As the first lawyer in her family, Amanda Scandlen didn’t have a lot of professional mentors. She’s relied on raw talent, effective training, and seeking out her own professional assistance to craft a long legal career.
Now, law students and rookie lawyers often turn to Scandlen, the head of corporate litigation at Willis Towers Watson (WTW), for advice. Her words to them are simple. “Be vocal about what you want. Take a lunch with an executive you admire, and don’t be afraid to ask for input,” she says. “Everyone is willing to help.”
That’s exactly what Scandlen herself has done. She was born in New Hampshire but grew up in cities in the Midwest and along the East Coast. A middle school class trip to Colonial Williamsburg sparked her interest in law and government. She studied political science at the College of William & Mary, received a scholarship to Arizona State University College of Law, and graduated in 2001.
Scandlen got her first taste of mentorship during her time in private practice at Jennings, Strouss & Salmon and McGuireWoods. During that formational era, she worked closely with partners and veteran attorneys who taught her how to perform thorough research and write effective briefs.
Three years into her career, Scandlen saw an opening for an in-house counsel at Watson Wyatt & Company. Companies often require five or even ten years of experience for similar roles, but Watson Wyatt was looking for a junior lawyer. Her litigation experience had prepared her well to seize the rare opportunity.
Nearly twenty years later, Scandlen is thriving atop the corporate litigation team for the specialized consulting company now known as Willis Towers Watson. During her tenure, she’s continued to engage with dedicated leaders willing to help her evolve and develop alongside the organization.
In 2004, Wyatt & Company had 12 lawyers and 6,500 employees. General Counsel Walter Bardenwerper wanted everyone in the legal department to act as sole practitioners. He and others made sure Scandlen was equipped and empowered to take on issues related to litigation, securities, commercial matters, and anything else that came across her desk.
“Working in-house as a generalist gave me a quick education in all the legal issues we face and helped me cater my services to this specific organization and industry,” she reflects.
In 2010, Watson & Wyatt merged with Towers Perrin in a $3.5 billion deal. Kirkland L. Hicks soon replaced the retiring Bardenwerper and employed a new model. Scandlen and her colleagues were asked to specialize. She accepted a promotion to senior counsel, and later, associate general counsel. In her current role, she manages litigation for WTW’s large health, wealth, and career business line.
Doing so effectively requires the leader to stay close to her colleagues in all parts of the organization. “Strong in-house leaders still have to look for opportunities,” she says. “Really listen to the business to understand its goals and help manage risks. That’s what leads to growth and success.”
Scandlen also credits her success to developing strong relationships with external counsel who are leaders in their respective areas of expertise.
“High-stakes litigation is a team sport, and Mandy is the ultimate five-star player,” says Alex G. Romain, partner at Milbank LLP. “She is tough, smart, wise, strategic, and pragmatic. And, simply put, it is an absolute pleasure to work with her.”
Scandlen is one of many long-tenured WTW employees, a fact she credits to strong corporate culture. Her two decades there have helped her understand how to advocate for the company and it influences her approach to litigation. Scandlen tries to keep clients even when managing disputes with them.
“Issues come up in business, but WTW is client focused. Our consultants provide great work, and we can work amicably though matters that arise without losing clients or damaging our reputation,” she says.
The modern WTW is a very different organization than the one Scandlen joined in 2004. Now, the company has a large legal team led by Matt Furman and annual revenues topping $9 billion. Scandlen has built the litigation team she manages and looks to honor the mentors who invested in her by giving the same opportunity to other younger lawyers today.
As Scandlen coaches others both formally and informally, they often talk about finding a balance between their work and home lives. Scandlen is a mother to four school-age children. In different stages of life, she’s worked 60, 80, and 100 percent of her full-time hours. She’s worked remotely for more than seven years, and WTW allowed her to move to Beaufort, South Carolina, where she enjoys both meaningful work at a global corporation and the pace of life that only a small town can offer.
While parenting can sometimes draw women out of the legal profession, Scandlen is glad she stayed in the game. “I can now flourish professionally in a way I wouldn’t have if I had left the workforce for a time,” she says. “I’m living proof that being in-house can lead to a dynamic career.”