“Just slightly ahead of our time.”
Readers of a certain age will remember Panasonic’s iconic tagline from just over fifty years ago. The spirit of innovation, expertise, and technological competition in those five words is what brought Shaun Bean to the venerable company in 2017.
Bean is the assistant general counsel of litigation at Panasonic. The opportunity to join the company, he says, “aligned perfectly” with his desire to be “a zealous advocate,” embrace the business’ ongoing digital transformation, and convey a message to his former employer, an international law firm, that he was ready for bigger things.
“You can’t wait for life to develop,” he says. “You have to take the bull by the horns and make a move.”
Bean grew up in Queens in a small apartment with his parents, younger sister, and younger brother. He cites his parents as role models and inspirations. His father was a letter carrier, and the Post Office courier’s motto centered on dedication personified him, Bean says. “His example instilled in me the importance of consistency.”
His mother was a law librarian. “Whenever I had a research assignment, she would take me to the library,” he says. “Once I finished the assignment, I played with the microfilm and microfiche for hours and hours. I would pick a random day and see how the Mets did.”
“Growing up in Flushing, you have a little chip on your shoulder. I look at the Mets as a major underdog who shocked the world in 1969 and 1986 . . . And that’s what I’m trying to do.”
The franchise is “deeply embedded” in Bean’s life. The family lived less than ten minutes from the former Shea Stadium. His mother was a fan of the team since its debut in 1962. Bean identifies with the “very humble beginnings” of the team, which, as of this writing, is in first place. “Growing up in Flushing, you have a little chip on your shoulder,” he says. “I look at the Mets as a major underdog who shocked the world in 1969 and 1986 (when they won the World Series). And that’s what I’m trying to do.”
As Panasonic’s assistant general counsel, Bean primarily leads litigation, handles product safety matters, and oversees the legal operations team. He came to the company after a decade spent in private practice at three different firms. “I saw fertile ground to make a mark,” he says of his transition in-house.
In addition to admiring the company’s history, work ethic, and commitment to giving back to the community, Bean contends that he was eager to be a part of Panasonic’s mandate to remake itself into a full-solution company, where the model is focused more on service, software, and analytics in addition to its consumer products.
“Now it’s more about being the technology behind the technology,” Bean says. “If you get into a car, it might have a Panasonic infotainment system powering your vehicle’s cool tech, but you would not necessarily see the company’s name.”
A key cutting-edge partnership is with Tesla. Panasonic provides the company with the battery cells for its electric vehicles. “It’s a fascinating dynamic between a more than century-old Japanese company and what was a Silicon Valley start-up,” he says.
Though Panasonic has been around more than a hundred years, Bean notes that its former slogan is just as relevant today. “Some of our emerging technologies are more than just slightly ahead of their time,” he explains. “We’re partnering with various departments of transportation around the country, basically connecting vehicles and intelligent roadways that should change the way people drive and think about safety on the road. We also have in-flight entertainment systems that will make you forget you’re sitting in the middle seat.”
“We’re partnering with various departments of transportation around the country, basically connecting vehicles and intelligent roadways that should change the way people drive and think about safety on the road.”
Bean came to the law by way of journalism. He worked for the Boston Herald during and after college. He did man-on-the-street interviews on the Boston Red Sox beat and covered Boston University hockey before transferring to the business and finance section of the paper.
“The skill set for journalism is very similar to what you need to be an effective attorney,” he says. “There is so much research and writing that goes into a story. You have to sift through and distill a mound of information, 90 percent of which won’t make it into what you’re writing, but it’s still helpful background.”
He took personal inspiration from writing the profiles as well as the newspaper’s professional announcements feature. He’d read about someone being elevated to partner and thought, “I like covering these individuals, but let’s take a whack at making the news myself.”
This he did in 2020, when New Jersey business journal NJBIZ awarded Bean its In-House Legal Star Award. And in July 2020, he was named Volunteer of the Month by Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ). “My very first day at Panasonic, a member of the legal department invited me to participate in a VLJ veterans legal wellness clinic,” Bean says. “I jumped on it because both of my grandfathers were WWII vets.
“When I was in law school, I helped one of my grandfathers with his paperwork because he was not getting all the veteran benefits to which he was entitled,” he continues. “It was a simple solution, but one that he would not have arrived at if not for someone with legal training giving him guidance. We sit down with veterans every three or four months and talk to them about their legal issues. They are so appreciative, and the feeling is mutual. I am so appreciative of what they’ve done for the country.”
Bean says that the legal department and his team are playing a pivotal role in Panasonic’s evolution. “If you ask the average Joe on the street what’s powering Panasonic nowadays,” he says with a laugh, “I don’t think anyone would say the legal department, but my colleagues and I are working behind the scenes, trying to change the traditional mindset business has had, where legal is considered the ‘department of no.’ We are working to get to ‘yes.’”
Boies Schiller Flexner LLP:
“Shaun is one of the smartest attorneys I know, being able to quickly adapt and solve problems. Shaun is definitely destined for greatness. It is always a pleasure to work with him.”
–Mark C. Mao, Partner
“Shaun is an engaged and proactive partner, always offering suggestions that add tremendous value to the work we do for Panasonic. He has the unique ability to anticipate next steps and plan ahead, allowing him to be pragmatic yet fearless.”
–Seth Price, shareholder, Construction Litigation practice
Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP:
“Shaun is a savvy and smart in-house counsel who consistently treats outside counsel with the utmost respect and professionalism. He also adds tremendous value and knows how to cut to the heart of the matter.”
–David Yohai, Litigation Partner and Former Co-Head of Commercial Litigation