Alumni Short

Margret Caruso '97: Thriving in the Theatre of Litigation

Ithaca, NEW YORK

Margret Caruso '97, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, didn't plan to become a litigator.

At Cornell Law School, she says, "I wanted to do municipal bond work, or tax law, or general corporate law. I had these grand notions that I'd contribute to things being built. Litigators, I thought, tear things down, they're fighter pilots, all about ego."

But at her first summer associate position, she didn't enjoy reviewing corporate documents. Then she met the litigators in the firm, and realized that litigation involved "exerting your creative muscle in solving problems where the answers are not obvious."

As with many litigators, Caruso's first love was acting. She studied theatre at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts. Ultimately, however, she preferred her classes in political theory, and went on to study political science at Boston University. From Louisiana to Boston and Ithaca may seem like a long way, but Caruso grew up wanting to be in the Northeast. She even liked cold weather and snow.

When choosing a law school, she wanted get away from big cities to an environment where she could concentrate on her studies, and Cornell fit the bill. She notes that it gave her more than a great education. "Something I definitely learned at Cornell is how important it is to have a support group of friends who are always there and always have your back. Cornell Law School was the first time that was really important to me."

Caruso recalls two professors with particular appreciation, one related to her current work and one in a different area. Steven Clymer's Evidence class, she says, "gave me a vision of what it would be like to actually be a lawyer." On the other hand, Ernie Roberts class in Land Use Planning "wasn't anything I've wound up using substantively, but philosophically it taught me how the law could influence people's daily lives and how they feel about and interact with their communities. It opened my eyes to how many ways the law operated at local levels and the need to consider law making in the context of history, art, sociology, technology, health, and the environment."

After law school, Caruso returned to the city-this time New York-and joined Latham & Watkins.  While working on a political asylum case, "I had to elicit testimony, even do a closing argument," she recalls. "A little bit of that rush of theatre came back, and that spark was awoken in me again."

She then went to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. "I worked with two phenomenal partners. I was constantly preparing for trials," she recalls. After nine months, the partners left to join Quinn Emanuel, and asked her to join them.

Quinn Emanuel's New York office opened in September 2001; Caruso joined the company in January 2002. "Talk about a transition," she says. "Four years in big established law firms, and suddenly I was one of only two associates in the office. It seemed insane. But if you're working for great people who you're learning a lot from, that's where you want to be." Now the New York City office of Quinn Emanuel has more than 250 attorneys, with another 350+ in five other American cities and seven foreign cities. Caruso is at the warm and sunny Silicon Valley office now, where she specializes in intellectual property and media. She has won important decisions for Google, Samsung, Intuit, Fox Media, and HBO/Time Warner, to name only a few.

In entertainment law, Caruso says, she has worked on cases where someone sues the creator of a successful work, alleging that their idea was stolen. "The authors of these works are so deeply hurt and offended that anyone would think they would steal, that the work had a very personal nature. They are so grateful when you clear their names."

Caruso married a fellow lawyer and Cornell Law alum, Ron Turiello '96. He also works in intellectual property, but focuses on transactional work. "We speak the same language but don't do the same thing," says Caruso. "I don't know anyone else who would understand what I do and be there to bounce ideas off." They have two young children.

"I talk a lot with young associates about how you manage with kids," says Caruso. "It's easier as a partner. I work hard, but I have a lot of flexibility in my work." In fact, Caruso is calling from Hawaii, working while her children frolic on the beach. The family loves the ocean. "On boat trips when the crews are giving lectures about sea life, my kids are always interrupting with clarifications and corrections!" Caruso says.

It sounds like lawyers will run in their family.

--Judith Pratt