Developing Expertise from Experience

Colleen Kelly Gomos, ’07, entered the legal field during a time of economic crisis — she turned it into a career.

Colleen Kelly Gomos, ’07, grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin. For law school, she had her eye on a similar Big Ten experience, which brought her to MSU College of Law. Being a first generation lawyer in her family, her future in the profession was her own to make, but she wasn’t the first Spartan.

“My grandfather went there when it was Michigan State College, and my aunt was an MSU alum as well. I was able to go to the library and find old yearbooks with my grandfather in them and that was really cool,” she said. “It was fun to feel connected to him while I was there.”

For a new attorney with that expertise, I was able to catapult into a job in a market that was pretty tough.

For a new attorney with that expertise, I was able to catapult into a job in a market that was pretty tough.

As a law student, Gomos decided not to narrow her studies to a particular area of the law, instead she chose to be open to the experience and round out her legal education with all aspects of the curriculum.

“I think a lot of the times the classes I enjoyed might have been driven by the professors,” she explained, highlighting courses she took with Professors Adam Candeub and Glen Staszewski. She appreciated both professors for their teaching styles.

When it came to acquiring professional experience, Gomos opted against competing for the coveted summer associate positions and instead chose to seek out opportunities on the judicial side. She completed internships working for federal judges, both in Michigan and in her home state of Wisconsin, and spent a semester with the Michigan Court of Appeals. With her background, Gomos landed in Milwaukee after law school serving a one-year clerkship for a US bankruptcy judge in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

“That set the tone for the area of practice I’m in now,” Gomos said. “I worked for a bankruptcy judge as the economy began to deteriorate in 2007-2008, and when I was done with my year there, I went into private practice for the first time.”

With her experience in bankruptcy, Gomos was well-positioned to transition to private practice as the economic crisis continued. She started out at a business law firm in Green Bay where her primary focus was creditors’ rights work, representing banks and financial institutions. “There was a lot of work,” she said. “For a new attorney with that expertise, I was able to catapult into a job in a market that was pretty tough.” Over time, as market demands changed her responsibilities for clients, her work evolved into a more traditional lending practice, which she found a passion for.

Today, the economy is in a different place, and so is Gomos. “When the door opened for me to go into a straight transactional practice, I jumped at that,” she said. Gomos is a partner at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago, where she started in 2012, and practices corporate law with a focus on commercial finance. “Transactional work is very collaborative. Everyone is working toward a common goal, which I enjoy,” Gomos said. “I feel pretty lucky that I get to support great clients and also have a network of very smart, collegial attorneys that I regularly work with on deals.”