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Rhonda Joy Mclean ’83
Deputy General Counsel, Time Inc. Law Department, New York, NY
I am Deputy General Counsel for Time Inc., an independent, publicly traded company that publishes more than 25 magazines in the United States and Canada that are read in print, online, on tablets and other mobile devices around the world and also produces a wide variety of other products, including books, calendars, television shows, retail products and digital applications for multiple platforms. I am an advertising and consumer marketing attorney and am primarily responsible for: 1) managing one third of our law department; 2) evaluating new business development concepts and conducting legal risk analyses; 3) helping to establish domestic and international company standards and policies for consumer marketing materials and methodologies, focusing on electronic marketing matrixes; 4) identifying and resolving consumer data privacy promotional issues; 5) keeping clients informed regarding the status of federal, state and municipal legislation that might apply to their business practices; 6) assisting our in-house litigators as appropriate when our company’s marketing procedures and/or promotions are challenged; and 7) recruiting and overseeing our summer legal interns; and 8) hiring and working with outside counsel as needed. My clients are the 200 plus consumer marketing personnel who sell Time Inc. products in the United States and Canada. I love what I do, as there’s never a dull moment and I never know what I will face next! In January 2009 I added additional responsibilities to my portfolio and am now managing all of the non-lawyer staff in our law department and arranging for professional development opportunities for our entire department. I also run our summer legal internship program. In addition, I have completed my fourth and final term as chair of the board of directors of the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York and represent Time Inc. on that Board. The BBB of Metro New York has nearly 7,000 members and handled over 4 million queries from consumers last year. I now serve a chair of the Nominating and Compensation Committees on that board. In February, 2017, I was voted onto the board of trustees of Union Theological Seminary. I also am the president of the Greater New York Chapter, The Links, Incorporated, a community service organization comprised of African-American professional women with over 14,000 members worldwide.
In March of 2010 my first book, “The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women,” was published by Random House/One World Press. It has been quite successful and a lot of fun. My co-authors and I have traveled to over 20 states and spoken with thousands of readers and fans. Our book is now in its 10th edition and we are preparing to publish our second book, a workbook to accompany our first. We have also formed a company, LEADS LLC, which stands for Leadership Excellence and Development Strategies. We continue to market our consulting services to private and public sector businesses and look forward to growing that business together.
I have been at Time Inc. for over nearly 17 years. Prior to coming to Time, I ran the Northeast Regional Office of the Federal Trade Commission (located in Manhattan) for nine years. I greatly appreciate my government experience, since I worked as a senior litigator for nearly two years before being promoted into management there, where I supervised more than thirty people, including staff attorneys, investigators, administrative staff, volunteers and law student interns. My colleagues and I prosecuted individuals and companies engaged in consumer fraud and/or anti-competitive conduct throughout the United States, shutting down fraudulent businesses and clawing back illegally gained profits to return to consumers wherever possible.
During my tenure as a federal prosecutor (and later as manager of a pool of such prosecutors) I learned about many different industries and gained valuable experience. Our staff was small and we conducted our own investigations, largely based upon consumer complaints and our own undercover work. We also established wide-ranging consumer education programs to deliver valuable information to underserved consumer communities (e.g., ethnically diverse neighborhoods, new immigrants and others for whom English is not the first language, working poor families, etc.). I established a law student internship program, and eventually hired more than 150 law students from schools throughout the metropolitan New York area to help us. We all worked very closely with other federal, state and city law enforcement officials as well as various media to reach our goals, and I remain close to the many friends I made during this 11-year period.
Prior to joining the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), I was a corporate litigator for three years in the New York office of Morrison and Foerster, a San Francisco-based law firm. As a young associate, I participated in every aspect of pre-trial preparation and arbitrated over 100 cases under a new state statute. This was an excellent learning experience and helped to make me a suitable candidate for the FTC when it was recruiting attorneys with significant trial experience. The fact that I had clerked in federal district court for two years before coming to New York also added to my marketability. My judge, Anna Diggs Taylor (also a Yale Law School graduate and the author of the opinion ruling against President Bush’s domestic spying program in 2006), was appointed by President Carter in 1979 to the Eastern District of Michigan (located in Detroit), and has now taken senior status in that district. My clerkship was wonderful in that I learned the “ins and outs” of the federal judicial system from an extraordinarily intimate vantage point.
My approach to my career has been a very flexible one, and I still believe that you need to remain open to many different possibilities for yourself and your leadership trajectory. There are sure to be new areas of legal practice developing in the next few years that don’t yet exist, so you shouldn’t feel that you must know now exactly what you want to do, or begin your practice in a particular substantive area. I encourage law students and young lawyers (more experienced ones, too) not to project in two or five or 10 year cycles, but to rather keep their antennae up and their networks fresh so that they can learn about diverse job possibilities from many sources. Reach out to attorneys (especially Yale Law School alums, who are amazing and often quite open to being contacted) who are working in the areas you are interested in and try to find out what they actually do and how they feel about it. Seek out different kinds of legal practitioners to be mentors for you. Lawyering is a very personal experience, and who you are has a lot to do with how you engage in the practice of law. You may also find that your classmates are a wonderful source of networking and career opportunities. Some years ago, I was contacted by one of my law school classmates and offered a wonderful management post. While I did not feel it was a good fit for me at the time, it was flattering to be offered the position. I also do a great deal of volunteer and community work, and believe that this commitment to civic duty enriches me in every way. I believe that you must be true to yourself in order to move forward. It all works, somehow.