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Chris Esbrook

Chris Esbrook

Founding partner | Esbrook Law LLC | Class of 2004

Kirkland & Ellis or Skadden Arps?

Downtown Chicago or Times Square in New York?

As Chris Esbrook prepared to make one of the most momentous decisions of his life — where to “summer” after his second year of law school — he couldn’t choose between the country’s largest and fifth-largest firms.

So he did what so many others like him at the UI’s College of Law have done over the years.

Paging Dean Vermillion ...

“I was really struggling with choosing between the two firms, so I made an appointment with Virginia Vermillion, the then-assistant dean for career services,” says Esbrook, who in 2018 founded his own Chicago firm and a year later was named to the Chicago Daily Law Bulleting's 40 Under Forty class.

“Virginia patiently listed as I listed out all of the pros and cons of the two firms and why I ultimately couldn’t decide. She suggested we let fate decide, and I was game.

“She had me write down the name of each firm on a piece of paper, fold each piece and then put them in a hat. She asked me to close my eyes and pick, and then commit to work at whichever firm I chose from the hat.  I agreed as I was hopelessly deadlocked.

“I anxiously put my hand in the hat, felt the two pieces of paper, and picked one. She asked me to read it aloud.  As I read 'Skadden Arps,' she immediately asked me what I was feeling.

“I told her I felt disappointed. She said, the exercise worked and that I now knew that I should choose Kirkland & Ellis. It was a creative method to figure out where I really wanted to go.

“By pulling out all of the stops, Virginia had a profound impact on my career."