ACC South Carolina Chapter Member Spotlight: Evan Slavitt, Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary
When did you “go in-house,” and what prompted your decision?
I started with AVX in 2007 after twenty-six years as a trial lawyer with the government and private practice. AVX had been a client and it was an opportunity to do something very different at a time when, if it did not work out, I could still regenerate a practice. It was a great decision and, to my amazement, I have been at AVX for fourteen years and still love the work.
What do you enjoy most about being a general counsel? Do you miss anything about the firm?
Being a trial lawyer is like being on CSI – there is a dead body and everyone is arguing about who is responsible. In this job, I have the chance to help the company avoid disaster in the first place. I have the opportunity to get involved in new things all the time. For example, who knew I would have to learn so much about data privacy laws in Europe, environmental law in Israel, or arbitration in Shanghai? What I miss most about private practice was, as a trial lawyer, putting together a team to focus on one big thing. As a general counsel, my day is a cascade of interruptions.
Have you had any strong mentors in your career? What did they teach you?
One of my partners, Bob Sylvia, was both a great trial lawyer and a good man. He taught me that you can be a strong advocate and a law firm partner and still avoid being a jackhole about it. I have tried to mentor junior attorneys the way he did – with good humor and a sense that we are all in this together.
What matter or accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
Clients come and go, disputes are transitory, but who you are is what counts. I have made it my policy never to let the antics of others or the difficulties of the day change who I am or how I practice law. Even more important, I kept my law practice in bounds so I would have time for my family.
What key advice would you give to new in-house lawyers or those contemplating going in house?
Try to keep perspective. Your job is to be the adult in the room and to keep your head while everyone else is losing theirs. Read my article in the SC Lawyer: “Nobody Cheers for the Umpires”
Has the COVID pandemic changed your perspective in any way?
I am amazed at how much I can get done from home and how much I do not care whether my outside counsel are in their work office. In fact, I can concentrate better when I am not in my office. I may move to a 4/1 schedule even after COVID is over.
Aside from the law, what professions are interesting to you?
Shepherd. Actually, I never really thought about being anything other than a lawyer.
Are you an “early bird” or “night owl”?
I am definitely a night owl. Until I had children, I did not realize that 5 am even existed.
What do you enjoy outside of work?
I read, take long walks with the dogs, and drink the occasional glass of rye. When COVID is not a thing, I enjoy travelling and spending time with my children and grandchildren.
What book or movie do you recommend, and why?
The Hilary Mantel trilogy about Cromwell (also a lawyer) is wonderful. I have also just finished the new biography of US Grant which is terrific.
How long have you been an ACC member, and what is your favorite part about it?
One of the first things I did on moving in-house was to join ACC in 2007. It is the best professional organization I have ever joined because we can neither send business to each other or get business from each other. So we can be entirely collegial and have great discussions and educational programs that are directly useful to me.