Have you ever asked yourself how someone becomes a general counsel? Have you ever had any interest in one day becoming a general counsel? If you answered yes to either of those questions, whether you are in law school, private practice, government or in-house, the new podcast series Conversations with GCs is for you.
The In-House Subcommittee of the ABA’s Corporate Governance Committee created this podcast to help aspiring general counsel (“GCs”) find practical and actionable guidance as they pursue the top in-house legal role. The podcast facilitates conversations with leading GCs that explore the paths that led them to the role of GC, essential GC skills and characteristics, current GC hot topics and advice for those aspiring to be GCs.
The First Three Conversations
The first three episodes capture the inspiring and helpful stories of Chad Perry, Brady Long and Jacqueline Lee. As the host of Conversations with GCs, I am grateful that I was able to sit down with these three remarkable people and talented lawyers; you don’t want to miss out on hearing their stories and learning from their unique perspectives. I’m confident that these conversations will leave a mark on you like they did on me. There were so many insights and takeaways from these rich conversations, but I have pulled out some of the highlights below. To dig deeper into the conversation, click the links to the episodes and listen in!
Chad Perry: The Centrality of Curiosity
Chad Perry is the Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, Inc., a public REIT and leading operator of upscale open-air outlet centers. I genuinely enjoyed my conversation with Chad, which was sprinkled with wisdom and laughter. The theme of curiosity ran through our conversation as it was central to Chad’s openness to new opportunities outside of practicing law within a firm, learning the industries where he found himself, and growing in areas that are outside his areas of expertise.
While most of us will not enjoy Chad’s experience of getting the GC nod while vacationing at the beach, we can all take his advice to keep our eyes open for new opportunities, stay curious where we are and allow that curiosity to take us to new places. He also highlighted the importance of asking good questions to challenge the status quo and remaining flexible as we progress throughout our careers.
Chad’s advice for those advancing our journeys to the GC role included not jumping at the first offer that comes our way, and to look for opportunities in our current roles to expand our perspective and areas of expertise.
Brady Long is the Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Transocean, a leading international provider of offshore contract drilling services for oil and gas wells. The first theme that permeated our conversation was always maintaining a focus on adapting. From the collapse of Enron and enactment of SOX at the beginning of his career, to the current changes in the ESG space, Brady emphasized the need to adapt to the ever-changing legal landscape.
A second theme was remembering the human element in every relationship and fighting the current of reducing relationships to merely a means to an end. Brady framed his attention to meaningful relationships in terms of being a good partner to those above him, those who report to him, and the law firms who help him navigate the legal issues facing his company. Brady’s genuine concern for the people and projects that have been entrusted to his care was easy to discern and inspired me to push back against the transactional current that flows so strongly in the legal profession.
Brady’s primary piece of advice for those seeking the GC role was to intentionally develop our networks. In keeping with the theme of remembering the human element, Brady’s take on networking was focused on being respectful to everyone in that network, whether they are ahead or behind us in our journeys to GC sphere, being aware that the chairs can (and often do) turn quite quickly.
Jacqueline Lee: An Unexpected and Joyful Journey
Jacqueline (“Jaci”) Lee is the General Counsel of Flynn Restaurant Group, America’s largest restaurant franchisee with over 2,300 restaurants nationwide. Jaci’s story and perspective were so unique that I lost track of time, and our conversation went much longer than I intended.
As a litigator, Jaci has a passion for storytelling, and she demonstrated that talent as she discussed her path. The first theme that ran through Jaci’s story was the joy that she took in each step of her journey. In a striking moment, she commented that she has loved every job that she has ever had (including her time in Big Law). I had never heard anyone say that, and I’m still pondering the perspective needed to make such a statement.
The second theme that surfaced during our conversation was the unexpected nature of her journey to becoming a GC. She was so happy at her role in Big Law that she never thought that one day she might make the shift to in-house, let alone become a GC. However, one of her law firm mentors took the GC role at Flynn Restaurant Group and asked Jaci to consider joining her. After only a year in-house for Jaci, her mentor went on to another adventure, and Jaci was tapped to take over the GC role. The unique journey of being pulled into the role, rather than pursuing it, was striking to me.
Jaci’s primary advice for those seeking the GC role was to expand areas of expertise, seek stretch projects in our current roles that allow us to contribute beyond our core competencies, and intentionally work on strengthening (not just expanding) our network through introducing people to each other where we think they would benefit from the connection.
It has been said that the best podcasts are those that feel like you are listening in to an interesting conversation taking place at the table next to you at Starbucks. I was fortunate enough to be part of these interesting conversations and invite you to grab your favorite cup of coffee or tea, sit down at the table next to us, and listen in!
Finally, we would love to hear from you. Please send any comments or questions, including any expressions of interest in being a part of the ABA Corporate Governance Committee or its small, but mighty, In-House Subcommittee, to [email protected].