When she was growing up, Sabina Clorfeine’s South Asian family expected her to become a doctor or an engineer. Clorfeine, however, discovered that her strengths and passion lay elsewhere. A mock trial participant, she gravitated toward the problem-solving and evidence-based aspects of the legal process, as well as its overarching theme of justice. These interests led her to pursue a career in law, a decision that has in turn led to her current role as assistant general counsel at the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), a subsidiary of Sempra Energy.
After completing law school at the University of Southern California, Clorfeine entered the world of litigation at full speed. Instead of shadowing senior attorneys before arguing her own cases, Clorfeine represented clients in court once or twice a week from the get-go. In the process, she developed the ability to think on her feet and the confidence to push herself into unfamiliar territory.
Clorfeine spent about ten years at law firms before going in-house as senior counsel in Sempra Energy’s litigation department in 2007. “The position gave me an opportunity to learn about the various businesses that Sempra Energy owned,” she says, noting that utilities and unregulated businesses alike fell under her purview.
The familiarity she gained with the inner workings of the company allowed Clorfeine to step into the role of managing attorney at Sempra five years later. She embraced the position despite her lack of prior experience in compliance, one of the role’s major components. Fortunately, her knowledge of the company provided her with a strong foundation to fall back on as she balanced adhering to regulations with achieving business objectives.
Clorfeine jumped to yet another new area of law when she started leading the regulatory team at SoCalGas in 2015. “I was fortunate to be able to rely on a very talented team of lawyers as well as some exceptionally bright business people as I was getting acclimated,” she says of this leap.
By 2017, Clorfeine had attained her current position, one that she refers to as “a perfect storm” because it demands expertise in all three of her past specializations: regulatory law, compliance, and litigation. But the position mirrors a storm in its unpredictability as well. “No two days are the same, which makes the role a constant challenge,” she admits. “But it also keeps me interested in what I’m doing.”
Part of what makes Clorfeine’s role so unpredictable is its cross-functionality. The teams and groups that she oversees and works with span several sectors of the company, and her day-to-day interactions extend to such varied parties as board members, outside counsel, and regulatory agency staff.
“I always enjoy working with Sabina,” says Kirk Pasich, managing partner at Pasich LLP. “She’s very insightful in considering legal issues, practical ramifications, and possible options. Sabina is detail oriented but sees the overarching issues. She’s an excellent lawyer focused on getting the best results.”
When SoCalGas employees began operating remotely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Clorfeine faced the additional challenge of adjusting her communication style and way of thinking to suit the unique circumstances of working from home. As one of the company’s leaders, Clorfeine felt a particular responsibility to her team members. “Making sure that the team still feels like it has a clear purpose is something that I truly believe in. It’s important for people to understand that what they’re doing matters,” she says.
“Looking back, what I’m proudest of is not only how much I’ve been able to learn and grow personally but also how I’ve been able to support others as they learn and grow.”
To support her team and allow each member to feel heard, Clorfeine introduced the idea of holding an agenda-less meeting over video call at least once a week to catch up and share information. This meeting, along with casual team events and efforts to replicate the informal communication that used to occur in-office, has allowed the team to remain coordinated and engaged regardless of their physical surroundings.
Clorfeine’s leadership extends beyond navigating the pandemic, of course. She has enjoyed serving as a mentor to others throughout her career, especially because of her heritage. “At the beginning, there weren’t a lot of people I could look up to who looked like me,” she says. The lack of South Asians, and South Asian women in particular, in law motivated Clorfeine to join organizations such as the South Asian Bar Association and Constitutional Rights Foundation and to prioritize lifting up diverse candidates.
SoCalGas shares Clorfeine’s personal commitment to diversity and inclusion. The fact that the company’s values match her own has only increased Clorfeine’s enthusiasm for her role, including her excitement about advising the company as it seeks to align itself with California’s ambitious climate goals for the coming years.
As valuable as her wide-ranging expertise has been to the company, Clorfeine emphasizes that her accomplishments are the result of teamwork—a collaborative attitude reflected in her leadership philosophy. “The mark of a great leader is not how many followers you have, but how many leaders you help create,” she says. “Looking back, what I’m proudest of is not only how much I’ve been able to learn and grow personally but also how I’ve been able to support others as they learn and grow.”
While the firm is experienced in all areas of insurance coverage, Pasich is best known in certain core areas, including coverage for wildfires and other natural disasters, directors and officers insurance, employment (wage and hour coverage disputes, COVID-19 business interruption claims), entertainment and sports insurance coverage, and insurance broker liability.