Professional Advice about International Legal Careers

International Law Society – The University of Arizona

Maryscott “Scotty” Greenwood – Senior Managing Director, McKenna, Long & Aldridge LLP


Ms. Greenwood is a Senior Managing Director at McKenna, Long & Aldridge LLP.

What is that you do in your job?

My title is Senior Managing Director and they give titles like managing director or senior managing director to people who are not lawyers, but who are the equivalent of a partner. A managing director would be like a regular partner and a senior managing director would be like an equity partner. So that depicts where you are in the food chain.

I am in the public policy practice. I do Canada-US public policy and what that means is that we provide, basically, government relations and strategic counseling for anything maple flavored. I work with Canadian firms doing business in the US and US firms doing business in Canada.

What do you mean by government relations?

Everything from lobbying to regulatory work to just how to cope with the public environment in which you’re operating. A lot of businesses, for example, just go about their daily lives. They make their gadget, they sell their gadget, and they don’t ever think about interacting with local government. Until suddenly government enters and they have a bet-the-company problem.

Microsoft is a good example. They were fine doing their own thing — didn’t even have a government relations department or presence — until they had the antitrust problem. Suddenly, the Department of Justice was in their business and was about to put them out of business for antitrust and they realized that maybe it was important for them to understand government. So now Microsoft has a very sophisticated government policy because they realize that policy makers can have an impact on their bottom line. So a lot of what government relations is is just helping corporations and nonprofits and other entities understand how government can impact them and then you also have the other side which is helping government make sound decisions by providing information, solving problems, figuring things out, that sort of thing. And you have to understand politics to do that sort of thing too.

Can you outline a day in the life of Scotty Greenwood at McKenna Long?

Today is Thursday and it’s my first day in the office. Everyday is different, which is one of the fun, interesting things about this job. So Monday, Toronto. Tuesday and Wednesday, Ottawa. And today, Washington. Next week I’ll be in Toronto. The next week we’re going to host the Prime Minister of Canada for a dialogue in New York. Just hung up the phone with the international protocol office for the Mayor of Chicago asking if we would consider going to Chicago to do some Canada-US business meetings. There’s a little bit of travel, and a day in the life definitely has phone calls, emails, meeting random kids from Arizona (laugh), and in the middle of all that you have to stay on top of what’s going on. To do that you have to be reading whatever feeds you’ve set up for yourself to know what’s going on on the Hill, what’s going on in various agencies that you might follow, and there’s some amount of time, like the phone calls, some amount of time hand holding with clients.

I was just on the phone with a client where we had set an entire strategy. We had a meeting about it, everybody was on board. But that was last week. And now, he basically could not remember why we’re doing any of it. We had to go through the entire plan again and explain our rationale for this decision and why we chose to go that route. It was sort of updating the strategy and re-explaining the thought process so that they could go back and say, “Ok. That’s what we want to do.”

As I understand it you started in state government in Georgia and now you’re in an international firm in its international department. How did you go from there to here?

In general, the path to government relations is to work in government first. Whereas, with law firms, like a big law firm like ours, we’re in the Am Law top 100, the big firms, are all pretty similar in that they look for certain law schools, certain grades, certain profiles, you know, if you’re the editor of the law review that’s good, if you’re an ivy league grad that’s good, that sort of thing. And so, the path to get into a law firm is extremely academic, at least a big law firm like ours. Other law firms may look for different things.

But for government relations, I don’t care where you went to college. I don’t care if you flunked out of college. Your academic path in government relations has almost zero bearing on your future success. In government relations we look for people who have served in government and learned how it works. Now that is sort of a general statement, but our government relations group is made up of people who don’t really fit into a law firm, but it works really well for us because we are all helping our clients solve problems.

For me, I did politics in Georgia. Then i worked for the mayor of Atlanta, and then sort of through politics was sort of appointed into the US Foreign Service and posted in Canada. That’s how we picked up the Canadian gig. A friend of mine was ambassador and I was appointed to be Chief of Staff — White House Appointment — hence the political background, and after we did that for four years, we had all this new knowledge and expertise in relationships and we had to figure out what we were going to go do with that. His two choices were, one, he could go and be commissioner of the NHL and I would have been VP of everything. But that job wasn’t vacant and he didn’t do that. So he, the former ambassador that I worked for, decided to go back to his former law firm and practice law, and somehow I tagged along and we opened this Canada-US boutique government relations, business consulting practice. He’s a lawyer practicing law, I’m a non-lawyer doing government relations and we both have this Canada focus.

Canada is viewed as a good place to start to branch out one’s business. You know, 90% of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the border. What that means is that they’re all within our media markets and see all of our TV ads. You know, there is a consumer demand for American products, and you find that all over the world, but you find it particularly in Canada because they see all of our advertisements. If you want to export something, Canada is close, they speak English, pent up consumer demand, and a relatively similar regulatory environment. And after you start exporting to Canada, you discover that you have to start labeling things in French and you figure that out. Now you can start selling to the francophone around the world because you’re stuff is now in French.

For up and comers, law school or not, what’s your advice to those stepping of the cliff of school to the real world?

Do internships, meet as many people as you can meet, work really hard, again, work really hard, and see where life takes you. If you just try to do your best at whatever your current task is, even if you think you’re overqualified for it, you’re a kid. You’ll get noticed and appreciated for it. And be open to things that you never thought you’d do.

What are three or four qualities that make you good at your job?

That’s awkward. “Why am I so awesome. What makes me so awesome?” (laugh).

How about this, what are three or four qualities that you look for in people that you hire?

There you go. I think it’s really important to be able to communicate. In order to be a communicator you have to be able to listen, read a room or audience, read body language. Just like if you want to become a good writer, you should read a lot. The ability to communicate is important for whatever job it is. Even if you’re going to be in a tech lab curing cancer, at some point you’re going to have to get funding and FDA approval. If all you want to do is be in lab coat and you haven’t developed the ability to articulate why your research is important to someone who is not an expert in the field, you’re limited. So be a good communicator, and active listener, good writer, and read everything that you can read.

Related to that, I think that because there is so much communication now, your social communication — everybody is wired, everybody has two or three screens in their life at any given moment — I think there is actually a premium on in-person communication. I don’t know this, but I don’t think that people are developing the skills that you need to succeed. Like you can be a brilliant researcher and find anything online. But really, anyone under the age of 30 can do that. The real question is if you can have a lunchtime meeting and sit down across from the CEO and not be really nervous or awkward. In person skills are even more important now that people have come to rely on electronics.

I’ll give you one specific example. A guy wants to have an informational interview and we met at Starbucks across the street. I walk into the Starbucks and the guy has his laptop on the little table. I sit down and the screen is covering most of his face as he is typing. He asks if I mind if he takes notes during our conversation. I think no problem, I mean I giving him some career advice so its fine if he wants to write it down. But the whole time we were talking he is leaning so low that I could hardly see his eyes. It was somewhat of a bizarre experience for me. Maybe that’s generational. Or maybe that kid could learn how to put away the freaking laptop and have a conversation.

So communicate, work hard, interact well with other people. Oh, and another is to never let yourself be intimidated. You know, you can do anything. Don’t be arrogant, but you need to have confidence that you belong. There are all sorts of people who think, “Oh man, I really shouldn’t be in this room.” For the entire first half of my career and I was usually the only woman and the youngest person in the room. I am usually still the only woman, but I am no longer the youngest person in the room, sadly. But somehow, I just decided that if I was going to be in that room that I wasn’t going to be intimidated. And you know what, in a business setting that works. People don’t have time for your insecurity so just get over it. So if you’re in the room just be confident no matter how smart you think somebody is, how much money they have, or how famous they are, you’re probably an equal in your own way. So don’t let yourself be intimidated. I don’t care if you’re 22. I don’t care if you’re 18. Have some confidence. Live in the moment.

Interview taken September 12, 2013

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This entry was posted on October 17, 2013 by .
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