With a rich history in West Virginia, it is no wonder that so many West Virginia University (WVU) College of Law alumni choose to spend part (or in some cases all) of their careers at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC. In fact, 110 years after the firm got its start in Clarksburg, 110 of the firm’s 320 plus attorneys completed their law degrees as Mountaineers.
In 2023, six new attorneys with a J.D. from WVU College of Law joined Steptoe & Johnson. Many of them say their invaluable experience gained as a law student can be attributed to their success today.
“The opportunities available at WVU College of Law provided me with an opportunity to gain firsthand experience working in the energy industry through an internship with Chesapeake Energy LLC during the summer between my 2L and 3L years,” says Evan Conard, an energy litigation attorney who joined Steptoe & Johnson in November. “Additionally, various course offerings at the College of Law also provided the necessary background of legal principles of energy law that I regularly apply in my practice. I am able to build upon this background and experience through my practice at Steptoe & Johnson by focusing on energy litigation matters.”
Michelle Schaller is an energy litigation attorney who joined the firm’s Morgantown office in October. She says the practice of law can be extremely different from the experiences in law school. “However, WVU Law made sure the exercises taught were more than just issue-spotting ‘what if’ scenarios and really pushed future lawyers to closely examine all aspects of real-life legal questions. Because of this preparation, I feel prepared to work with some of the best legal minds in the state and country here at Steptoe & Johnson.”
Steptoe & Johnson is known for its robust energy practice, and alumna Perry Cavender joined the firm’s Charleston office in May working in the Energy Department. “The number of proud alumnae here speaks to the value and quality of the education at WVU College of Law,” she says. “We are fortunate to have an exceptional and respected in-state law school. Although I am a Marshall University undergraduate alum, when choosing a law school, the decision to attend WVU College of Law was an easy one to make.”
Heather Gentile joined the firm’s Business Department in July. She says the lessons she learned at WVU College of Law continue to shape her daily legal practice. “Whether it’s drafting contracts or assisting clients in securing financing, my experiences from law school thoroughly equipped me for the practical realities of the legal profession.”
Christi Stover, who rejoined Steptoe & Johnson in September as an attorney in the Labor & Employment Department, says her experiences in academia have guided her in her career. "The College of Law taught me the foundational skills of critical thinking and analysis, which I am still building upon today in my practice."
In November, Steptoe & Johnson welcomed a class of 12 new associate attorneys to the firm, seven of whom are graduates of WVU Law. One of them is Robert Thompson, an officer in the West Virginia Army National Guard, who focuses on general litigation matters.
“I won’t pretend I walked into the office ready to conquer the world on day one. There are so many things I still don’t know,” he says. “However, WVU Law prepared me for a lot. I have been able to take comfort in knowing that everything I learned about legal research and legal writing translates directly to the daily requirements of litigation. Between my involvement with the Moot Court and getting cold-called in bar testing classes, WVU Law helped prepare me to pass the Bar Exam and get me ready for the practice of law with Steptoe & Johnson.”
While many of the WVU College of Law alumni remain at home in the Mountain State, not all of Steptoe & Johnson’s WVU grads stay local. One example is Michael Peelish, who joined the firm’s Denver, Colorado, office in August in the Labor & Employment Department. His career start was actually with a large mining client of Steptoe & Johnson’s. “Having a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering and a law degree from WVU gave me a differentiating competency that was attractive to mining companies,” he says.
Peelish adds, “The law school taught me how to think and being in industry taught me how to practice law. In fact, my first foray into federal court was following Bob Steptoe into Judge Hayden’s chambers to defend a temporary injunction filed by a union. We were successful, and over three decades later, I am working with Steptoe & Johnson lawyers again and continually learning how to practice law better.”
About Steptoe & Johnson
Steptoe & Johnson PLLC is a law firm nationally recognized for its strengths in energy law with more than a century of know-how in the areas of business, labor and employment, and litigation. Steptoe & Johnson has over 400 lawyers and other professionals practicing in 18 offices in Colorado, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia. Visit and connect with us on LinkedIn.
For more information on opportunities for current law students, visit Steptoe & Johnson PLLC’s website.