As Assistant General Counsel at Microsoft Corporation, I lead the legal support function to Microsoft’s US Central Region Enterprise & Partner group team that is made up of over 1,000 sales, services, technical and marketing professionals based in an 18 state region who are focused on selling and deploying Microsoft’s solutions to our large enterprise customers. I spend approximately 75% of my time shaping and negotiating a wide range of contracts with our customers and partners and I spend approximately 25% of time advising on general corporate legal issues.
I’ve had the unique distinction of always practicing as an in-house lawyer throughout my career for some outstanding technology companies. Upon graduation from Columbia Law School I started my legal career in-house at IBM and worked in Norwalk, Connecticut, Boulder, Colorado and Chicago. After IBM I worked in the Accenture legal department for nearly 5 years here in Chicago. After Accenture I joined Microsoft and I’ve been with the Microsoft legal team based here in Chicago for the past 13+ years.
How has your practice evolved in the last few years?
One area that my practice has evolved over the last few years is that our current data-centric environment has required that I develop expertise in the growing practice areas of data privacy and cybersecurity. When I first joined Microsoft the solutions that we sold to our large customers were mainly on premise software solutions and Microsoft had limited access to our customer’s data. Nowadays Microsoft is selling cloud solutions powered by our data centers and we have significant access to our customer’s data. As a result, customers are very interested in understanding the steps that Microsoft takes to protect their vitally important data and I spend a lot of time with customers and their legal teams talking about our cloud computing contract terms and how we inspire trust in the Microsoft cloud.
Over the next few years data usage will continue to explode especially as more customers use cloud computing tools, the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), and emerging technologies like personal digital assistants/chatbots (what Microsoft calls “Conversations as a Platform”). As a result, data protection considerations will be paramount for every organization. In addition, I believe that worldwide regulators will be even more active on compliance-related issues. As a result, all organizations need to take compliance very seriously and embrace a culture of compliance.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
I’ll offer two pieces of advice. My first advice is to always embrace what world renowned Stanford University Professor Dr. Carol Dweck calls the “growth mindset” versus a “fixed mindset”. In order to properly represent our clients and our profession, lawyers should constantly be learning and have an insatiable appetite for curiosity. Here is a recent article that I wrote about lawyers and the “growth mindset”.
My second advice is network, network and do more networking. As you embark on your legal career work hard in cultivating your network. There are so many opportunities to network nowadays via legal/professional organizations, volunteer work, social media activity, etc… As you network and meet others also think about how you can help them – without having any expectation of receiving something in return.
What’s one technological device, application or tool you could not function without?
The one application that I could not function without is Microsoft’s cloud-based and highly secure productivity solution called Office 365. Office 365 contains key tools like Outlook, Skype for Business, OneNote, Word, PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and Yammer. Since it is cloud-based, just by having access to the internet I have anytime and anywhere access to these tools on multiple devices so that I can provide more impactful legal support to my business clients. In fact, the 1500+ legal professionals in Microsoft’s legal department use Office 365 every day to be more productive and collaborative. If anyone is interested in understanding how the Microsoft legal team uses Office 365 to achieve more, please feel free to contact me.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
Civility and professionalism are important qualities that I need to embrace every single day as a legal representative for a highly visible company like Microsoft. During my career I’ve been involved in some challenging situations where other lawyers or business professionals have not acted with the appropriate level of professionalism or civility – especially during some particularly intense contract negotiation sessions. I have learned that when those situations occur, it is always important to “take the high road” and remain positive, courteous and professional.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy spending time with my family, traveling and jogging on the Chicago Lakefront. I’m currently coaching my 4-year-old son’s baseball team in the Oz Park Baseball Association and I’m enjoying every moment of it. This summer our big family trip is to explore Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone Park in Wyoming. I really enjoy jogging on the Lakefront and try to go three times a week – although I’m probably more of a “Clydesdale” as a runner – slow and steady.