When Asurion approached Paul Fassbender in 2012, the rapidly expanding electronics repair, replacement, and insurance company was moving into areas that extended far beyond the purview of traditional in-house counsel.
“Asurion had reached a level where it takes somebody who understands the system and knows how to navigate it to achieve your desired outcomes,” Fassbender says.
The company was seeking someone who understands the way regulators work, from the halls of Congress in Washington, DC, all the way down to the local city councilperson. It’s a job whose potential candidates might have trouble filling a single hand, but fortunately, Fassbender was interested.
The lawyer spent three years litigating the complex and heavily restricted healthcare field before taking over chief counsel roles for newly elected United States Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee. Four years later, Fassbender assumed the assistant commissioner of policy and federal programs for the State of Tennessee—a position he was courted for by future Tennessee Senator Bill Hagerty—before being lured to Asurion a decade ago.
As senior assistant general counsel (AGC) and managing director of government affairs, Fassbender spent ten years enabling Asurion’s continued expansion and promoting the interests of the company that has been named to IDG Insider Pro and Computerworld’s “Best Places to Work in IT” four years in a row.
The attorney’s well-earned knowledge of Capitol Hill makes him an invaluable networker, communicator, and educator for regulators to help them understand how different legislation can impact business.
“I don’t think enough people take into account that lawmakers aren’t usually out to get you,” Fassbender explains. “Laws and regulations might impact your business unintentionally, and it’s my job to help them understand how our business might be negatively impacted.”
Essential Electronics and Global Oversight
The managing director’s expertise was put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic, when conflicting legislation, constantly updated requirements, and facility closures seemed to come in waves.
Fassbender found himself communicating with all levels of government to help keep some of Asurion’s operations open. His advocacy was succinct. “If you’re going to send everyone home to work on electronics, why would you shut down a facility that fixes those electronics?” he asks. “It doesn’t accomplish your ultimate goal, and that’s not only impacting the consumer, it’s impacting your citizens.”
One day the managing director might be communicating with a governor’s office, the next day with a sheriff’s department. Fassbender says it’s imperative to remember that everyone was trying to do the right thing, and that the entire world was united in their confusion.
At the same time, the managing director helps aid Asurion’s international expansion by building out its widening governmental affairs wing on a more global scale. Asurion currently services over 150 million wireless customers, with over seventeen thousand employees in twenty-one countries around the world.
Fassbender’s willingness to figure out things on the fly proves essential when dropped into new countries, situations, communications, and forced to acclimate to his surroundings quickly.
“This approach isn’t born out of disorganization on the company’s part,” Fassbender explains. “But as a structure grows, you just realize you need human capital in some places before others. You build these operations as that structure grows. It’s been exciting work and has offered me the opportunity to tackle some new global challenges.”
As the world has started moving back to the office slowly, Fassbender says accepting the “new normal” may adversely affect the career and development of younger lawyers. It’s an issue the AGC clearly has spent a lot of time considering, and he has thoughts about overcoming potential pitfalls.
“I think I can say this now being in my mid-forties, but I do worry about younger attorneys, who haven’t had the time to build those personal relationships that I really don’t think you can do on Zoom,” Fassbender explains. “I think attorneys need those opportunities to grab lunch or a coffee with their coworkers, to get to know those folks and figure out how to be successful within their systems and organizations.”
Whether it’s a stairway, a parking garage, or a watercooler, the lawyer says that forging personal connections isn’t just good for business, it’s imperative for one’s career development. It’s a core component of a larger focus Fassbender offers younger attorneys looking to advance.
“They always say, ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’” the AGC explains. “I don’t think you can be surprised that your career isn’t advancing if you’re not there in the mix. It’s not that you’re being cut out, they’re just not thinking of you, because you’re not there. Showing up is more than half the battle.”
It may not be the popular opinion, and Fassbender understands that there are many jobs that can be accomplished just as easily at home as in the office, but the lawyer’s own success can be readily attributed to the face time he has put in all along his journey.
For those motivated to keep pushing their careers forward, Fassbender’s last piece of advice stems from the same advice he received early in his career that he knows sent him on the right path.
“I was told to be careful not to slap on golden handcuffs,” the managing director says. “That may take you out of the running for really amazing opportunities. If you just want to do one thing in your career, that’s fine, but you could be setting yourself up for complacency. My advice is to continue to grow.”
“Fasken is proud to congratulate Paul Fassbender on being recognized for his accomplishments in leading Asurion’s growth and continued success nationally and globally.”
–Daniel Brock, Partner
“Paul has a command of the intersection between the legal needs, and the governmental relations needs, of his client. In a regulated business, he navigates those competing needs carefully and skillfully.”
–Tim Meenan, Managing Shareholder