Sam Bivins: Associate Attorney

"In many senses, [a lawyer is] like a history or a literature student. You have a text or a document and you have to be able to read it critically and come up with your own point of view about what the best argument is and then turn around and justify it."

Portrait photo

Name: Sam Bivins

Current Position: Associate attorney at Downey Brand LLP

Major: History, minor in Spanish

Graduation: 2010

What do you do as an associate attorney?

“I litigate cases on behalf of clients in the water industry in order to help them protect their water supply. It’s really a privilege to be able to advocate on behalf of clients who are supplying people and places with the water they need to make a living, and at the same time, improve the environment. My job has been even more rewarding and interesting than I thought it would be, and I had pretty high expectations.”

How did your time at Davis prepare you for your job?

“In many senses, [a lawyer is] like a history or a literature student. You have a text or a document and you have to be able to read it critically and come up with your own point of view about what the best argument is and then turn around and justify it. I do that in a little bit of a different context, but the basic principles and modes of thinking can be very similar. Learning how to write persuasively and learning how to marshal a group of sources may not be directly applicable, but if you look hard enough and think creatively, you can use those sources to help advance your argument.”

“The process of writing my honors thesis with Professor [Edward] Dickinson made a real impact. I essentially write for a living and some of the things can be pretty long, depending on the motion or the case. Being able to stay organized, do large pieces of original research, and write that thesis were helpful at the end of the day.

“Also, seminars were good exposure to sitting in a room with people who may or may not agree with you and having to argue persuasively. I spend a lot of time with other lawyers trying to convince them that the way that I want to proceed makes sense and is the best way to proceed.”

Do you have any advice for current students?

“Take a broad swath of courses. I spend large portions of my day talking to biologists, engineers, and hydrologists and in retrospect, it would’ve been good to lose a little bit of the science/math phobia that I think a lot of history majors have. Also, take courses where you’ll be challenged to think and write and defend your position.

— Noah Pflueger-Peters (B.A., English, ’17), writing intern in the College of Letters and Science