Name: Lucy M. Lopez

Title:  Deputy General Counsel

Company: McKinsey & Company

McKinsey and Company

High Performance Counsel Presents #CafeConLourdes: An Interview with Lucy Lopez.

Our #CafeconLourdes column shines a spotlight on some of the top Latin leaders in the legal industry. One of our goals is to showcase our talent to inspire the younger generation of LatinX leaders because “you cannot be what you cannot see;” and hopefully open the door to some meaningful mentorships and networking opportunities.

Another goal is to educate others in our industry who may not be aware of the extensive pool of talent and diversity of our LatinX legal eagles and what got us here. 

According to the United Nations, there are 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean today. We’re not at all homogeneous. Our experiences and heritages can be quite different. While our skin color and countries of origin make us different, the Latino culture is also unique in many ways, including the degree to which we are highly family oriented, embracing not only our nuclear family but also our extended family, our expressiveness, warmth and other traits, many of which are not usually associated with corporate America, but have been shown to enhance it. Admittedly, it gets complicated to separate pretty accurate generalizations from more problematic stereotypes. One of my central goals for this series is to address these stereotypes using education as a tool to break them down and bring greater understanding.

Thank you for being here with us, Lucy. It feels like yesterday when we met in law school, but it has been a lifetime! And your career has soared exactly as I expected. I do not often meet people with what I call “IT;” you have plenty of IT. Not only are you brilliant and have that elusive power of gravitas, but there is an energy and enthusiasm in everything you do that is truly contagious. I hope your story can inspire others. Let’s dive right in.

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Why don’t you tell us in a few sentences who you are? Quién es Lucy?

Lucy Lopez

Lucy M. Lopez

I am a New Yorker and a Dominican, an American and a citizen of this world who is hell-bent on making it better.  I am a problem-solver, a practical thinker who loves to find solutions, particularly solutions that help the greatest number of people.  I happen to be a lawyer and I love the profession because I believe in the rule of law and in the notion of accountability for our actions.

I was born in sunny Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic where my earliest memories involve sitting under the massive almond tree in the front of our yellow house and day-dreaming about far-away places.  Little did I know that I would indeed end up far away as part of the rebuilding of a family and the pursuit of bigger dreams.  I am the only daughter of a mother and father who were each previously married with six children.  I am the only child of their union, yet child number 13 overall.

When I was eight, I moved with my mother, a brother and a sister to New York, a journey my mother undertook to give us the benefit of a U.S. education.  There was nothing that my mother valued more than education, and so she uprooted us, spreading the family apart so that she could put it back together again in New York, slowly over the course of many years.  That has been the foundation of my life.  I will reserve the details so that I can (try to) enthrall you in the future with a possible memoir, but suffice it to say that any book capturing our story would have many interesting chapters.

I attended New York City public schools where the education was sometimes outstanding and sometimes outrageously delinquent, but I was a committed student, so I was going to learn no matter where you put me.  Suffice it to say that early bilingual education in New York was very well intentioned though not particularly effective.  I finally absorbed the English language when my 6th grade teacher, Ms. Moss, forced each student to read Shakespeare aloud in front of the class every day, putting us all on common ground.

I went on to attend Fordham University where the focus on the development of the whole person and our global society helped me blossom, and then Penn Law school where I enjoyed the study of law but not the unnecessary stress that came with it.  You remember that Lourdes, because you were there with me.  Thank goodness we would get together occasionally to dance to de-stress.

I’ve been practicing law now for over 25 years and nearly every skill in my quiver comes from those early foundational years.

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Tell me 3 or 4 things you consider the most crucial to your professional success.

Lucy Lopez

Lucy M. Lopez

Hard work, of course.  Nothing comes unless you are ready and willing to put in the work it takes to prepare and get results.  Any one of us can be very smart, but if we are not willing to work hard, I’m not sure that we can truly realize our full potential.  I worked hard in college to get to law school.  I worked hard in law school to get to the type of law firm I wanted to work at in New York, and I worked hard at that law firm to develop the necessary technical skills from which to build further.

Curiosity.  I think it is important to bring a learning mindset to everything we do.  It makes life more interesting if we are always open to exploring, learning new things, discovering new areas, solving new problems.  I’m not particularly afraid of the unknown.  It may scare me a bit for a few minutes, but I get excited about jumping in and discovering.

I joined McKinsey from my prior law firm to help develop an M&A service line and develop its attendant risk management protocols globally.  From there, because I was curious, I jumped into private equity, then institutional investments, then leading a Corporate team globally, then supporting an Aerospace & Defense practice (that was pretty complicated!), and now on to leading a legal team across the Americas which covers a wide variety of subject areas such as healthcare, digital and analytics, and the U.S. public sector.  It’s exciting to learn new areas.

A collaborative mindset.  I approach every problem with the assumption that there is a solution that exists somewhere that will probably address every stakeholder’s concerns in some form, albeit imperfectly.  I don’t like to apportion blame (e.g., who caused the problem).  Rather, I focus on the solution and how we get there.  We can return later to the diagnosis of what caused the problem and how we can prevent a recurrence.  I find that this approach helps a ton in disarming people, getting everyone oriented towards the common goal of problem-solving, and setting a positive tone.

Empathy.  Everybody has a story, and a purpose, and a weight that bogs them down.  I like to understand what a person is trying to accomplish so that I can be helpful.  Sometimes your peer, counterpart, client or other stakeholder will not bring the best of themselves to the discussion, but if you remember to bring your empathy, chances are it will be easier to find common ground.  I’ve seen a lot of hardship in my life and so I try to show up prepared to listen and find that point of comprehension.

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Have there been specific people (real or fictional) or pivotal situations/events that have inspired you, helped shape who you are?

Lucy Lopez

Lucy M. Lopez

John Vasily, a Partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, deserves a huge shout-out as he taught me so much of everything I do well.  John is one of the most outstanding lawyers I know, extremely bright yet practical, client service oriented, focused on excellence, a gifted negotiator and draftsman.  John truly apprenticed me, teaching me the importance of every word in a stock purchase agreement.  I also saw John thoughtfully balance his professional commitments against his family life, and I always admired how he prioritized his wife and daughter.  And he took an interest in me and in my then fiancée, now husband.  John invests in people and showed great confidence in me, sending me off to negotiate deals in Latin America.  There was no way I was going to let John down and that made me work harder still.

My mother has of course always been an inspiration and driving force in my life.  She gave up her business in the Dominican Republic to start from scratch here in the United States so that I could have the privilege of a U.S. education.  She had very little in her life and she has given so much.  She taught me the value of compassion and giving back.  Growing up in New York City, there were always people staying with us in our apartment, friends and strangers who needed a place to stay for weeks, months and sometimes years.  Cramped as we were, the twin-size folding bed was a constant staple in our apartment, opened at night in the living room or the hallway for whoever needed a place to stay.

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Lucy Lopez

Lucy M. Lopez

This is going to sound really basic and corny because it is arguably so simple, but one of the greatest achievements for me was passing the New York State bar exam.  That is a lethal exam, the SAT on steroids, and as a native Spanish speaker, I always struggled with standardized tests.  Passing that exam on the first try was significant to me because it represented overcoming the demon that was the English language.  Many had taken the exam and failed it more than once, including some from prominent families with every advantage, and I passed it on the first try.  I was very proud of myself that day.

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Describe a significant challenge you have faced in your career. How did you overcome it? What did you learn from it?

Lucy Lopez

Lucy M. Lopez

The pandemic took hold six months into my new role as Head of Legal for the Americas.  I had a large team of legal professionals to lead and a complicated and important geography to serve.  There was no rule book for this perpetual force majeure, and thankfully my instincts as a people leader kicked in.  I decided to lean heavily into the people mission, supporting our people first and foremost, expressing compassion and gratitude, saying thank you often, listening to colleagues, calling randomly to see if colleagues were okay, providing relief where we could, reorganizing work priorities to focus on critical needs.  And the response was remarkable.  I am incredibly proud of the work of our Legal team who stepped up above and beyond to consistently deliver outstanding support.  Their level of commitment confirmed to me that if you invest in people you will reap extraordinary rewards. 

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

I want to talk about cultural assimilation. Do you feel you have assimilated too much, not enough, or just right? How do you gauge that?

Lucy Lopez

Lucy M. Lopez

Looking back, I think I may have assimilated too much and maybe even given up too much in our journey.  We were very fortunate in that our mother has always been an extremely positive force, someone everyone wanted to be around. That meant that friends and family gravitated to her, she was a pull, and weekends and holidays always meant getting together, eating the foods we loved from our culture, and enjoying music and dancing together (there has always been a good excuse to dance).  But at school and starting out professionally, I sought to fit in, to blend in and be like others so that I could be accepted more easily and quickly.  I did not always share my story, and perhaps in not sharing my story, especially earlier on, I lost the opportunity to show my authentic self.  I have since learned the power and the beauty of sharing who I am and where I come from.  

A perfect example of this is my name.  So many of my teachers in public school simply could not pronounce “Luz”, my given name which means light in Spanish. My best friend since the third grade got tired of the mispronunciation or lack of effort and started calling me “Lucy”, and so I became Lucy.  That is so much easier to pronounce, though one might ask what did I give up in taking on that name?  

And of course, in moving to the United States, our family came a few of us at a time, which meant that for years I had the benefit of one parent but not the other, or some of my siblings but not the others.  A lot of heartbreak comes with that, and the loss is gradual and cumulative.  It is not easy to reunite a family with the passage of time.  In search of our American dream, we gained a lot but we also lost a lot.

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Have you had mentors/sponsors? Have you acted as a mentor/sponsor to others?
Is mentorship/sponsorship important? How? Why?

Lucy Lopez

Lucy M. Lopez

In the last few years, I have had the benefit of valued mentors who have guided me in difficult situations, law firm and accounting partners, private and public company General Counsels, peers in the Legal and Finance functions, and even a retired CEO who has seen just about every situation (he is incredibly shrewd!). Few if any have looked like me. The diversity of perspectives has been invaluable. Because I had such few mentors early in my career, I have made it a point to be a mentor to others, particularly students. I have been a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City for over a decade, and that experience has changed my life and I hope the life of the girls I have been mentoring. Sponsorship is equally critical (note this study, for example, ). I have tried to sponsor others, to speak on their behalf when they are not in the room, so that I can help others advance. They have not always known that I have done that, and there is something quite fun in that!

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

What practical advice do you have for GCs and others seeking to make a positive impact on the progress of DE&I in their organizations and in the legal profession?

Lucy Lopez

Lucy M. Lopez

I would like to see us take this topic seriously.  For example, it does not help organizations to invest in recruiting diverse talent if they will not equally invest in developing that talent.  The only way to make progress is to very deliberately invest in DE&I efforts from end-to-end: set a strategy, implement, track, measure, hold yourself accountable. If it does not result in meaningful progress, push harder and be bolder.  Whatever you do, ensure that your decision-making has the benefit of diverse perspectives; otherwise, your problem-solving will not be as robust and your impact (and performance!) will be limited.

I encourage those interested in this and related topics to read these McKinsey articles.  Each is a compelling call to action:

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Is there any other advice you would give Latino attorneys entering the workforce now?

Lucy Lopez

Lucy M. Lopez

First, own your professional development.  Ensure that you are getting exposure to the areas you want to grow in.

Second, seek mentors; identify the 3-5 people you admire who can be your mentors and guides, and start building and investing in those relationships now.

Third, line up sponsors; find the 3-5 people within your organization (and potentially externally) who will speak on your behalf when you are not in the room.

Fourth, stay connected to search firms as they will play a critical role as you consider options along the way, and you should consider your options often.  These are all important relationships (mentors, sponsors, search firms) you will need to invest in over time – do not make this transactional.

Lastly, build your network broadly, with colleagues, peers, professional associations, in public speaking and publishing content, in nonprofit and other activities outside your work.  Build a broad network of support around you and invest in the whole you.

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

Lourdes Fuentes Slater

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Lucy Lopez

Lucy M. Lopez

To thine own self be true. 1

1. William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Lourdes Slater

About Lourdes

I am the Founder and CEO of Karta Legal LLC, a legal operations and technology management consulting firm. I am graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and a Legal Project Manager.

I have over 20 years of legal operations, technology management, and litigation experience. Throughout my career, as a partner in private practice and in my current role, I have represented governmental and quasi-governmental agencies, as well as publicly-held Fortune 100 companies. I am honored to have been recognized as a Trailblazer by the New York Law Journal for being an “agent of change, thought leader and innovator.” In 2021, my consulting company, Karta Legal LLC, was named a Legal Technology Trailblazer by the prestigious National Law Journal. This award is very meaningful because our young company was selected amongst a choice of titans for its fresh approach to legal tech innovation. It is also very meaningful to us because it appears that we are the only 100% women and minority owned company on that distinguished list.

At Karta Legal, I have assembled an entire ecosystem to help your organization in its legal innovation journey. In my team, I have experts in process mapping, technology, AI, cybersecurity, data science, e-discovery, project management, and litigation support. We know what works, what doesn’t, and how much it should cost.

My goal is innovation and re-designing the delivery of legal services. The path to innovation is simple. First, focus on the people. Second, design or redesign the process. Third, pick the right technology for your specific needs and your budget. To achieve those goals, I use a variety of design thinking and business process improvement tools selected from Lean Six Sigma and Agile Project Management methodologies. Over the years, I have curated and tailored these tools to fit the needs of the legal industry and have applied them successfully. Included in my innovation goal is the diversification of talent in the legal industry because, simply put, it is good for business.

Together, let’s design the future of the profession.

HPC

About High Performance Counsel (HPC)

Founded by international lawyer and successful legal technology founder, David Kinnear, High Performance Counsel (HPC) is the leading business media resource covering the modern legal industry and the people, technology and economic forces driving its future. Described as the “voice of the modern legal industry” HPC provides world-class media coverage via one-to-one feature interviews with leading legal professionals and the publication of key insights via articles, white papers and industry commentary.

Visit us online here: https://HPC.law
Follow us on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/HipCounsel
Connect with David Kinnear on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidkinnear/
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For more information, click here.

Lucy M Lopez

About Lucy

For more than 20 years, Lucy M. Lopez has been in-house at McKinsey & Company, a $10+ billion global, management consulting firm with operations in 67 countries. As a Deputy General Counsel and the Head of Legal for the Americas, she leads a distinctive, business-oriented team of more than 70 legal professionals.

A bicultural and bilingual lawyer with native-level fluency in Spanish, Lucy has had extensive impact globally. She has helped launch new business lines; closed commercial deals with Fortune 500 multinationals; supported the integration of newly acquired companies; and served as the project lead for the opening of offices in 10+ countries.

Lucy started her legal career at Debevoise & Plimpton, where she was a corporate lawyer in the firm’s International and Latin America practice groups. She earned her JD at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and her BS from Fordham University, where she graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.

Passionate about making the world a better place, Lucy is President of the Board of Trustees of Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC. She has also served on Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s Hispanic Advisory Council.

Recently, Lucy was honored with the LatinoJustice Trailblazer award, given to Latina lawyers whose work inspires the pursuit of professional, political, and social achievements.

Professional and Community Leadership

  • President of the Board of Trustees (2019 to 2021) of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, founded in 1904, one of the nation’s oldest and largest youth mentoring organizations, $10+ million budget.
  • 2014 recognition by Mayor Bill de Blasio for outstanding efforts to improve New York City supporting communities in need.  2019 recognition by BBBS of NYC for 10 years’ extraordinary commitment to service as a mentor.
  • Served on Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s Hispanic Advisory Council.
  • Member of New York City Bar and New York State Bar Associations, American Bar and American Corporate Counsel Associations, and Corporate Counsel Women of Color.

Further information / press inquiries:

High Performance Counsel ™ (HPC)
NY: +1 (917) 886-3222
London: +44 (07547) 128191