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Kimberly Pittman, SVP, Deputy General Counsel & CCO at SmileDirectClub

Kimberly Pittman, SVP, Deputy General Counsel & CCO at SmileDirectClub

March 24, 2022

Tell us a bit about what you love about the corporate practice area or your role in general. I have practiced law for 20+ years in the areas of corporate, securities, governance, finance, executive compensation, M&A, and others. I have practiced both in Big Law world and ‘in house’ at public companies. I love being a lawyer because, at my core, I love problem-solving and learning new things. I appreciate the knowledge gained from drilling into a problem and strategizing on appropriate solutions. I am grateful for my legal training, which supports critical thinking, and for the brilliant colleagues I’ve worked with along the way, who have sharpened my skills outside of my lane. As I’ve gotten more senior, I truly believe there are innumerable growth opportunities in the legal profession, if you choose to take full advantage of all the profession has to offer. It takes a certain amount of masochism (euphemistically, intellectual curiosity and energy) to mentally fight through problems outside your comfort zone, but you can get far if you put the work in. I find that having a commitment to full learning as I go has enabled me to participate in more strategic discussions and add more real value to the business. I guide younger lawyers to stretch their thinking outside of their checklists, so they can also see the full dashboard of issues to consider as they provide advice and recommendations. I most enjoy the social aspect of the practice of law, which is the give-and-take of sharing and testing ideas to deliver the best solutions. The process is both humbling and gratifying; I always learn more by thinking out loud and listening to others do the same.

What do you feel are the most interesting developments in the corporate area and for the technology industry as a whole or for your specific business/industry?  I believe that more is demanded of lawyers generally today, as they are having an increased role in many areas related fundamentally to risk management. The best examples of this relate to cybersecurity and climate change, as well as ESG matters generally. Investors and regulators expect companies to take these matters seriously and to be transparent with their efforts, and boards, by extension, are expected to be plugged in to the impact of these matters on their companies, from both an operational and compliance perspective. Lawyers must be circumspect in preparing appropriate disclosures, meeting compliance and regulatory requirements, managing how boards can meet their fiduciary responsibilities, and collaborating with communications and investor relations teams on meeting investor expectations and managing optics. While these matters can burden the lawyer’s already full docket, they also present opportunities to not only expand your skillset but expand your visibility in the organization. An in-house lawyer’s challenge generally is to be seen as more than just a rule-monger, so having a seat at cross-functional executive tables to strategize on, for example, ESG reporting, compliance and operational changes, can unleash lawyers’ creativity and solidify their place as a company leader.

What advice do you wish you received when you were younger? I believe it’s important for young attorneys to understand the possible trajectories of their careers, including how to ask themselves the right questions to find the path that is right for them. In order to position themselves best for the future, they should understand the culture of the organization they’re looking to join, and how their services and expertise are viewed. In law firms, attorneys are obviously revenue generators, and one really needs to understand the expectations and realistic professional opportunities at any given firm. In the ‘in-house’ scenario, lawyers should consider whether the legal leadership is strong and whether the function is valued and fully integrated with management and the business. If the answer to these questions is ‘no,’ attorneys who are looking for growth and development, and who wish to be viewed as equal partners, could end up professionally and personally frustrated.