Telling the truth has famously been said to be the easiest story to remember. But that doesn’t take away from how difficult it is. In some ways, lawyers understand that more than anyone, having to balance advocacy for clients and the legal and ethical commitments they’re sworn to uphold.
Look no further than Adina Storch for a leader who hangs her hat on successfully juggling that tension. With twenty-five years of domestic and international legal experience, including nearly a decade heading the legal departments of public companies, Storch has spent her accomplished career practicing with integrity. The leader, who currently serves as senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary of Global Industrial Company, and sits on the board of directors of Medical Facilities Corporation, a Canadian public company with U.S. operations, as well as a non-profit board, is a staunch believer that integrity is essential.
“Some lawyers become mercenaries for their clients,” says Storch, who serves as the chief steward of Global Industrial’s enterprise risk. “We’re obligated to zealously advocate within the bounds of the law for our clients, and our ethical rules define a very clear mandate in that.” To Storch, however, advocating effectively for one’s client means always keeping the focus on how the client defines a win. “Fixing your orientation on the end game will prevent you from getting dragged into partisan gamesmanship, which is seldom productive and often alienates judges and juries,” says Storch.
She adds: “You have to seek an overall win, be reasonable, and manage a client’s expectations realistically. I get my hands around the law, I handicap the odds to the best of my ability, and I simply share how I really see a situation without blowing smoke or overpromising.”
That kind of mentality has earned Storch not only a strong reputation, but also industry recognition at the 2023 Women, Influence & Power in Law Awards, where she was lauded for her work as an “Innovative Leader.” Her transparent leadership style also plays a role in her ability to shape culture at Global Industrial. Since stepping into her role in 2021, she has focused on creating a safe space for her team members to fail without shame, because failure is a great teacher.
She sets the tone for that environment by owning up to her own mistakes during weekly meetings, when each team member is asked to share a blooper and what they learned from it, in addition to their wins. This “freedom to fail” mentality, Storch believes, helps unlock courage to find creative solutions and be an effective advocate.
“Inside organizations, there can be a lot of image management, covering mistakes, and casting blame elsewhere, and I’m not impressed by that. You screwed up, own it. There’s strength in that,” Storch emphasizes. This sort of honesty teaches humility and accountability, and it creates credibility with management. The next time an employee who is unafraid to admit failure presents an achievement to the management team, they’re going to credit it just as much.
Storch made a mark at the company not only with her revolutionary management style, but also with her implementation of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts to the company last year, starting with an inaugural ESG report and a host of stewardship initiatives. She and her legal team built on that work this year by partnering with the Helen Keller National Center to donate ADA-compliant furniture and other wheelchair accessible and Braille-engraved enhancements to their facilities. Storch and her cross-departmental team worked side-by-side with institute members to assemble the furniture on October 25, a Corporate Day of Service the company will now be looking to replicate each year.
Her team’s work is having a domino effect, Storch says.
“It spawned a circle of giving. We have operations around the globe, as well as in other U.S. locations, and many are now pursuing locally similar initiatives to what we did,” she says. “It just showed that as a company, we can do well by doing good; they’re not inconsistent aims.”
Storch offers a host of advice to young professionals looking to thrive in their career as she has.
“Choose carefully who you follow. The world is full of false prophets, so you need to choose your mentors wisely. Get behind the good; listen intently, and be honest about the limits of what you know,” she recommends. “And finally, do it for the love of the game. Law is so wide in terms of the specialties it offers that if your work is depleting you, you may not be practicing in the right one.”