Law Center alumni, click here.
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