Throughout 2014, I sat down with 10 fascinating individuals who also happen to be successful legal department leaders. From a former Dallas Cowboys football player to a former 2nd Lieutenant in the US Marine Corp with several tours under his belt to a former X-ray technician-turned-options trader—each of our interviewees had a unique, and often surprising, story to tell.
Although this is a very diverse group of individuals, they all have at least one thing in common: They are now accomplished lawyers serving as leaders in their legal departments and mentors to the young lawyers and business people around them.
In addition to telling the unique story of each GC featured in our Counsel Q&As, we like to relay advice from our profiled guests for achieving similar success. More
Going from x-ray technician to Executive Vice president, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Tampico Beverages, Inc., a multinational beverage company, it’s safe to say Pedro DeJesus chose the road less traveled.
As far as childhood education goes, DeJesus was far from typical. He started elementary school a year early, and by the time he was finishing up second grade, his teacher informed Pedro’s parents that he was too advanced for third. He jumped immediately into fourth grade.
A high school graduate at only 16, DeJesus really didn’t know what he wanted to do next. So he enrolled in a local community college on Chicago’s Northwest side and studied to become an x-ray technologist. After obtaining an associate’s degree, DeJesus worked for several years as an x-ray tech, but got the itch to do something different. A stroll past the Chicago Mercantile Exchange provided the answer. More
Growing up an only child to hard-working parents in a small Midwest town, Christine Carsen excelled in school and set her dreams high. Taking note that the most successful people in her hometown donned either the title of “doctor” or “lawyer,” Carsen decided she would make a career out of one of these two respected professions.
When Carsen landed at University of Iowa, she first tried her hand as a pre-med student, but decided it wasn’t for her. Because the university didn’t have a pre-law program, Carsen immediately shifted gears to major in history, with a specific intent on going into law. More
Rich Veys knew one thing when he was entering college: He was going to be an engineer. As a high school student, he excelled in math and science, so his obvious course of action was to follow in the footsteps of his dad and older brother, both of whom were engineers.
But once the Omaha-native arrived at the University of Nebraska and began studying political science, he developed an interest in social issues. “It was the early 1970s, and there was a lot more social consciousness at the time,” Veys explains. “Social issues were huge.”
It was at that point that his focus began to shift from engineering to public policy. As he approached graduation, higher education in engineering was off the table and Veys found himself deciding between a master’s degree in public administration and juris doctorate. A year and a half later, he landed at the University of Illinois College of Law and started down the path that would lead him from Omaha to Chicago to Ohio and back to Chicago, touching computer technology, equipment leasing, management consulting and consumer products industries all along the way. More
Wendy Hufford likes the idea of giving back what she’s received—and many young lawyers can thank her for that.
As the Vice President, Deputy General Counsel and Assistant Corporate Secretary of global manufacturing company ITT Corp., Hufford owns a lot of responsibility. Throughout her legal career, she has cultivated a wide set of skills that primed her for her current post. But she also credits her focus on litigation and regulatory issues earlier in her career with setting her up to be the lawyer she is today—and she shares that wealth of knowledge with other young lawyers in her department and beyond.
She herself had good role models. Hufford grew up in a small family-oriented suburb of New York City with very supportive parents, who encouraged their daughter to work hard to achieve her goals. More
Joe Perkins, Deputy GC and Legal Quality Champion, Cummins
Growing up in Richmond, Ind., to hard-working parents, Joe Perkins may initially come off as your average … well … Joe.
But Perkins’ life took shape in a way most Midwesterners—or anyone, for that matter—would only dream of. With parents who always encouraged him to do well in anything he worked on, Perkins excelled in high school. So much so, in fact, his academic achievements caught the attention of one of his teachers who encouraged Perkins to apply to Ivy League colleges.
After high school, Perkins found himself packing his bags and heading to New Jersey to begin his freshman year at Princeton University. “The day I got accepted was really exciting for my family,” Perkins says. “My parents, although hard-working folks, never went to a four-year college, and here I had the chance to do that—and at such a well-respected school.” Particularly fond of issues around public policy, Perkins studied politics at Princeton, and took some classes at its acclaimed Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs. More
Native North Carolinian Anne Fitzgerald didn’t grow up wanting to be a lawyer. She envisioned herself, rather, donning a pair of sea legs and living the adventurous life of a scuba diver.
After she finished her undergraduate studies at Duke University, Fitzgerald took a year off, working in Australia with Operation Raleigh, a London-based organization that offered its participants the opportunity to circumnavigate the world doing community service. During this time, Fitzgerald conducted research on the mallee fowl, but she also found herself living her dream: working with the Victorian Archeological Society, scuba diving off the coast of Southern Australia mud-mapping shipwrecks.
“I was a big scuba diver and thought I could do that as part of my career, but after a year in a cold wetsuite, the reality of living that life wasn’t appealing as a 30-year plan,” Fitzgerald says. More
Even as a child, Curt Kramer knew he would go to law school, but never really bought into the idea of actually practicing law. His father—a successful lawyer with his own, small private practice in Boston—impressed upon his son that the profession was a noble one and instilled in Kramer an appreciation for the legal system.
“It can take your kids away from you, it can put you in jail, it can tell you how much in taxes to pay,” Kramer recalls thinking about the law. “So I figured, if there’s any schmuck I’m going to listen to out there, it’s going to be me.”
Despite the fact that Kramer was reluctant to commit himself to a career in law, he graduated from Quinnipiac School of Law in Connecticut in 1995. And after receiving an LLM from Georgetown University, he did what he thought he wouldn’t do—he joined a Washington, D.C., law firm. More
During his junior year of high school in 1982, Bill Weber had a bright academic future ahead of him. The Decatur, Ga., native planned to apply to three prestigious colleges, the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, but he had a problem: he had no idea how his family would be able to pay for any of them.
Then, during a trip with the Valley Forge Freedom Foundation late that school year, the course of his academic future and life would make a sharp turn. Traveling back toward Georgia, the group of students on the trip stopped off in Annapolis, Md., to visit the Naval Academy—the United States Navy’s service academy and, at the time, the most difficult school in the country to get into. Weber learned that, if he were among the fortunate few to get into the academy, his entire college tuition would be paid in full with his commitment of five years active duty post graduation. Facing exorbitant tuition bills from the other schools, Weber took a leap of faith, secured an appointment to Navy from Senator Sam Nunn and began his military career in summer 1983. More
Alex Green always knew he wanted to be a lawyer. In fact, he always knew he wanted to be a general counsel. Since high school, he recalls, becoming a lawyer was his goal—and nothing was going to get in the way.
But his path to the GC seat wasn’t exactly a typical one. Green graduated from Indiana University with a degree in business in 1987. But before jumping into a suit and tie, he donned a different uniform—that of a Dallas Cowboys football player. Green signed as a free agent, played for half a season, then headed to his hometown of Chicago.
In the Windy City, Green landed a job at American National Bank and began preparing for the LSAT. The next year, he headed to Northwestern University Law School and started down the path that would ultimately lead to the top legal spot at CareerBuilder, the largest online employment website in the United States. More