Published in the Graduate Report, Fall/Winter 2010
Bondi Beach, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, is known as a surfer’s paradise – as well as the host of the beach volleyball competition at the 2000 Summer Olympics and the site of the largest swimsuit photo shoot on record. It is also where Katayoun C. Sadeghi ’10 is working for the next year for Eskimo Industries, an Australia-based company that produces and distributes polyurethane foam blanks used in high performance surfboards by Eskimo customers around the world, many of whom are independent surfboard shapers.
“Because Eskimo is a small company, I work directly, and on a day-to-day basis, with the CEO and (consult) with the shareholders about a variety of issues,” says Sadeghi, who jumped at the opportunity to work in Australia when her starting date as an associate at White & Case LLP was deferred for a year. “My legal duties include assisting with patent applications, drawing up employment contracts, helping negotiate and draft a new (foam) supply and pricing agreement with our (Thailand-based) manufacturer, and doing due diligence with respect to an upcoming deal. On the business side, I do marketing and business development, with a focus on the West Coast of the United States and Hawaii. We are also trying to develop a market in South America.”
Travel to – and working in – faraway places is nothing new to Sadeghi. As an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, she studied abroad in Turkey, a country she returned to for a year as a Fulbright Scholar before heading back to the States to earn a master’s degree in Near Eastern studies at NYU. Between completing her M.A. and coming to Hartford to begin law school, she spent six months as a consultant for the International Center for Transitional Justice (where she focused on human rights issues in Sudan and Turkey) and six months teaching English to undergraduates at a private university in Iran – her father’s native country. “Living in Iran was difficult in ways, but I have family there and made a lot of good friends,” says Sadeghi, who grew up in Tucson, far away from the ocean surf. “Being there was always interesting. There are a lot of amazing historical sites and beautiful, interesting cities in Iran.”
As a student at UConn Law, Sadeghi kept up her whirlwind pace, both in and outside of the classroom. Ranked third in a class of 172 at the time of her graduation, she found time during her Law School years to serve as the editor-in-chief of the Connecticut Journal of International Law, help restart and serve as vice-president of the Law School chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, be a member of the Public Interest Law Group, and represent clients of the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic, including an Afghan national seeking asylum. “I was on the beach in the Dominican Republic when I learned that our client’s application was accepted,” she recalls. “That was probably the best moment of my law school experience.”
Wonderful beach moments continue to be part of Sadeghi’s life, especially when riding the waves at Bondi Beach, where she is working on improving what she refers to as her ‘base level’ surfing skills. While she is thoroughly enjoying her time in Australia, she’ll be riding a wave back to New York City next fall to practice corporate law at White & Case, where she was a summer associate in 2009.
Sadeghi knows all too well that working for a large law firm in Manhattan will require a bit of an adjustment after a year working for a surfboard company Down Under. “At Eskimo my hours are regular and my schedule is flexible,” says Sadeghi, who lives within a ten-minute walk of the water. “And (because) I work for a small company, I know everyone involved in the business and talk to them frequently… Also, I really like that I’m learning a lot about a new industry and international business law because we are involved in so many cross-border transactions.”
Sadeghi continues. “White & Case is a large firm with more than 400 lawyers in New York alone, and its New York office is in a Manhattan skyscraper, which it shares with The Wall Street Journal. I’ll be working long hours and I’ll be spending almost all my time in Manhattan. The work will be interesting because White & Case is an internationally focused firm full of very bright, motivated people, which I love. But my lifestyle will have to change significantly…I’m going to go ahead and guess that I’ll have to scale back on the surfing, yoga and tennis.”
Sadeghi also guesses that she will have to scale back on another benefit of her position at Eskimo – working on a regular basis from home, where she currently lives with a friend and Butler, his bright green Eclectus parrot from Papua, New Guinea. “I’ve become very attached to the parrot, though I haven’t taught him any legal terminology yet,” says Sadeghi. “When I work from home, he sits on my shoulder and hangs out with me. I don’t think White & Case will allow me to have a parrot in the office. ..Yet another lifestyle modification I’ll have to (adjust to)...”