Sonya: When did you first realize that you wanted to become an attorney? What first drew you to a career as an attorney? What do you enjoy most about your career now?
Gail: I knew in elementary school that I wanted to be an attorney. My Uncle is a Judge in NY and at the time I idolized him as one of the smartest people I knew. He told me that as a lawyer I could create a career that was versatile enough to do great things and achieve many successes.
Sonya: Have there been specific people (real or fictional) or pivotal situations/events that have inspired you, helped shape your career?
Gail: I have been fortunate in that I’ve had fantastic stakeholders at very key points in my career. Men and women, of all backgrounds, have been there to help push me through to the next level. They have all challenged me to exceed my own expectations. Lawyers and non-lawyers alike.
Sonya: Are there particular traits that you believe successful attorneys share? Traits that you believe you have yourself and which you look for in hiring outside and in-house counsel? How about common traits you’ve observed in other successful GCs?
Gail: The trait I look for when hiring in-house counsel, besides the obvious, is hunger. Hunger to do more, be more, learn more. There is nothing like it – invariably, all individuals that have this trait end up being fantastic additions to the team.
The trait I look for in outside counsel, besides the obvious, is whether or not this relationship partner is going to make me feel like I am the most important client they have. If I feel like I am the most important client you have, if not the only client you have, then you have mastered the art of customer service. It is not a fairytale and I have seen it a number of times. I tend to stick with those relationship partners and have developed a list of go to’s. I have to admit that I try to rotate that list so that I am supporting all those partners that have supported me on a rotating basis.
Sonya: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of? What would you like your legacy to be in your company/law department? In the legal profession?
Gail: I am most proud of the attorneys that I have managed that have gone on to succeed in bigger and better roles after they leave me. Best feeling in the world to know that you were able to pay it forward.
Sonya: Have you had mentors/sponsors? Have you acted as a mentor/sponsor to others? Is mentorship/sponsorship important? How? Why?
Gail: I have benefitted as much from the time I have spent mentoring other attorneys as I have from the mentorship that I have received throughout my career.
Sonya: Think about the legal profession over the course of the next ten years. What do you see as the big changes that are coming which you believe will most significantly impact the profession and the role of the GC/in-house legal department?
Gail: It is likely that many GCs have identified the same thing – I can’t believe that the current billable hour rate charged by many large firms is sustainable. Large firms are likely to only be sought out by extremely large companies with bet the company types of matters. Otherwise, why on earth would I pay $900 per hour for a 1st year or junior associate to provide general advice and counsel?!
Sonya: Describe a significant challenge you have faced in your life or career. How did you overcome it? What did you learn from it?
Gail: The lesson I had to learn in life and in my career was how to bring my authentic self to the job and be okay with it, and teach others that it was ok. I think it starts with becoming comfortable in your own skin, and having confidence that what you bring to the table automatically allows you to be you in all circumstances…well, most circumstances.
Sonya: What does Diversity & Inclusion mean to you? How important is D&I to you personally? As a GC? To your company/legal department? What advice do you have for GCs and others seeking to make a positive impact on the progress of D&I in their organizations and in the legal profession?
Gail: I view diversity through the lens of inclusion. I believe this is necessary to incent a broader population to embrace the cause. As a GC I am always looking at my staffing, the make-up of my relationship partners, as well as the external staffing of my matters to ensure that there is balance. Sometimes it is out of my control externally, but when I can control (which is 95% of the time) I am diligent. It is hard to say what is important to my “company”, but I can tell you that this is an imperative for my CEO and he is driving the tone from the top which is important. He is leading by example and that is one of the reasons I love where I work and who I work for.
Sonya: If you were not General Counsel of your company (or of any company or even a lawyer at all), what career do you think you would most like to pursue?
Gail: I would own a tiki bar on a beach and have a wave runner rental hut right next to it.
Sonya: Knowing what you know now about being a lawyer and a GC, if you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be? At what point in your past would you give yourself that advice?
Gail: Professionally, I have been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and to be ready for each opportunity as it presented itself. Now, for my personal life, that’s another story…
Sonya: Tell me something fun about yourself. A personal skill or hobby that, while not directly related to your day job, you feel makes you more well-rounded, helps you be better at your day job and/or helps relax and focus you to do your job as a GC better.
Gail: My family, friends and community mean the world to me. And reading a good book is always a good thing!
Sonya: Hashtag/Brand yourself in 5 words or less (For example, mine is #SelfiesWithSonya )