After Ross Paolino graduated from George Washington University Law School in 2008, he launched his career at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP in Miami, splitting his time between litigation, commercial, and regulatory work stemming from major bank failures in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
After two years, he moved back to Washington, DC, to join Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. While a member of Orrick’s antitrust practice, he also spent time supporting the firms appellate, commercial, and intellectual property litigation teams. In particular, his ability to distill complex technology topics and legal issues into straight-forward arguments made him a go-to senior associate on key matters for the firm’s most prominent clients. That adaptability across subjects and practices areas, however, is what ultimately led him to transition in-house.
“I really thrived on going in and out of the different practice groups. As you climb the ladder at the firm, the preference is for you to choose one area, focus on that, and that felt restrictive.”
After eight years between two large firms, and with the prospect of getting out of The District to move West to be closer to family, he found a position with $4.8 billion financial services company Western Union headquartered in the Denver area.
Initially supporting Western Union’s payments business, he began to pick up work to support the company’s digital expansion across the globe—a role he ultimately settled into fulltime. The company needed help expanding its footprint and structuring different agreements in the digital landscape. To support the expansion, he helped resolve contract backlogs and worked with the business and product teams to streamline Western Union’s digital contract templates to increase deal velocity.
Following a reorganization of Western Union’s legal team, Paolino was tapped to head the Global Projects, Partnerships, and Strategy team, where he and his team partner with business, technology, and go-to-market peers to bring new products and services to life. “My group serves as the connective tissue on some of the big global deals and global products,” he explains. “We interface across jurisdictions, across functions to help get things built and launched.”
His prior background as a litigator made the product counseling role come naturally. “A huge part of product counsel is being able to establish trust, embrace ambiguity, and help develop pragmatic and iterative solutions with the product team. As a litigator, you build a skill of being able to communicate with different audiences, understand real versus hypothetical risk, and distill complex topics, which is something that served me well in my product role.”
One of those projects he is most excited about is leveraging Western Union’s Austrian banking licence to launch a digital consumer bank account in select European markets. The digital bank account, along with a revamped loyalty programme, will help Western Union create a stronger relationship with the customer and give the company a better opportunity to offer more customer-centric products and services that address their painpoints.
Most people know Western Union as a trusted name in the industry, and Paolino works hard to help the company adapt while keeping the customer at the center of everything they do. “Every day there’s a new competitor in the fintech space that is answering a consumer paint point with a seamless and frictionless solutions—it’s a constantly evolving market and an exciting one to be involved in.”
Allen & Overy LLP:
“Ross is a talented and engaging lawyer whose technical and commercial acumen make him a stand-out fintech leader. We highly value our relationship with Ross and the innovative work we do with Western Union.”
–Nikki Johnstone, Partner (Fintech & Payments Regulatory)
Schulte Roth & Zabel:
“As a leader in the digital payments industry, Ross is uniquely positioned at the forefront of today’s market environment.”
–Kara Kuchar, Partner