Stefan Mallen enjoys traveling internationally and learning about different countries, so it’s only natural that he ended up in a global law practice. Mallen is the associate general counsel for litigation and arbitration at Emerson Electric; he manages cases within the global company’s worldwide litigation portfolio, which includes product liability, commercial disputes, and intellectual property. He manages trials, appeals, mediations, arbitrations, and also works with company and expert witnesses. He is also involved with several litigation defense organizations, including the Product Liability Advisory Council (PLAC) and the US Chamber Litigation Center.
While Mallen enjoys traveling—his father once owned a travel agency—he always knew he wanted to pursue a career outside the travel industry. The law beckoned, he says.
“I took school seriously and I learned from a young age about the importance of organization, prioritization, and responsiveness,” he says. “While at the University of Michigan, I covered football, basketball, and hockey for the student television station, which enabled me to develop my public speaking skills.”
The odds of actually getting into sports broadcasting seemed low, he says, and while he enjoyed his undergraduate business classes, he didn’t believe a life on Wall Street would be fulfilling. “I just felt there was something more.”
His interest in the law was piqued by portrayals of its practitioners in the movies and on TV. He cites the classic courtroom drama A Few Good Men as one of his favorites: that iconic confrontation between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson made a strong impression. “I’ve had nothing happen to me in the courtroom to rival, ‘I want the truth!’” he says with a laugh. “But every now and then you get that good nugget you’re looking for, and that’s very rewarding.”
During law school, Mallen worked as a summer associate at Bryan Cave, an international law firm based in St. Louis with more than 1,400 attorneys, then returned to the firm as a product liability litigator after he graduated. “I had a national practice and litigated cases from coast to coast,” he says.
Initially, his goals were modest. “I wanted to make it through the first year and learn as much as I could about the practice of law,” he says. He did much more than that: Mallen spent sixteen years with the law firm, which is now Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, and made partner. “I had no plans to leave, but the opportunity to join Emerson’s litigation group was too good to pass up,” he says. “The ability to lead cases and make critical decisions was very appealing to me.”
Mallen credits Bryan Cave for his “excellent training and experience” in all facets of litigation, with an emphasis on preparing high-stakes cases for trial. “I was part of numerous trial teams and had an opportunity to practice with some of the top trial lawyers and defense experts in the country,” he says.
Emerson is also based in St. Louis (Mallen himself is a native of Chesterfield, a St. Louis suburb). “Emerson has always had a stellar reputation, particularly in the St. Louis community,” Mallen says. “If I was going to leave Bryan Cave and go in-house, it would have to be with a well-established and highly successful company.”
At Emerson, Mallen went from having a national practice to a global one, managing cases in Canada, Europe, Asia, and South America. “I really enjoy learning about laws and legal practices that are unique to certain areas,” he says. “While there are similarities to US litigation, there are also many differences. For example, most jurisdictions outside the US do not have depositions or jury trials. The evidence process is more limited in terms of what you can discover from the other side.”
One unique difference, Mallen says, is in Russia, where if you face a lawsuit, you often just submit papers that set forth your defense and have a hearing. “Just like that, the judge will decide,” Mallen says. And in certain parts of Canada, the burden of proof is on the defendant to disprove plaintiff’s case.
In addition to his litigation work, Mallen is helping to open doors for the next generation of lawyers by serving as the leader of Emerson’s legal summer internship program. “Emerson is very committed to diversity,” he says. “The goal is to give the interns an opportunity to learn what life is like as an in-house attorney and to gain experience in our different practice areas. In respect to litigation, it is important to have many different voices and opinions heard.”
The newest chapter in Mallen’s career is his coauthorship (with California-based lawyer Thomas Case) of the latest edition of Designing an Effective Products Liability Program. Published by Thomas Reuters, this book is aimed at helping manufacturers, distributors, attorneys, managers, and engineers design and manufacture safe products, while complying with the law and avoiding liability.
From litigation and mentorship to working on his first book, Mallen considers himself “very fortunate” to have such an interesting and diverse workload. “No two days here are the same,” he says. “It’s challenging but fun.”