to help build the legal department. He
decided to bring in a senior person in various areas of law. So he hired four of us,
and said, “OK, go figure it all out.”
Q: How did you become GC of ConAgra?
A: Sharpe’s goal was never to be the GC of
ConAgra. He had been in various senior
legal roles, and that wasn’t where his passion lay. He wanted to have the reporting
line off his plate, and that was to my benefit.
I was appointed GC in 2009.
Q: What interested you about in-house
practice vs. law firm work?
A: It really was the balance issue. It’s just
as hard in-house and just as meaningful.
It’s tough, but a bit more predictable.
The thing I didn’t expect was just how
many issues come across an in-house lawyer’s desk that would never go outside and
accepting that you will take on greater
breadth than you previously had.
Q: What do you like about working as a
priorities to keep
my team engaged
is a critical part
GC of a Fortune 500 company?
A: The diversity of my day. I get to spend
time on people matters, strategy, pressing
legal issues, sustainability and external
relations issues, and every one of those
efforts is in collaboration with other
engaged colleagues. We’re all focused on
creating shareholder value.
Q: What do you love most about being a
A: While as a profession we are blamed for
creating disputes, we’re also a profession
that solves problems. I get to spend my
time developing strong knowledge of facts
and an understanding of goals. I put creativity to work coming up with solutions.
It’s required that you see the big picture. It
provides a lot of intellectual stimulation.
Q: What is the most challenging part of
your job with ConAgra?
A: Like many GCs, I face pressure to be
more effective with greater efficiency.
Balancing priorities to keep my team
engaged is a critical part of effectiveness.
Q: As a woman, what obstacles have you
confronted in your career? How did you
A: I do feel I have been judged on my
impact and not my gender, but there are
always those dynamics where you are one
of a very few number of women in a room.
I don’t golf, and I usually don’t care about
last night’s game. Finding ways to make
informal connections with your colleagues
can be a little more difficult. You have to
find ways to do that without losing yourself in the process.
We are in a much different environment today than we used to be.
Organizations want diverse, smart people
in their ranks and in their leadership. But I
am mildly frustrated at the amount of time
the stats are taking to show progress.
Q: You’re a member of InsideCounsel’s
Transformative Leadership Advisory
Board. Why did you get involved?
A: The work InsideCounsel is doing with
that program is terrific. The awards highlight something different than what you see
in other programs.
There are a lot of organizations that
are trying to support the advancement of
diversity in the legal profession, and we
support that. We have a terrific representation of diversity in important jobs on
our legal team. It’s not just supporting
external organizations, but the best candidates need to be seen so you can truly
drive a diverse team and bring a great
approach to problem solving.
Q: What advice would you give a young
lawyer who would like to someday become
GC of a large company?
A: The key is to build your financial
acumen. There are a lot of lawyers who
went down the same path I did, but they
think they can’t understand financial and
reporting statements—and it’s so key you
do understand. Ask a lot of questions. n