Throughout my tenure with Evers Legal, I have had the honor and privilege to chat with some of the most successful in-house lawyers in the business. In the past two years, I’ve interviewed a lawyer at the world’s largest retailer, two in the higher education field, and one from a well-known underwear brand, as well as several others from equally interesting industries.
Among this diverse group of professionals is years of exceptional legal and business experience. In every interview, I ask about the advice they would give a young lawyer hoping to be a general counsel someday. While several, consistent themes always rise to the surface, each one of these lawyers offers very personal and valuable advice from a unique perspective.
Here are some advice highlights from our 2015 and 2016 eNews GC profiles, when asked: What advice would you give a young lawyer who would like to be the GC of a company someday? More
Karen Shaff may not have known at an early age that she was destined to be a lawyer, but her family and friends did.
Shaff grew up in Clinton, Iowa, where she attended elementary and high school. Shaff decided to head to Northwestern University for her undergraduate degree and majored in political science. “We used to travel to Chicago a lot when I was a kid, and I loved the city. Being in the area along with being a top tier school, made Northwestern an easy choice,” she says of her decision to attend the prestigious Evanston, Ill.-based university.
But even by her senior year of college, Shaff was unsure what she wanted as a career, so she decided to take the LSAT. Possibly influenced by her lawyer father, she applied to and was accepted into Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa. “At the time, I really hadn’t thought about going to law school,” she says. “But when I told my friends and family, they all just knew that would be my next step.” More
As the SVP of human resources, general counsel and secretary of Jockey International, Mark Jaeger is right where he wants to be in his career. Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Jaeger was a good student with an interest in business and law. As an undergrad at University of Iowa, Jaeger focused his studies on economics, but he knew he wanted to become a lawyer. So after completing his undergraduate studies, Jaeger headed straight to law school—attending Southern Illinois University.
But from there, Jaeger’s career path didn’t follow that of today’s typical general counsel. Unlike most GCs, who typically spend a few years in a law firm before crossing over to the business side, Jaeger landed an in-house gig right out of law school, at manufacturing company Roper Corp. in Kankakee, Ill.
“I wasn’t targeting in-house positions at that point,” Jaeger explains. “I was just looking for opportunities to practice law close to my hometown of Chicago.” More
For F. Willis (Bill) Caruso Jr., law was in his blood. Both of his parents, his mother’s parents, and several siblings and extended family members were all lawyers he admired as he grew up in the west suburbs of Chicago. It seemed he was destined to be a lawyer, but Caruso had his sights set on a different career—medicine.
However, once he entered the University of Wisconsin for undergrad and started pursuing the classes that would lead him to medical school, his affinity for the field waned. Despite the fact that he had always excelled in math and science, organic chemistry—a requirement for any pre-med program—just wasn’t working out for him. So he shifted his focus to the obvious one: law. And it just clicked. More
Growing up in small town Morrilton, Arkansas, Alan Bryan always thought he’d be a doctor. It was a clear path—and one that made sense for Bryan, who excelled academically in middle school and high school, and loved the idea of spending his life helping people.
But when Bryan landed at University of Arkansas and started defining his skill set, becoming a doctor seemed less appealing. “I came to the realization that I was not thrilled about working in hospitals — and that can be pretty important in the medical field — so I changed course,” he says. “It hit me that I was really better-suited to help people and businesses through persuasiveness and problem-solving, and not so much in the medical context.” More
Janice Block was destined to be a lawyer. She grew up in northwest Indiana, her father was in private practice and her mother was an English teacher. But when Block was in sixth grade, her mother decided to get a law degree of her own. Family dinner table conversations from that point forward were lively, with discussions revolving around hot legal topics. And when Block and her sister had a day off of school, their mother packed them up and took them to class with her. “I remember sitting in an evidence class and thinking it was the coolest thing ever,” Block says.
Excelling in her studies, Block became only the second person in her high school to get accepted to and attend Princeton University as an undergrad. While going to law school seemed inevitable, she also had a passion for journalism and took a year after graduation to get her master’s at Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. After finishing that program, she had the choice to be an anchor on a daytime news broadcast in Montgomery, Ala., or a street reporter in Davenport, Iowa.
“So I decided it was time to go to law school,” she says. “My friend from Princeton, Brad Smith—who went on to become the GC of Microsoft—suggested Columbia. I went for a visit and loved it.” More
Need holiday gift ideas for your career-aspiring family, friends and co-workers? Your shopping just got easier!
Eight current and former general counsel—all of whom are highly successful lawyers who have been profiled on Evers Legal’s blog—talk about the books that most influenced their lives and careers.
Check out this list of books (in no particular order) that helped to pave the impressive careers of some of the in-house bar’s top lawyers. More
One thing is for sure, ever since Bonnie Michael can remember, she wanted to be a lawyer. Legend has it, she announced to her parents, at about six years old, that she would grow up one day to become a successful attorney. The youngster then sat down at her kitchen table, as the story goes, to write letters to deans of some of the country’s top law schools—Yale and Harvard were both on the list—to ask them what exactly she had to do to achieve this feat.
Michael herself doesn’t actually remember this story, but her proud mother has told it time and again. What Michael does remember is recognizing at a young age the importance of the work lawyers do and working hard to realize a goal she had set for herself so long ago. More
Born into a family of high-achieving academics, Cornell Boggs enjoyed a unique childhood to say the least—and success was almost certain. His father was the first person to receive a PhD in zoology from Howard University and went on to serve as a professor at Virginia State College. His mother was an accomplished teacher, who instilled the value of education in her children. Living in the 1960s segregated south, Boggs entered private school where he and his siblings were among very few black children in their classrooms.
And in 1972, after his parents separated, Boggs’ life headed down another extraordinary road when his mother joined the U.S. Department of Defense’s school system as a teacher. “We got on a plane to Germany not knowing exactly where we would be living until we landed,” Boggs explains. “We ended up in Karlsruhe, where I went to junior high. It was totally different than the American south.”
Cornell lived in Europe with his family until he graduated high school—spending some time in Vicenza, Italy, where his mother worked as a teacher and met Cornell’s stepfather, a Command Sergeant Major in the Army. When his mother was promoted to assistant principal (and later principal) of one of the DoD schools, the Boggses moved back to Wurzburg, Germany, where Cornell graduated high school. He then headed to northwest Indiana to attend college at Valparaiso University. More
Doug Beck moved around a lot as a kid. Born in the western suburbs of Chicago, Beck moved to Kentucky, New Jersey, then back to Chicago, then on to Tennessee and Nevada during childhood, thanks to his father’s job as a technology executive for various companies. But Beck always felt most at home in the Windy City.
An avid reader and writer who wanted to utilize those skills within a respected profession, Beck decided early on he would become a lawyer. So when it came time to go to college, he stayed in Illinois—attending University of Illinois, Champaign. “I knew back then I would go to law school, so U of I was not only a great school to prepare me for that, it also was a state school with reasonable tuition. Ultimately it was law school that would determine future opportunities,” Beck explained.
Graduating from U of I after only three years and getting into Northwestern University School of Law, he decided to take a year and move to Ecuador, where he taught English. After he graduated from law school, Beck joined Seyfarth Shaw as a litigation associate—launching the career that would one day land him in the GC seat of Hub Group, one of the country’s largest freight transportation management companies. More