For Alum Representing Meta, Social Networking Has Many Meanings
For alumnus Aalok Sharma ’99, the path to representing Meta (formerly known as Facebook) began with a different social network: the community he found at LMU Loyola Law School.
Sharma, a member of the law school’s Board of Directors, credits his rise to becoming a successful litigator for international technology companies to the connections he formed as a student. That community made all the difference in 2008 when he hit a roadblock on his path to becoming a partner at White & Case.
He had joined the global law firm straight from law school in 1999. By his ninth year, he was a star litigation associate, and partnership seemed all but certain. But it was 2008, the height of the Great Recession, and the firm would not promote him after all; instead, telling him that if he produced a substantial amount of business the following year, he would again be considered.
“I had no Plan B,” he said.
To come up with one, he phoned Bryan D. Hull, the Loyola Law School professor who had taught him contracts a dozen years earlier. “I called Bryan and I said, ‘I’m in a bind here. I did everything I can to make partner, and I really don’t want to start from scratch somewhere else,’” Sharma said.
Hull went into action. He and his former student spent hours brainstorming and poring over the professor’s Rolodex for people Sharma could contact as potential clients to bring to his law firm. “The plan was I would spend the next year trying to build up a book of business by reaching out to the Loyola community.”
As it turned out, an old-fashioned social network saved the day. Sharma built up his book of business, and the next year, he made partner. That was no easy task; with almost 3,000 lawyers in 44 offices, White & Case is one of the 10 biggest law firms in the world.
And he’s not just any partner. He’s the top partner and business producer at the firm. He’s also the global chair of the firm’s Technology Industry Group – responsible for setting the firm’s global strategy with respect to its technology clients; and the Global Relationship Partner for Meta, a client he brought to the firm a dozen years ago. As its international litigation counsel, Sharma guides and strategizes Meta’s litigations in over 160 countries.
The social media giant is one of the largest and most valued clients in White & Case’s history. That, along with his other clients such as Snap, Twitter, PayPal, Spotify, Quora and OpenSea (among others) has made Sharma’s global tech litigation practice a leading practice in the world.
“I credit my start to the connections that were given to me through the Loyola community and the extra effort that professors and administrators gave me to make sure I succeeded in my career,” he said.
Sharma first experienced that sense of community when he arrived at Loyola Law School from Seattle in 1996. “I was impressed right away with the passion of the administration and the professors,” he recalled.
In his second year, he relied on their knowledge of him and of law firms to help him choose White & Case for his summer clerkship. He still considers LLS professors like Hull to be among his closest friends.
“When you get to professional education, what’s just as important as the academic piece is the social connections, because those are going to become your professional connections, which will ultimately become your secret to success in life,” he said.
Seeing similarities in challenges between the 2008 economic downturn and the pandemic, Sharma’s advice to the current students is to hang tough and make use of their connections and community.
“Thinking of my own path, I’m confident that the current group of students will persevere in a way that groups before them didn’t, because they’re battle tested, which will prepare them to fight through the challenges they’ll face in their careers – and to find a way to succeed,” he said.