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Summer employment dispatches: Mark Pereira L’14

August 28, 2012

Editor’s Note: Each summer Penn Law students hone their skills through a wide array of private and public sector internships across the country and around the world. Generous financial support and fellowships for international and public interest work enable students to pursue diverse assignments in the U.S. and abroad. This dispatch from Mark Pereira L’14 is one in a series of firsthand accounts by Law School students about how their summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers

Pereira worked in Bethesda, MD, as a summer associate for Marriott International’s Law Department. After graduation he plans to work for a law firm, most likely in a transactional practice area.

This was by far the quickest summer I have ever experienced. I decided to pack it with a full 12 weeks at Marriott International, the hotel chain, and it felt like much less than that!

I chose to work at Marriott because, as someone who will be working for a law firm very shortly, I wanted to learn how the “other side of the table” operates and approaches legal situations.

Law firm attorneys frequently mention how they are a client-driven business, designed to relieve the pressures of their clients and give them a reason to come back to the firm for other issues. I decided at the start of law school that I wanted to learn things that would make me an attorney who was well-suited to interact with very diverse clients and client needs. Working in-house is the perfect way to do that, so I jumped at the opportunity to work with Marriott.

After I received my first project—a research assignment comparing statutes in Middle East labor law—I knew that in order to be successful this summer, it was not enough to simply do the tasks given to me. I needed to learn the hotel industry, and specifically how Marriott fits into the larger picture. Marriott is the largest publicly traded hotel chain in the world, with its corporate flag flying on over 3,700 hotels in 73 countries. Hotels in the chain include the iconic luxury brand Ritz-Carlton and 16 other brands, such as Fairfield Inns, Courtyards, and Renaissance Hotels.

The fascinating thing about Marriott and what sets it apart from other hoteliers is that the company only owns a handful of the properties where you see the flag. Instead of owning and financing real estate, Marriott’s bread-and-butter is either managing hotels by placing employees and the Marriott “machine” directly in a hotel for a real-estate owner, or franchising a hotel to an owner and letting them put up the Marriott flag as long as they run it according to company standards. These require drafting management agreements and franchise agreements. Of course, there’s a negotiation process to put agreements together, and a battle to take them apart if an owner gets upset. This is part of what Marriott’s law department handles; I worked on many projects that boiled down to the fundamentals of these agreements.

These negotiations and disputes have many different facets to them, and Marriott has divided its law department accordingly. There are several “groups,” just like practice groups at a law firm. I did work with the Labor & Employment, Franchising, Operations, and Litigation groups, but there are many other groups, including Regional Development and Intellectual Property. It really is like a small law firm, and you can get work with all the different groups, so I feel very prepared to work for a rotational type of diverse summer program for a law firm.

There were also programs for all of the summer associates at Marriott from different departments, including meeting with executives, touring a Marriott with a general manager, and visiting the showrooms and sample room setups. The law department also had a few social events, including a summer picnic, a tour of the Pentagon, and an ice cream social.

Marriott is an extremely friendly company, exhibiting the values of the Marriott family, and all of the attorneys fit into that culture perfectly. It helps that the general counsel of Marriott, Ed Ryan, is a Penn Law grad (L ’78) who exudes the collegial and enthusiastic spirit we know so well! My workspace was directly across from his office, so I got to witness his great attitude on a daily basis. It is extremely encouraging to see Penn Law graduates enjoying incredible careers.

-          Mark Pereira