Where Are They Now: Elise Wilkens Michael ’10


Please give a brief background on yourself and your career.

After graduating from Wellesley in 2010, I spent two years working as a litigation paralegal at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. Even though I already wanted to go to law school before this job, I am grateful that I spent that time exploring the field first-hand. Speaking with many lawyers about their experiences was extremely helpful in making my decision to ultimately attend. After leaving Cravath and attending Cardozo law school, I initially thought I wanted to be a litigator. Attending various events and meeting regulatory lawyers, however, piqued my interest in corporate regulatory law. To that end, I explored this area further by becoming a corporate governance scholar and sought internships in the field. I worked as an intern for a New York Supreme Court Judge, which gave me insight into the judicial side of the law. I also interned in the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which solidified my interest in regulatory law. I eventually became a Summer Associate at JP Morgan, and after graduating in 2015 – and taking that (miserable) bar exam – I am now part of their law graduate Rotational Development Program. In this role, I rotate through different areas of compliance. I never imagined that I would be interested in regulatory law or compliance, let alone work at a financial institution. So it just goes to show that you have to constantly explore many different areas to discover your passion.

How has your career changed since you originally envisioned it at Wellesley? What other careers did you consider as a student? 

My father is a lawyer and my grandfather is a Judge so I always thought I would become a lawyer. However, as a French and Psychology major at Wellesley, I dreamed of being a wine and cheese taster for a living, but, alas, law won out.

How has Wellesley contributed to your career?

I am an active and involved Board member of the Wellesley Club of New York, and through that I have met many inspiring and helpful alumnae. These alumnae come from many different professions but all offer great advice.

What is a typical work day or work week like for you? 

Each day is different at JP Morgan. There are different issues with the Business that vary based on the day. My current team works on numerous matters, ranging from reviewing marketing materials to implementing monitoring plans to providing regulatory guidance. My work will change in April when I rotate to a different area of the firm.

What piece of advice would you offer students looking to get into your area of interest and expertise?

I always tell students who are considering law school to want to be a lawyer. That may sound obvious, but to want to choose law as a career, you have you have to know what a lawyer does. I recommend that they speak to as many people as possible or work in a law firm during or after college to truly understand what the day-to-day is like. Law school is long – and costly – so it is imperative to do research ahead of time. To secure a job after or during law school, it is important to meet as many people as possible, go to events, and keep an excel sheet of contacts. It might not secure you a job immediately, but down the line it could definitely help.

What do you wish you had known as a student?

I wish I knew that I did not have to know all of the answers! I am glad that I spent two years as a paralegal to ensure that law was truly my passion. It is entirely okay to not know what you want to do at 21. I have a lot of friends who have changed their career many times and are still figuring it out. Truth be told, I don’t even know in what field I ultimately will end up – business, legal, compliance, or something entirely different, but now I consider the options exciting rather than daunting.

If you could come back and take one class at Wellesley what would it be?

Probably something different and interesting – like a Biology class. I didn’t take many science-oriented classes and I wish I had. (To be honest, I was mostly scared of the genius pre-med students – and the creepy science building). I think straying from your field of study can help you grow and be a smarter, more well-rounded person. College is a great opportunity to do so.

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