Every month, we highlight a member of the Ironclad Community and this January, we’re excited to introduce you to one of the founding members of our New York City chapter, Jennifer Chung, chief legal officer at AccuWeather.
Weather is surprisingly big business. Private weather forecasting is a $7 billion industry and the highly localized weather forecasts and warnings provided by companies like AccuWeather can help save tens of thousands of lives and lessen property losses.
Jennifer advises the executive team and provides legal support across all lines of business and functions, including intellectual property, regulatory compliance, ad sales, emerging technologies, media and data privacy.
How did you find yourself in your role today? You’ve spent time in the public sector, biglaw and in-house corporate law. How did these experiences influence where you are today?
Having worked in the public sector, in-house at a public and private company, and at small and large law firms, I have a broad perspective of what it means to be a good legal service provider with a support network.
One clear lesson is there is no one-size-fits-all approach to anything. A successful relationship requires kindness, agility of mind, appreciation for the under-the-surface dynamics, and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and do the work. I require my teams, both internal and external, to just get the work done, without ego and without the guarantee of accolades or ceremony.
In my personal experience, doing an excellent job is inversely proportional to the amount of attention received. The better the job is done, the less anyone notices me. Only when an issue comes up do they ask for the lawyers. I tell my team to be ok with this because I will celebrate them and acknowledge their hard work; I will sing their praises and write the most glowing recommendations. I make efforts to send notes when I am happy with work product, and when there is room to improve, I try to also identify what’s working and why so that we can build on successes and not wallow in failures.
Congrats on your recent promotion from Associate General Counsel to General Counsel at AccuWeather. How was the transition? Anything surprise you?
I feel like I’m definitely still in a transition phase, although maybe I’m just generally in a transition period in life. Every day feels like a new day, and I’m regularly faced with choices that will likely take me down a unique path.
When I look back on where I’ve been, the jobs I’ve had and the teams I’ve worked on, I’m in awe of just how unpredictable the road here actually was. I spent the first half of my career just surviving — applying for jobs that seemed right at the moment, or applying for positions where I thought I could advance my career (without really knowing where I wanted to be).
It took me 10 years before I stopped cold, did an honest inventory of what I enjoyed doing and what I was actually good at, and made more thoughtful choices about who I wanted to be. Once that happened, I was able to actively gain the kind of experiences and skills I need to do what I do today.
What trends are you seeing in in-house legal that you find particularly exciting?
The buzz has long been about doing more with less, bringing more services in house, and reducing overall headcount to save money. In-house teams are already experimenting with software and third party services to manage documents, information and other legal services that leverage AI and other analytics to increase efficiencies. I think outside law firms are also doing this and making visible efforts to save resources by also onboarding third party legal services that focus on AI as a differentiator and reducing the number of attorney team members working on matters. Examples of these services include contract drafting, IP docketing and management, and brand protection and enforcement.
You are an amazing connector. What advice would you give to introverts on networking?
I am an evangelist when it comes to looking at networking as THE mechanism for growing personally and professionally. Whenever you’re invited, try to say yes more than no, if possible.
If we do not make active efforts to show up, meet and get to know people who think, live and react differently, we are doing our personal selves a giant disservice. We learn best from other people.
Also, this world and profession can be terribly isolating. The industry of law is hyper-competitive and it’s not easy making friends when you’ve literally spent three years learning how to navigate an adversarial system. I also found networking events I attended in my early career so awkward, especially when I didn’t know anyone in the room. In cases like that, you tend to end up going only to events with friends where you already know people, you bring your friends. No wonder the same dynamic happens — you’re locked up in the same world, just at different venues.
When I organize events, I take it as a personal responsibility to make sure people are introduced to each other, unique conversations are seeded, and connections are made. Sometimes I’ll see two people who don’t seem to have an obvious connection on my social media feed interacting with each other, and I’ll say, “How funny, how do you know each other?” and they’ll say, “Ummm, you introduced us.” I find that so amusing and amazing.
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