After earning his undergraduate degree in business and economics at Wheaton College (Illinois), Will Pugh returned to his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, to become the second full-time employee of a start-up company he had helped launch as a summer employee during college.
The company, Atlas RFID Solutions Store, provided an online market for radio frequency identification technology. By the time Pugh left his position as its director of strategy two years later to start law school, Atlas RFID Solutions Store had 20 employees and a solid revenue stream.
Pugh had been wavering between earning a J.D. or an MBA, but decided to earn a law degree after observing how the in-house counsel his company hired helped its leadership manage risk and support growth. “I was very close to pursuing an MBA, and Vanderbilt’s Law and Business and Law and Innovation programs were big plus factors for me,” he said. “Knowing I could get a J.D. with heavy business and innovation components made me more excited about attending law school.”
Pugh applied to Vanderbilt in part because of a “long family history.” His parents met as VLS students, and his stepfather and father-in-law also earned Vanderbilt J.D.s. “On top of that plus factor, I was not sure where I wanted to work, so I sought out schools that sent graduates all over the country,” he said. “I also wanted a school with a strong corporate law faculty. Vanderbilt checked all the right boxes.”
Vanderbilt allows first-year students to choose one elective during spring semester, and Pugh took Corporations with Professor Randall Thomas, who directs the Law and Business Program. “Professor Thomas is a great mentor to students interested in corporate law,” he said. “And he was instrumental in helping me apply to the Delaware Court of Chancery.” Pugh is working as a law clerk in 2019-20 for Vice Chancellor Joseph R. Slights III, who teaches two different short courses including: Surveillance: The Swinging Pendulum in Corporate Law and Alternative Business Entities at Vanderbilt through the Law and Business Program.
Pugh joined the staff of the Vanderbilt Law Review as a 2L and appreciated the exposure to legal scholarship and the friendship he formed. “I got to experience both the highs and lows of close friends getting married, becoming parents and mourning the deaths of family members,” he said.
He also appreciated intellectual diversity of his fellow students. “Vanderbilt’s intellectual climate allowed me to challenge my own presuppositions and wrestle with the law as a fundamental human endeavor,” he said. “I wanted a politically balanced community where students could engage in respectful conversations about issues, and I found that at Vanderbilt. Students from very different background form friendships through which they can test their beliefs through respectful conversation.”