Arnold & Porter associate Danielle Garten was fresh from law school when she joined the firm’s Washington, D.C., office in September 2006. By the following July — just nine months into her career — she was standing before the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles as part of a pro bono case, attempting to save a man from lethal injection.

Garten says she mostly got by on “pure adrenaline” in that situation, but if any experience can make a young attorney appreciate her first-year training, it is a moment like that one. “It’s somebody’s life that’s in your hands,” Garten says.