As a student at the highly competitive Stuyvesant High School in New York City, Jennifer Chung says, “the entire focus was on getting into the best university.” But once she enrolled at Cornell University, she wasn’t sure what to do next.
Cornell pairs all freshmen with professors for academic and career guidance, and Chung was assigned to a chemistry professor. Based on their interactions, she decided to major in chemistry and Asian studies. As for her decision to pursue a legal career, she shadowed a litigator her junior year as part of Cornell’s alumni externship program, and “that cinched it,” she recalls. She thought that most law school students majored in English, political science, or philosophy, but the chemistry professor encouraged chemistry as her major to study something interesting and differentiate herself.
That turned out to be stellar advice. “I continued to be interested in IP work, and you need a science degree, or at least thirty-something science credits, to sit for the patent bar exam,” Chung explains.
Her first in-house position came in 2014, when she joined Time as assistant general counsel, managing the mass media corporation’s global trademark portfolio. When the legal department was wound down as part of the acquisition by Meredith, she accepted a job at AccuWeather as associate general counsel. One year later, her boss left the company, and she became general counsel and chief legal officer.
“This job is exciting and challenging. I’m dealing with different issues every day,” she says. She oversees three lawyers, a paralegal, and two contract managers, all of whom work in the company’s headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania. She also has a chief licensing officer, who is based in Oklahoma City. “There’s lots of severe weather in the Midwest, so we need to be on the ground,” she explains.
“One of the biggest myths about the legal profession is that once you have your JD, your professional education is done.”
AccuWeather has several lines of business serving more than 1.5 billion people worldwide every day. In addition to a 24/7 national weather channel, it has a robust mobile app; provides forecasts to radio and television stations, newspapers, 180,000 third-party websites, and Amazon’s Alexa; has contracts with various government agencies; and produces forecasts and historical data for businesses around the world, including more than half of the Fortune 500 companies.
The company also has an extensive IP portfolio. “For example, we have patents on how we analyze data points and on the process for distributing weather alerts and other customer notifications, and we have several trademarks, including AccuWeather, and Minute-by-Minute forecasts with proven Superior Accuracy,” she explains.
Chung says continuous learning is an essential part of her job. One area she is currently focusing on is data privacy. “It’s a rapidly evolving field, and we have to stay on top of it,” she says. “To send our app users tailored forecasts, and with the appropriate consents, we collect their location and device data. We’re constantly evaluating how we collect that data, where we keep it, how we manage it, and who we share it with.”
To ensure AccuWeather stays in compliance with relevant laws, she contracted with OneTrust, a data privacy management platform. “Their software helps us map and manage data and prepare for new technologies and regulations coming down the pike.”
She also decided to go back to school. “One of the biggest myths about the legal profession is that once you have your JD, your professional education is done. Not only am I constantly learning on the job, but financial literacy and other business skills are essential if you want to help your company accomplish its goals,” she observes. So she enrolled in a seventeen-month Global Executive MBA program at the University of Navarra’s IESE Business School in Spain.
“It’s designed to work with a full-time job, so even though I’ll be attending classes in Barcelona and New York City, I’ll still be handling all my AccuWeather responsibilities,” she says. “The coursework is fascinating, I’m learning so much about being a leader, and it’s been really inspiring to meet the other students from Europe, North and South America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.”
As if all that wasn’t enough to juggle, Chung is also cochair of the New York City chapter of Cornell’s Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN). “We meet with students applying to Cornell, to put a human face on the process. I’m grateful my experiences can help someone else have an easier time.” In volunteering with CAAAN, Chung has come full circle, providing the same kind of assistance she was given at the beginning of her career.
Blank Rome LLP:
“Jennifer is a forward thinker who has a collaborative, open, and respectful leadership style.”
–Steven Dubow, Partner