This week I had the privilege of talking to Rebecca LeGrand, a partner at Kaiser, LeGrand & Dillon PLLC in Washington, DC. She has vast experience representing individuals facing criminal charges in federal court or subject to a government investigation. Before joining Kaiser, LeGrand & Dillon, Rebecca worked as a litigator at Williams & Connolly LLP and Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP, where she represented both individuals and corporate clients in high-stakes civil and criminal litigation. Rebecca also worked as a volunteer attorney at the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland, where she helped clients navigate complex sentencing issues and criminal investigations. Rebecca graduated from Yale Law School, where she was the co-editor-in-chief of the Yale Journal of Health Policy. Her undergraduate degree is from Brown University and she has a master’s degree from Duke in evolutionary biology. I hope you will love getting to know Rebecca as much as I did.
What drew you towards a career in criminal defense?
I like being on the side of the underdog, and working with individuals who desperately need someone on their side when it feels like all the powers that be have turned on them.
You have your own criminal defense firm with two other partners. Can you describe your path to opening up your own firm?
I was looking for a different way to practice law. I was incredibly lucky to start my career at Williams & Connolly, which was a great place to learn how to be a litigator, but I never saw myself as a big firm person. I heard stories from the old guard about what Williams & Connolly was like when it was just starting out, and that sounded like such a great way to practice law. The legal market is different now, but there are still a lot of clients who need zealous, smart, representation and want to (or have to) work with a smaller firm. I wanted to create that firm, and I got incredibly lucky to find partners who shared that vision.
What have been some of your proudest moments in representing clients?
I’m really proud of this recent three-day evidentiary hearing where I represented a client in a post-conviction matter. It is a female client who I believe was wrongfully convicted. There were so many ways that the system let her down when she was tried and convicted. Finally having a zealous advocate fight for her and share her story was so meaningful for her and her family. That responsibility is humbling, and it’s why you do this work. I’m also very proud of the work that I do outside the courtroom, behind the scenes. It’s a devastating thing to be charged with a crime at all. When I can help a client navigate an investigation to avoid criminal charges I know I’ve done something really significant to protect them and their families from that trauma.
How did the presence of women mentors or lack thereof impact your career?
I wish I’d done more to cultivate mentors in general when I was younger. It’s so important to have those relationships, but it’s easy to neglect when you are juggling cases and feel like you are spending so much time keeping up with emails. I didn’t have a lot of women to look to as mentors, and that does make it harder. Because of that, I really appreciate the women who took time to mentor me even when I was an annoying associate and did not necessarily make it easy – I give a hat tip to Kathy Zecca on that point. There aren’t enough of us out there and we have to stick together.
Of the women that you admire in the field, what do you find inspiring about them?
Simply that they are putting themselves out there, even when the deck is stacked against them, and finding a way to do the work they want, and doing it well.
Most important weapon in your defense arsenal?
My science background. In fact I rely on my science background in defending clients, even though I’m not working anywhere near a lab anymore. My science training taught me to approach evidence in a rigorous way. And I really enjoy working with numbers and big data sets, which is an important skill when I’m dealing with, say, a complex financial case. Sometimes I get to use science even more directly—like cross-examining a government expert—but I use that training in less direct ways as well to help me think about the facts of a case, and the government’s proof, or lack thereof.
Best advice you ever received?
Moment you knew you had made it?
You mean to the office this morning? When the Orange line started moving again after a 10-minute delay at L’enfant. Taking it one day at a time beyond that!
One thing that people who know you don’t know about you?
I wrote my senior thesis on sexual size dimorphism in crab spiders.