There’s a thoughtfulness in each of Rebecca Sipowicz’s responses, a moment of contemplation before she conveys her thoughts as economically and clearly as possible, that speaks volumes even in its silence. The senior counsel for litigation and employment at mortgage company Ocwen Financial spent a decade billing hours, cultivating dozens of client partnerships in industries of all kinds. All the while, she knew that she would be better able to serve a single client, working more closely and collaboratively on a wider breadth of issues, as she now does as part of Ocwen’s legal team.
The attorney’s implicit focus on relationship building, especially on organically developing trust throughout her organization, is clear from the way she chooses to communicate. And her ability to not only help Ocwen’s team of attorneys internally navigate multiple high-profile M&A transactions over the past several years, including its 2018 acquisition of PHH Mortgage, but also maintain a dedicated family life illustrates a professional dedication to continuous self-education as well as a firm belief that change can almost always be harnessed for good.
A Testament to Trust
In coming in-house at Ocwen, Sipowicz says she had to quickly learn that serving one client with many different business units would require a far different approach from her private practice days. “When you’re in-house, your clients are the different business units, but they’re also your colleagues,” the lawyer says. “If you don’t work to develop that level of trust between the in-house counsel and the internal clients, then that advice that’s being given is not going to be accepted. You’re not going to be able to find a solution that benefits the company as a whole.”
Sipowicz believes it is paramount to keep the larger picture in mind when cultivating relationships. “You all work for the same company and should have the interest of the company in mind,” the lawyer says. “Building that internal colleague-to-colleague relationship ensures you’re working for the betterment of the company regardless of what position you’re in.”
Coming from the legal department always comes with its own inherent challenges—for instance, the dreaded “Department of No” stereotype that is as tired as it is unhelpful—but Sipowicz takes them head-on. “I always have had an open-door policy,” the attorney says. “I encourage people to come and talk to me. Early on, I made sure that people saw me on the floor walking around.” Most importantly, the senior counsel says she makes an active effort to be open to suggestion and conversation and avoid the “take it or leave it” answers that can often be attributed to lawyers who don’t feel connected to the business.
Never Not Learning
In successfully surviving multiple mergers and integrations of new teams at Ocwen alongside the rest of the legal department, Sipowicz says that embracing growth, rather than fearing it, has made her a better in-house counsel. “Part of being an effective lawyer is to always be willing to learn,” Sipowicz says. “Each new change, growth, or issue is an opportunity to learn more and become not only a better attorney, but a better advocate for your client. If you’re not open to those opportunities, you’re doing yourself a disservice along with your company.”
When challenged with the implantation and integration of merged legal teams, the senior counsel says her willingness to keep an open mind has served her well. “Just because the way you did something as your legacy entity doesn’t mean that your new colleagues don’t have great ideas to improve the way you run your department or even manage your caseload,” Sipowicz says. “That’s the exciting thing about adding new voices. And you have to be open to hearing them and working together to become a more cohesive team.”
The Ability to Have It All
The senior counsel’s dedication to her role is matched only by her desire be as present as humanly possible for her two elementary-aged children. It’s a balancing act that few, Sipowicz included, feel that they’ve mastered. “If there anyone out there who’s perfected it, I’d love to talk to them,” the lawyer says, laughing. “But my priority will always be my children. I love what I do and I love working, so it always come down to working with the organization to find a way where everyone feels satisfied.”
For Sipowicz, that means making herself readily reachable, even outside of office hours. “I’m willing to be available almost all of the time, but also knowing when to work out with my team when that just won’t work,” the attorney says. “That comes back to building that trust and knowing that your department believes in you.”
It’s provided the lawyer the time with her kids that she says is especially important for her young daughter to understand. “She sees a mother who is able to have it all, and it lets her know that she can do exactly what she wants and still have a family.”
Duane Morris LLP:
“Rebecca balances deep professional loyalty and engagement with practical objectivity to discern the smartest paths to high-value legal outcomes. While always constructively honest in getting the job done right, she keeps winning personal and fun.”
–Brett Messinger, Partner
“We have worked with Rebecca Sipowicz for many years, and in that time, she has always surpassed our expectations. We always look forward to working with Rebecca.”
–Eric Houser, Partner