Crane has the ability to look at both sides of the law

Laura Crane never wants her life to become routine.

And that’s why Crane, who graduates May 15 from the School of Law, decided to leave her career in advertising to attend WUSTL.

Laura Crane (left) works with fellow law student Daniel Tierney in the courtyard of Anheuser-Busch Hall. Crane and Tierney both served as international law interns with Thomas Schweich, J.D., ambassador in residence at the School of Law.

Crane, a native of Rochester, N.Y., spent three years before law school working with smart, creative people at a New York City advertising agency and with clients ranging from pharmaceutical corporations to bottled-water companies.

“In advertising, there’s a very creative aspect of trying to find that clever idea to hook people and entertain,” says Crane, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish from Duke University in 2003. “But the legwork of making an ad is very process-driven, and it’s very similar whether you’re selling dog food, toilet paper, high fashion or luxury cars.

“I wanted something where I could come to work and tackle different problems every day,” Crane says.

Crane sought and found that variety of new challenges while a law student at WUSTL, including an international law internship with Thomas Schweich, J.D., ambassador in residence at the law school.

Crane researched international policy and justice issues for Schweich, who is working as a special representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In 2008, Crane traveled to Vienna, Austria, with Schweich to discuss concerns about drug trafficking in Mexico and opportunities for UNODC to build its presence in Central America and the Caribbean with UNODC personnel.

“Laura has impressed me with thorough research, quick turnaround of projects, excellent, well-documented writing, and her ability to present herself in a very professional and effective manner at important meetings with international diplomats,” Schweich says. “Her work in Vienna was excellent, especially considering the jet lag.”

School of Law

Crane also is interested in civil rights and disability law, and she says her goal is to eventually practice law in that area. She spent a summer as a clerk for the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C., and helped research and draft court documents on a variety of decriminalization and educational issues.

While at Bazelon, Crane worked on a case seeking to improve access to treatment services on behalf of parolees with serious mental illness and substance-abuse problems. Without receiving these necessary services as they return to the community, many ultimately return to a jail setting.

Crane says the highlight of her young law career came in working with professor Samuel Bagenstos, J.D., to petition the Supreme Court to hear a civil rights case involving the scope of the Americans with Disability Act.

The case, which involved an employee who became disabled and could no longer perform her duties, asked whether her employer was required to reassign the qualified employee to an existing vacant position or simply to allow her to compete for such a position.

The Supreme Court is highly selective as to what cases it will hear, but the likelihood of the Supreme Court selecting this case was heightened because of a circuit split, with two opposing views on how to interpret and apply the statute.

“You think in law school that laws have one meaning, but both circuits were reading the same law and coming up with completely different results,” Crane says. “It was a great exercise on how to look at both sides and come up with persuasive argument.”

The Supreme Court decided it would hear the case in December 2007, but the case was settled before it could be argued.

“To work on a case like that one was why I went to law school,” Crane says.

According to Neil Richards, J.D., professor of law, Crane’s ability to look at both sides of an argument is only part of what made her one of his best students.

“Laura has a great mind,” Richards says. “She certainly has strong and passionately held ideological views, but she also has a rare ability to look past those views in assessing and thinking about law and legal decisions. She can look at difficult legal questions from different perspectives.”

This fall, Crane will face a new set of challenges when she begins work at the corporate law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP in New York City, where she was a summer associate in 2008.