Marjorie Harris Loeb, Mayer Brown

by | Dec 19, 2016


When you ask successful women about their career paths, at some point in the conversation, you’re likely to hear some variation of the phrase, “I was at the right place at the right time.” Men, on the other hand, are more likely to take full credit for their success. Arguably, women should resist the urge to attribute career advancement to luck or fate, and be assertive about taking credit for their career successes.

Marjorie Loeb, who recently joined Mayer Brown, as a partner in its Chicago office, embraces this idea. “As women, we need to own our successes,” she says. “Make the most of every opportunity that comes along, and know what to do with those opportunities. While opportunities may come along by luck or chance, your success is attributable to recognizing the opportunity, and being flexible enough to take the risk and make the jump.”

Previously senior vice president and general counsel at Fiat Chrysler, Loeb’s recent professional move is illustrative of this thoughtful risk taking.

Many general counsel see the move to a law firm as something akin to being a gentleman farmer—with a light workload, it’s a nice way to ease into retirement while helping the firm attract new clients. Loeb, who’s 52, says neither she nor the firm viewed this as a quasi-retirement job. Instead, after helping shepherd Chrysler through the aftermath of the auto industry bailout and its merger with Fiat, she was ready to take the risk of embracing a new career opportunity and make the jump back into the law firm world after 14 years working in-house. (In addition to her time at Chrysler and FCA NV, as the merged Fiat Chrysler company is known, Loeb also worked in-house at automotive parts supplier Delphi.)

Advising auto companies developing cars of the future

Now a member of Mayer Brown’s corporate and securities practice, Loeb will also play a key role in the firm’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Initiative, which aims to make the firm a go-to resource for commercial, regulatory, data security and compliance matters relating to connected and autonomous vehicle technology.

“One of the things that continues to fascinate me about the automotive business is its complexity,” Loeb says. “A car is designed, engineered and manufactured with as much high-tech software and hardware as a complex computer operating system to even stricter regulatory compliance standards and operating in a very dynamic environment. At the same time, customer preferences are changing rapidly—so that carefully designed, engineered and manufactured product must be as agile as a smart phone app—and now we’re moving toward autonomous and connected vehicles, so both ends of that spectrum are escalating.”

The result, Loeb says, is a need for lawyers who not only have a holistic understanding of the industry and the players involved, but who can also provide strategic guidance in a number of practice areas—safety, regulatory, cybersecurity, privacy and intellectual property among them—as the industry undergoes a paradigm shift.

“One of Mayer Brown’s strengths in approaching [the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Initiative] is our regulatory practice, particularly the DC office’s forward-looking involvement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This is important, because regulators are also struggling to figure out how they will address safety issues and other concerns.

“The firm [also] has the expertise structuring technology transactions, from infrastructure outsourcing to applications development, I have the familiarity with the commercial needs of the automotive manufacturers seeking to purchase software, systems and components to adapt and integrate the technology into their products.”

The Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Initiative also includes lawyers from the cybersecurity, privacy and intellectual property practices.

Leadership in a male-dominated industry

Although Fiat’s legal department was fairly evenly split along gender lines, that is the exception in many parts of the automotive industry.

Loeb acknowledges that attracting more women to historically male-dominated industries presents challenges—even for those companies looking to hire more women.

“Companies that are trying to attract the best and top women have a lot of competition,” she says. “The auto companies haven’t traditionally been the most flexible to attract and keep women throughout their careers, because they haven’t historically taken a long-term view of women’s careers. But that’s starting to change.”

On the flip side, she says women also bear some of the burden for helping breaking down the barriers.

“Women need to get to know and understand the business,” Loeb says, “and be a part of the business. You can’t sit on the sidelines. If you’re working in an automotive company, you can’t be afraid of math and engineering concepts. You don’t need to know how to engineer the car, but you better be able to understand how the business runs and how the numbers are driven.

“When I look at who are the folks that excel in [male-dominated] industries, many have a math, science or engineering background,” she says. “You have to speak the language of the client teams you’re working with, or make an effort to do it. Because what they’re looking for—regardless of your sex—is a business partner, and you have to be that business partner.”

And regardless of the industry, she says women lawyers – particularly those who are younger shouldn’t prematurely derail their careers in anticipation of life events that aren’t happening anytime soon.

“Don’t make choices before you have to, and don’t close off opportunities because you’re planning for an event that isn’t even on the horizon,” she says. “I don’t know how many young women I talk to at age 23 or 24 who talk about how they aren’t going to pursue a particular career because they want to get married and have a family. Hopefully they will if that is their goal, but when and maybe they can establish themselves so they have choices down the road, maybe they won’t. Why don’t you wait until you actually have to make a choice to make it?  Instead, ask yourself, is this opportunity going to be good for me? Will it help me grow? Will it give me skills that I need or want for the next step? Will I build good connections? And can I do it at this particular moment in my career, rather than based on what might happen 10 years from now?”

In other laterals news:

BakerHostetler has recruited Carol Van Cleef to join the firm as a partner in its Washington, D.C., office. She is part of the firm’s financial services industry and privacy and data protection teams. Van Cleef comes to BakerHostetler from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, where she chaired the firm’s global payments practice.

Jennifer Molnar has rejoined Baker & McKenzie as a partner in the North American tax practice. Previously at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, she is resident in the Washington, D.C., office. Christina Conlin has joined the firm as counsel, resident in Chicago, where she will be part of the North America international commercial practice. Conlin was previously chief compliance officer for McDonald’s Corp.’s European markets.

Two lateral partners have joined DLA Piper. Nancy Victory joins the Washington, D.C., office from Wiley Rein, where she chaired the wireless practice. She will co-chair the telecom practice at DLA Piper. Rachel Ehrlich Albanese joins the restructuring practice from Akin Gump. She is a partner in the New York office.

Aviva Yakren has joined Sidley Austin’s real estate group as a partner in the New York office, and Elizabeth Shea Fries has joined as a partner in the investment funds, advisers and derivatives practice, resident in the Boston office.

Ropes & Gray has hired Helen Croke as a partner in its London office. Croke, who was previously a private equity and M&A partner at Travers Smith, is part of the private equity practice.

Lauren Friedman and Lucila Hemmingsen have joined Kirkland & Ellis as partners in the international arbitration practice, and Katherine A. Rocco has joined as a partner in the antitrust and competition practice. Friedman was previously a senior associate at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, New York, and Hemmingsen was an associate at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York. Rocco was an associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. All three women are resident in the firm’s New York office.

Sutherland Asbill & Brennan has hired Kristina Kopf Thomas as a partner in the real estate group, resident in the Atlanta office. She was previously a partner at King & Spalding.

Cherie Owen and Lisa Ropple have joined Jones Day. Owen will be counsel in the government relations practice, working from the Washington, D.C., office. She was previously deputy assistant general counsel in the procurement law division of the Government Accountability Office. Ropple is a partner in the Boston office and part of the firm’s cybersecurity, privacy and data protection, and government regulation practices. She was previously associate general counsel and vice president in charge of litigation and government investigations at Staples, Inc.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has hired Kristin Linsley as a litigation partner in the San Francisco office. She was previously at Munger, Tolles & Olson.

Michelle Keen has joined White & Case’s soon-to-open Melbourne office as a partner. She was previously at Herbert Smith Freehills. The firm also recently welcomed Virginia Chavez Romano, who joins the New York office as a partner in the global white collar practice. Romano previously worked at the US Department of Justice, where she was an associate deputy attorney general and executive director of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.

WilmerHale has recruited Hallie B. Levin to join the firm as a partner in the New York office. Levis is a member of the litigation/controversy Department.

Nicole Friedlander has joined Sullivan & Cromwell as special counsel in the litigation group. She joins the firm from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where she served as chief of the Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.

Reed Smith has hired Maria Earley as a partner in its global financial industry group. Earley, who will be resident in the Washington, D.C., office, was previously at Sidley Austin. She also worked as an enforcement attorney with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Tracy Bacigalupo has joined Morrison & Foerster, New York, as a partner in the corporate practice. Bacigalupo was previously a partner at Foley & Lardner.

Squire Patton Boggs has recruited Leah Brownlee to rejoin the firm as of counsel in the global corporate practice. Brownlee, who is resident in the Cleveland office, was previously executive vice president of compliance and operations and corporate secretary at Cleveland BioLabs, Inc.

Sabina Comis has joined Dechert, Paris, as a partner in the tax group.

Goodwin Procter has hired Veronica McGregor as a partner in the San Francisco office. A member of the firm’s financial industry and fintech practices, McGregor previously was at Hogan Lovells.

Alexandra Kambouris Alberstadt and Aviva L. Grossman are among a team of investment management lawyers joining Perkins Coie, New York, as partners. Both of the women were previously with Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel.

Covington & Burling has recruited Elaine Whiteford as a partner in the European dispute resolution. She will be resident in the firm’s London office. Whiteford was previously at King & Wood Mallesons. The firm has also hired Pamela Forrest as of counsel in its food, drug, and device practice, resident in the Washington, D.C., office.

Louise Nelson has been named UCLA vice chancellor of legal affairs and associate general counsel. Previously she was senior vice president and assistant general counsel for Hilton Worldwide.

Patent trial lawyer Lisa Kattan has joined Baker Botts’ intellectual property practice group as a partner. She is based in the Washington, D.C., office. Previously, Kattan was a senior investigative attorney at the International Trade Commission’s Office of Unfair Import Investigations.

Foley & Lardner has hired Kimberly Ashby and Jennifer L. Rathburn as partners, and Jill S. Wright as special counsel. Ashby joins the firm’s construction litigation practice, resident in the Orlando office. She was previously a partner at Akerman. Rathburn rejoins the firm from Quarles & Brady. She is a member of the firm’s privacy, security & information management, technology transactions and outsourcing and health care practices, resident in the Milwaukee office. Wright hails from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. She works in the Washington, D.C., office and is a member of the firm’s health care practice.

Andrea Cataneo has joined Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton as a partner in its corporate practice, resident in its New York office. Cataneo previously was at Sichenzia Ross Friedman Ference.

Bryan Cave has recruited Allison Eckstrom as a partner in the firm’s labor and employment group, resident in the Irvine office.

Beth A. Caseman has rejoined Venable as counsel in the Washington, D.C., office. She is a member of the firm’s nonprofit organizations practice. Previously Caseman senior vice president and acting general counsel for Volunteers of America, Inc.

Financial transactions lawyer Vanessa C. Gage has joined Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman as a partner in the San Francisco office. A member of the transportation finance practice, Gage was previously at Reed Smith.

Christine Soares has joined Cozen O’Connor as a member of its energy, environmental and public utilities practice. Previously a partner at Fox Rothschild, Soares is resident in Cozen O’Connor’s Cherry Hill, N.J., office.

Crowell & Moring has recruited Sarah Gilbert as a partner in its New York office. Previously a partner at Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke, Gilbert is a member of the firm’s commercial litigation group.