Tennille J. Checkovich, JD '01
Areas of Specialization: Appellate Litigation, Business and Securities Litigation, Environmental Litigation and White Collar Crime
222 attorneys in office; 972 attorneys total
Even before I came to law school, I knew that I wanted to be a litigator. So, when I graduated from Yale Law School in 2001, I headed straight into a clerkship with Federal District Court Judge Barbara S. Jones in the Southern District of New York. From there I went to Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP as a Litigation Associate working primarily on securities litigation from 2002 through 2004. In the fall of 2004, I relocated to my home state of Virginia and went to work for McGuireWoods at its flagship office in Richmond. I became a partner at the Firm in January 2012.
Primarily for marketing and management purposes, McGuireWoods has separated its lawyers into numerous departments that fall loosely into either corporate or litigation practice areas; however, because many lawyers practice in more than one area, each lawyer may join or “minor” in additional practice areas. I am a member of the Business and Securities Litigation Group, and I have minored in the Environmental Litigation and White Collar Crime Groups. My practice in all three groups includes a significant amount of Appellate Litigation, and I am an active member of the Firm’s Appeals and Issues Team. I focus on general and bankruptcy-related appellate matters and multi-jurisdictional litigation, handling cases on appeal and at the trial level in state and federal courts throughout the country. I also conduct litigation monitoring to address appellate and business concerns and advise corporations concerning compliance with federal and state statutes as well as investigations and enforcement actions by federal and state agencies.
McGuireWoods currently expects its associates to bill a minimum of 1950 hours each year. It has been my impression that, unlike many larger firms, the litigation departments at McGuireWoods often seem to be the revenue centers of the Firm, and typically litigation associates bill more hours on average than transactional associates. As an associate, my billable hours fluctuated between 2100 and 2600 hours per year. McGuireWoods has a two-tier partnership system. As a non-equity partner, my billable requirement has been reduced to 1850 hours per year, but my billable hours continue to trend over 2000 for the year.
One of the things that I enjoy most about a litigation practice in a large firm is the varied nature of the work. Each case presents the opportunity not only to learn about a particular area of law or procedural practice, but also to learn about the industry or technology that is at the center of the lawsuit. Among other things, as part of my practice, I have gained in-depth knowledge about semi-truck engines, acid-reducing medications, landfill waste hauling and barging, horse racing track surfaces, coal mining, power plant construction, Russian trophy hunting, and large-scale confined hog farming. The variations in the subject matter of my work keep it from becoming tedious and help what can be long hours fly by.
Indeed, because of the varied nature of the cases on which I work, it is nearly impossible for me to describe a typical day. In the same month, I spent one week working on a federal criminal trial in Houston concerning alleged illegal hunting from helicopters in Russia (we won acquittals) and the next week in Missouri touring a large hog farm, meeting with clients’ employees, and defending their depositions in a complex series of nuisance litigations. I may spend my morning in team meetings and conference calls in the office, but then travel to a juvenile corrections facility to spend the second half of the day meeting with a pro bono client and his counselor concerning an upcoming sentence review hearing.
Despite long hours and frequent travel, I truly enjoy my work. Nonetheless, the pace required at a large law firm is not for everyone, and there are days when I would prefer to have more time to spend at home with my family, but client business requires that I remain at the office. That said, I am very fortunate to work with an understanding group of attorneys at McGuireWoods who encourage me to take time out whenever possible to be with my children. I am also lucky to have a spouse who is an academic and, therefore, has an extremely flexible schedule. As a result, he is able to handle childcare emergencies and the like. So, for students who are already married or have children at the time of their graduation from law school, I would recommend that you take into consideration the flexibility of your spouse’s work arrangement when selecting a career path of your own. It is the combination of your careers that must strike the appropriate balance between work and home. The flexibility in my husband’s schedule allows me to dive into a very demanding job without regrets. I cannot say that I would be in the same position if my husband were not able to be at home and support my career goals as wholeheartedly as he does.