For the second consecutive year, BarkerGilmore has been asked to recommend women who are leaders in the legal profession, women who could be next in line to be General Counsel at a Fortune 500 company. Known as the R3-100 List from InsideCounsel’s Women, Influence and Power in Law network, it features women in law in five areas: intellectual property, compliance, litigation, governance and securities, and M&A/transactions/generalist.
These are women who report directly to the General Counsel, have frequent contact with the executive suite and board and substantial leadership skills as well as experience. We consider it a privilege to have worked with these talented women who contribute so much to the profession. This is the first in a three-part series sharing their stories and insights.
Kathryn Simpson, VP, Deputy General Counsel, Northrop Grumman Corporation
Simpson leads diverse teams in a variety of areas within the law department of a $24 billion global security firm. Those areas include practice areas involving international, environmental, health, safety, real estate, export/import, intellectual property, labor and employment, pension and benefits, government contracts and government relations. She also serves on the company’s Strategy Development Council.
(BG) You’ve worked in several in-house law departments, at the US International Trade Commission and in private practice for a major law firm. Tell us about your career path. What was a defining moment for you?
(KS) While in private practice, most of my practice was in international and corporate transaction work. My undergraduate degree was in Economics and French ...I did an internship in France and was interested in international exposure. I spent time at the US International Trade Commission, advised on international corporate and securities and transactional matters, import/export work, distribution arrangements, things like that.
After working for several years in private practice, I went to the US International Trade Commission for a couple of years. It was quite a learning experience for me; I was assigned to the largest anti-dumping and countervailing duty case that had ever been filed to that date shortly after walking in the door. I was the lead attorney for one of the cases in that series, which involved30-40 countries importing steel into the U.S., representing over $3B of import activity and the U.S. industry was alleging they were dumping. o I spent the vast majority of the two years I was there working on that case. It was quite an experience, working with the entirety of the U.S. industry and major importin nations as well.
The ITC successfully defended the Commssion’s decision on that case. Shortly after that decision , I lef the ITC and moved to Boston for family reasons. And I knew at that point I didn’t want to go back to a law firm. I had two small children, and I was pretty nichey in my practice; most of what I had been doing was international trade and transactional law. So I started looking for in-house positions. I found a good fit for my skillse at Raytheon, which was then in the process of expanding internationally. That job led to other increasingly responsible position and eventually my current position at Northrop Grumman Corporation.
(BG) What have you been most proud of accomplishing in your current role?
(KS) I am most proud of integrating the team I lead into a cohesive unit. Because the team is comprised of a variety of legal specialists in different practice areas, and previously they all worked separately; they were somewhat isolated from their peers and had some difficulty interconnecting and seeing the bigger picture with respect to management of a variety of corporate risks and exposures.When I joined Northrop Grumman, I started immediately having team meetings and seeking new ways to connect the teams. Now, people are exchanging information and they’re working together, they’re collaborating and they’re seeing each others’ points of view, seeking ways to protect the enterprise together. I feel like we’ve been able to build a collaborative team out of nine groups of separate groups.
(BG) What are the biggest challenges you face today?
(KS) In the last two years, the biggest challenge I have experienced is dealing with the ramifications of the federal budget deficit —especially the government shutdown last year and how that so directly affected the company and the government contracting community in general. We, like all good government contractors, have learned to breathe in and breathe out with the government. We spent a number of months before the government actually shut down in planning meetings for what would happen if the government did shut down, making sure we understood the ramifications under applicabler law with respect to our employee base, and the impact on our programs, program pursuits and partners, such as suppliers.. By planning in advance and working together, we were able to manage the impact of the shut down to avoid many of the most severe negative impacts to our communities.
(BG) What kinds of goals have you set for yourself?
(KS) Even though I’ve been in this industry almost 20 years now, and have seen many of the same issues, albeit different faces in several companies, our industry is such a large, complex one, and Northrop Grumman is such a multi-faceted company, that I am still learning how to do my job better and add value to the organization. We’ve had so much change and growth over the last several years that there is lots of work left to do to ensure we are the best we can be. My immediate path is to get better at what I do. I’ve found I really can be quite happy and satisfied in a job for 3-5 years before I start asking what’s around the corner. I ultimately see myself becoming General Counsel of a company in my industry; it’s been a goal of mine for a long time.
BarkerGilmore is a legal recruitment firm that specializes in hiring in house counsel with both the skill set and the cultural fit for companies of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies like the Northrop Grumman Corp. For more advice on how to recruit corporate counsel that is the best possible fit for your culture, download our free guide, “How to Recruit Top General Counsel.”