It didn’t take long for Hillary Rightler (J.D. ’10) to earn her way up to partner at Kilpatrick Townsend. The College of Law graduate specializes in white collar criminal defense matters working with multinational corporations around the world. While Rightler has made a name for herself in the Atlanta legal community, her move to the city after graduating from Vanderbilt University for undergrad was mostly on a whim.
“I didn’t have any connections to Atlanta at all,” Rightler said. Once she moved, she fell in love with the city and decided she wanted to stay for law school. She chose Georgia State Law mostly because of its downtown Atlanta location, and says she has no regrets. Not only does she feel as though Georgia State’s practical approach to learning helped set her up for success, but it also led to meeting her spouse. Here, Rightler discusses where she is in her career and what she credits for getting her there.
What are some big moments that stand out in your career?
I became partner at Kilpatrick Townsend in 2019 and I am on a team called Government Enforcement and Investigations. I think the most interesting thing that I’ve done recently was being a part of the Volkswagen monitorship. After Volkswagen pled guilty criminally to the emissions scandal with their diesel cars, they agreed as part of their plea to have a corporate monitor and I worked on a large team that oversaw Volkswagen’s compliance with their plea agreement obligations. It required a ton of international travel, and it was very intensive. It was one of the most significant corporate monitorships in history. I got to meet individuals practicing in the field that I practice in all over the world. It was very taxing, but it was definitely a highlight of my career.
How did you grow to specialize in white collar crimes?
I transitioned slowly – I do a lot of work conducting internal investigations for companies into potential criminal and corporate compliance issues and I find that really interesting because you interact a lot more with clients and different aspects of companies including executives and board of management members and other departments like internal audit, purchasing and accounting that are more business focused. I like that I am using my legal skills, but also really getting to know our clients from the business side to help them manage their issues.
What do you credit with climbing the ladder as quickly as you have?
Definitely hard work, but I also think being open to exploring new fields and specialties and being flexible with my career. I’ve had great mentors through Georgia State but also in my current firm. It’s important to be connected with the community and that’s one of the great things about Georgia State. I met my spouse while in law school and we’re still in touch with many of the people that were in both of our graduating classes.
I also think Georgia State prepared me really well for practice. It’s one of the things I really liked about the school, they have so many practical opportunities with the internships and externships they offer. Also, the professors’ approach in the classroom prepares you to be open to trying new things and being more hands on with opportunities.
Interview by Mara Thompson