Prior to graduating from Columbia Law School, Nate Cross ’13 never had the opportunity to enjoy the pomp, circumstance, and sheer joy of a full-on, large-scale commencement ceremony. While his University of Washington classmates walked across the stage in their caps and gowns at the school’s graduation in 2006, he was doing push-ups under the sweltering sun in a Pensacola, Fla., field full of fire ants. Cross had chosen to pursue a military career following college, and he was already hard at work in the U.S. Navy’s 12-week Officer Candidate School at the time.
Cross, a Washington-state native, earned an undergraduate degree in civil and environmental engineering from the university, and he spent the next four years serving as a naval officer. His work took him to Djibouti—an African nation positioned across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen—where he managed $80 million in construction projects at the only U.S. military base in Africa.
Cross’ naval background was an asset at the Law School, where he served as president of the Columbia Law School Military Association and focused on corporate law. He spent the summer after his second year working on transactions—including a $500 million bond exchange offer and significant debt restructuring for a large public organization—at O’Melveny & Myers. He also worked to recruit more veterans to the Law School. Through one initiative, Cross helped the Law School’s admissions office send personal letters to prospective students who had previously served in the military.
After his Law School graduation—where he presented the class gift—Cross moved back to the West Coast to begin his legal career as an associate at O’Melveny & Myers’ Los Angeles office. He notes that a combination of legal knowledge and military discipline, along with experience managing large-scale projects under demanding circumstances, has well prepared him for life as a lawyer.
“I’ve been relied on to deliver on quick deadlines, under significant pressure, and to do so with very little sleep,” Cross says. “Knowing how I operate in those situations gives me more confidence as a professional.”