Sholl isn’t speaking in generalities. The lawyer, who spent time in firms large and small prior to coming in-house at Visa, has cultivated one enduring trait over several career stops: a clear commitment to pro bono work. The senior counsel has a history of standing up for those who most need a second chance, and she is helping create a culture of pro bono excellence and inclusive mind-sets in the process.
A Pro Bono Culture
Since coming to Visa in 2017, Sholl has helped spearhead exciting new pro bono opportunities at the company. “I could see there were opportunities for pro bono work, and I was given tremendous support to create several legal clinics,” Sholl says.
Those clinics included partnerships with Her Justice, through which Visa lawyers were able to help several women obtain divorces—and freedom from challenging and often violent marital situations. Another clinic partnered with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund on their Name Change Project, which gave Visa employees the chance to help transgender clients obtain legal name changes.
Sholl was ultimately asked to cochair the pro bono committee at Visa, which includes more than three hundred lawyers and compliance employees worldwide. “There are certain regions of the world that don’t have the same culture of pro bono practice, and we are trying to support their efforts,” Sholl says.
The senior counsel is helping build out more pro bono opportunities as well as expose new hires to the burgeoning pro bono culture. “We think that it’s important for people coming from other firms or other companies to see that we have a tradition and passion for giving back to the community,” Sholl says.
The Promise of a Second Chance
The bulk of Sholl’s own pro bono work often revolves around the idea of second chances. Knowingly or not, Sholl seems to find herself working to help those whose lives may have taken an unplanned turn and need a hand in getting back on the path. For instance, Sholl helped a mother accused of shaking her baby clear her name and reunite with her family in Bronx Family Court. She also helped several exonerees resolve unpaid load debt through the Innocence Project.
Sholl is part of three Visa teams around the world that, in tandem with the Tahirih Justice Center, are helping women seek asylum from violence or political persecution. The senior counsel is currently representing a woman from Cameroon whose husband essentially forced her to flee for her life. “It’s an opportunity to put my legal skills to a really meaningful use,” Sholl says. “It’s an opportunity I’d like others to realize they have.”
The senior counsel’s willingness to stand up for those who need it was first a realization she took to heart for herself. Sholl says she has learned valuable lessons from her own mentors about how the obligations often placed on women to be perfect unknowingly diminish their willingness to speak candidly.
“As lawyers, we focus for so many years on getting all the facts right and knowing the law perfectly before we speak. But the idea of being perfect can really get in the way of growing as a leader,” Sholl says. “As in-house attorneys, we are often called upon to give advice and assessments based on our experience with the expectation that those facts may be different down the line.” She continues, “I try to raise my hand for any opportunity, especially if I think it will help me expand my skills and experiences.” It’s exactly how Sholl wound up leading successful legal teams that have helped so many people.
When learning the difficult ropes of the payments industry, Sholl herself had to learn to embrace her own imperfections. “It’s an industry that’s changing every moment,” she says. “I definitely spent my first year immersing myself in the changing dynamics of the industry.”
As the senior counsel navigates Visa’s litigation profile, she has started flexing new legal muscles simply by embodying a spirit of persistence and a willingness to grow.
Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP:
“Hannah is a premier litigator and strategist with long experience navigating complex legal terrain. She raises the professional bar for all of us as a listener, collaborator, mentor and friend. Congratulations, Hannah!”
–Sarah Kroll-Rosenbaum, Partner and Deputy Office Head, Los Angeles Office
Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP:
“Hannah is a savvy and creative lawyer, and her passion and talent for mentoring junior lawyers, especially women and minorities, are unparalleled. I am fortunate to call her a colleague, client, and friend.”