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1 degree, 10 careers: San Francisco alumni share their stories

January 5, 2015 | Alumni

San Francisco is home to the Golden Gate bridge, iconic Victorian homes, amazing cuisine, and Buckeye lawyers proudly sporting their Scarlet and Gray on bike paths and beaches throughout the valley.

Moritz headed 2,446 miles due west of Columbus to catch up with 10 alumni making a name for themselves in the land of start-ups and venture capital.

Lee Freedman ’97, director of investigations & senior security counsel, Apple Inc.

On the job: I lead a team of people who investigate matters such as internal and external frauds against iTunes, the Apple Retail Stores, the Apple Online Store, and AppleCare; intellectual property leaks; cargo and other thefts; and cybercrime. We also advise various business groups on security law mat­ters and create related policies.

How I got this job: A person with whom I worked with at the Depart­ment of Justice got a job at Apple and recruited me.

The Bay Area is a great place to be a lawyer because: Silicon Valley is a fascinating place to be. New businesses, and novel legal issues, constantly arise here. You get to be at the center of the new economy. Plus the weather is always great.

On the weekend, you’ll find me: spending time with my wife and young son hiking, exploring Yosem­ite, playing T-ball, or gardening.

Jerome Joondeph ’90, chief administrative officer and general counsel, XOJET, Inc.

On the job: I am responsible for all aspects of XOJET’s administrative operations (inclusive of human resources, risk management, company policy, etc.) and legal matters. XOJET, Inc., a TPG portfolio, is the industry’s premier private aviation company, serving more than 5,000 clients worldwide. Our unique business model combines the flexibility of on-demand flying with a world-class service and operations infrastructure that is dedicated to providing the highest levels of client service at every point of their travel experience. I am also responsible for the oversight and management of our shuttle subsidiary, our $50 million dedicated six aircraft shuttle service for a Fortune 100 Company.

How I got this job: After 18 years in private practice (most of which as a partner with Squire Patton Boggs) and tours of duty in many of Squire’s overseas offices (London, Hong Kong and Taipei) in 2002 I decided to permanently locate in Squire’s Palo Alto of­fices. There, through my private equity and venture capital focused practice, I got to see and experience first-hand the pace and intellectual capacity of Silicon Valley and in 2006 decided to make a transition to the commercial sector. After a two-year stint at ThinkEquity Partners, I was approached by a former client about coming to XOJET to be the com­pany’s general counsel and a member of the executive management team. XOJET had been widely successful since its 2006 launch and I was tasked to get it into a position for a major growth phase.

The Bay Area is a great place to be a lawyer because: The incredible diversity of the people, the geography, the businesses, and the technology serve as a daily canvas for life in the Bay Area and no area is impacted more by that canvas than the legal profession. Working here one can be assured that no two days are alike and that one is continually challenged by the work before them and the opportunity for success and growth.

On the weekend, you’ll find me: constantly on the move, whether it be playing golf, cycling, hiking with the dogs, spending time with family or pursuing my latest hobby (well hopefully something more in the long run) wine making, the weekends are as busy as the work weeks. Though, as the saying goes, if you love what you’re doing, you really never feel like you’re busy!

Kenesa Ahmad ’09, privacy associate, Promontory

On the job: I help clients manage the regulatory risks and requirements associated with handling data. Many of the issues surrounding data protection and information privacy are cutting edge and freighted with wide-ranging implications for society. It’s a forward-looking field, and with that comes a lot of excitement.

How I got this job: Good timing, great mentorship, and a willingness to take risks. Following graduation from Moritz, I obtained a masters in tax law from Northwestern University. I had lingering doubts about finding fulfillment as a tax attorney, however, and took a detour to explore the area of information privacy. Fortunately, I connected with former Mortiz Professor Peter Swire, who in turn connected me with the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), a think-tank at which I served as a Legal and Policy Fellow for two years. While representing FPF at a privacy confer­ence, I was introduced to my current employer, Promon­tory.

The Bay Area is a great place to be a lawyer because: The famed entrepreneurial spirit is contagious – even at­torneys catch the bug here. It’s a dynamic environment in which people feel less bound by their traditional occupa­tional roles, and more willing to collaborate on projects that may be outside of their comfort zones.

On the weekend, you’ll find me: Trying to cross off items on my Bay Area bucket list – the longer I live here, the larger the list grows! I enjoy checking out the city’s many great restaurants, taking a day trips to Sonoma wine country, hiking in Muir Woods, and exploring the charms of SF’s distinct neighborhoods. I try to balance relaxation with adventure during my weekends.

Bill Ruetttinger ’88, planned giving officer, American Red Cross

On the job: I cultivate donors who are considering including the Red Cross in their estate plan. Although I’m not acting as an attorney in my current role, my law practice background is very useful as I discuss charitable remainder trusts and gift annuities with our donors.

How I got this job: I practiced corpo­rate law with firms in San Francisco for 11 years. Planned giving fundrais­ing seemed an appealing alternative to practice and I went on informa­tional interviews to find out more. I’ve been with the Red Cross for 10 years now.

The Bay Area is a great place to be a lawyer because: This is a very dy­namic metropolitan area set amidst great natural beauty. The cost of liv­ing is steep but it’s hard to contem­plate leaving.

On the weekend you’ll find me: outdoors, hopefully!

Michelle Ravn Appelqvist ’99, Senior Director – Global Trademark, Advertising and Brand Protection Legal SanDisk in Silicon Valley

On the job: I strive to find ways to balance business needs with legal considerations in order to achieve wins for the business.

How I got this job: SanDisk was first a client and now is my employer. I first started as outside counsel for SanDisk, while a member of the Technology Transactions team at Wilson Sonsini in Palo Alto. As the work I did for SanDisk grew, the general counsel asked me to move in-house. I saw it as an amazing opportunity with a high growth company enabling the future of storage technology – and I’ve never looked back.

The Bay Area is a great place to be a lawyer because: the Bay Area is founded on innovation. Things evolve so quickly that you never lack a challenge. There are so many amazing people and companies here – it would be impossible to be bored!

On the weekend, you’ll find me: hanging out with my husband, dog, family and friends, either in SF at a dog park or beach, renovating our turn of the century victorian, or driving up to Napa to visit relatives and partake in some wine tasting. Most recently, we are set­ting up the nursery as we are expecting our first child soon!

Ryan Opeka ’05, counsel, Macquarie AirFrance

On the job: I negotiate and document cross border acquisitions, dispositions, leases and financings involving commercial aircraft. I also support the general counsel in managing all of the corporate matters that arise with our company.

How I got this job: I started my legal career in the transportation finance group at Vedder Price in Chicago where I became familiar with the in-house legal team at Macquarie. During a bleak Chicago winter the opportunity arose to join this legal team and I could not pass it up.

The Bay Area is a great place to be a lawyer because: it has a dynamic economy and is a great location to have an internationally focused busi­ness. Being in San Francisco permits me to speak with people in Europe during the morning and Asia in the afternoon.

On the weekend, you’ll find me: outside enjoying all the activities that Northern California has to offer.

Stuart Casillas ’99, partner, Kirkland & Ellis LLP

On the job: I am an M&A partner focusing my practice on the representation of private equity funds and their port­folio companies. I typically spend my days structuring and negotiating transactions for my clients – there are plenty of opportunities for me to advocate for my clients’ posi­tions (which is the most enjoyable aspect of my practice). My practice has allowed me to negotiate transactions in a wide variety of industries, including software, manufac­turing, consumer products, computer hardware, post-secondary education, food service, retail, airline, financial services, oil and gas services, and logistics.

How I got this job: I was an associate at another large law firm in San Francisco for five and a half years. Toward the end of my tenure at my prior firm, I decided to take stock of my career and contemplated whether I wanted to stay on the law firm track or pursue an in-house job. I obvi­ously decided to continue with law firm life, but was not sure if I wanted to continue that journey at my prior firm. The K&E San Francisco office was, at the time, a small office with great potential and I decided to make the change. I’m very happy with my decision – our office has tripled in size and I enjoy my private equity M&A practice immensely.

The Bay Area is a great place to be a lawyer because: I am able to be involved in very sophisticated transactions while living in such a beautiful and diverse area.

On the weekend, you’ll find me: out and about with my family. My three children are very active in sports and we always seem to find ourselves spending the weekend on the soccer or rugby pitch.

Peggy Bennington ’74, Law Offices of Peggy L. Bennington

On the Job: I enjoy dealing with a variety of legal issues that arise from my focus on complex family law matters. I am privileged to be able to help people with difficult life transitions.

How I got this job: I hung out my shingle 38 years ago and became certified as a Family Law Specialist in 1982.

The Bay Area is a great place to be a lawyer because: it is a place where intense artistic and business creativity thrive, with attendant challenging legal problems to solve.

On the weekend, you’ll find me: in Sonoma wine country, on my bike, or hiking the trials of beautiful Mt. Tamalpais.

Harry-Todd Astrov ’90, principal, Astrov P.C.

On the job: I help businesses plan to minimize taxes arising from cross-border activities and represent businesses and individu­als with disputes with the IRS.

How I got this job: After 12 years in-house at Chevron (and travel­ing the world), I wanted more independence. I perceived there to be a niche for an attorney who is familiar with non-U.S. taxation as well as U.S. Because business is now global, advisers need to be globally minded as well. In mid- 2012 I started my practice.

The Bay Area is a great place to be a lawyer because: of Silicon Valley. There is a tremendous amount of emerging businesses and entrepreneurial activity. Of course, the weather is usually pretty good as well.

On the weekend, you’ll find me: spending time with my wife and our 2½ year old daughter, hopefully on our bikes.

Sujata Pagedar ’98, director of regulatory affairs, Pacific Gas & Electric Company

On the job: I work on regulatory proceedings relating to energy policy for California, including renewable energy, greenhouse gas reductions, and energy markets.

How I got this job: I originally started at PG&E as a tax attorney, but over time, have taken opportu­nities to grow within the company. I moved into Regulatory Affairs in 2010.

The Bay Area is a great place to be a lawyer because: California is a great place to be working on energy issues because many of the policies are cutting edge for the country. In the Bay Area, I love the diversity here (and the great food)! There are also plenty of Buckeyes around!

On the weekend, you’ll find me: on the sidelines cheering on my kids!