Candace Moss had an interest in becoming a lawyer from a young age, and by the time she went to college, she knew she’d be going to law school afterward. She talks about it so nonchalantly that you’d never suspect where she went: Harvard. And it wasn’t even her first choice.
“I applied to a lot of schools, probably too many schools. I just wanted to make sure I got in somewhere,” she says. “But Harvard is a big name, so I thought I’d at least attend the admitted students’ weekend to see what it’s like.”
She went into the weekend with very low expectations, and she proved to be pleasantly surprised. “I enjoyed the professors, the students, and even the other admitted students I met. They were all very accomplished but generally very humble and welcoming,” she explains.
Moss turned down the scholarship offers she got from other schools and enrolled—despite the debt she knew she’d be taking on. “I wanted to do the big law path, and Harvard’s a good place to be able to have those kinds of opportunities. Turning down those scholarship offers was very hard at the time, but it worked out in the end,” she says.
Of course, one of the best ways to offset student loan debt while you’re in school is to secure a paid internship, which, for first-year law students, can be difficult to come by. Knowing that, Moss looked for something she could do while she was living at home in Georgia. She landed on an internship at the public defender’s office.
“I worked mostly in juvenile court. It definitely gave me a great respect for public defenders,” Moss recalls. However, during her second year of law school, she was able to secure a law firm internship as part of the corporate team of Boies Schiller Flexner in New York City—the same firm she’d go on to work at for two years after law school.
“I worked on private M&A and some private equity fund formation there, so it was very interesting work. But ultimately, I wanted to relocate to DC,” she says.
Moss then went on to Hunton & Williams (now Hunton Andrews Kurth) to work for its corporate team mostly in M&A, corporate governance, and securities law for a total of six years before going in-house. “Those experiences taught me to be very client focused. Both of the teams that I worked on were very lean teams, so I got to interact a lot with both the partners and the clients,” she says.
But, as Moss explains, she was never interested in becoming a partner herself. Still, she figured she could take her skills and apply them to an in-house legal department. She began applying for jobs, and it wasn’t long before a recruiter contacted her about her current role: corporate counsel of commercial and M&A at Cummins.
“I wasn’t familiar with Cummins before. But it seemed like a company that valued diversity, and a lot of people that I met with during the interview process had been there for ten, fifteen, twenty years, which I think is increasingly rare,” she says. Since joining in March 2021, Moss has taken an interest in collaborating with several of the nonlegal teams she supports—particularly the growth office team, which works on some of the company’s new and emerging technologies.
“It’s been fascinating to learn about the technology,” Moss says. But also, in her opinion, very necessary. “The more interaction I have with my nonlegal colleagues, the more I’m able to understand the business and provide better legal support. It’s necessary because, without that collaboration, it makes it challenging to get a deal done.”
What Moss is most proud of in the two and a half years since she’s come to Cummins is her role in its recent filtration business spin-off and IPO transaction. “That was one of the first transactions I was assigned to, and I was one of the lead lawyers,” she says. “I was proud that they trusted me enough to follow my advice and value the input that I had. As a newcomer, I was still getting to know people within the organization—but they all embraced me as a member of the team.”
Moss encourages junior lawyers to speak up—something she struggled with early on in her own career. “I’m not naturally a very gregarious or extroverted person, and it took me a while to realize that I actually have valuable ideas to contribute,” she admits. “One of the things I felt was helpful for me was making sure l was prepared to go into meetings with one or two objectives of what I wanted to be able to say, and finding ways that I could add value to transactions.”
“My Axinn colleagues and I had the pleasure of working with Candace on a complex international M&A deal that she led. Candace’s excellent communication and even-keeled demeanor under pressure were critical to the success of the deal, which had lots of interesting and challenging twists and turns.”
—Leslie Overton, Partner