It’s becoming more common for lawyers to find their way in-house earlier in their careers. For some attorneys, it makes sense. Quickly realizing a desire to devote time to one client across an array of issues can be a blessing of sorts when so many attorneys spend years trying to figure out exactly what they want to do.
Other attorneys, like Erin Shencopp, have a longer path to finding that working in-house is the right fit for them. For Shencopp, the experience she gained before going in-house cannot be overvalued. The senior counsel for antitrust and competition at the Boeing Company has worked across numerous issues and areas of law from virtually every side of the equation, which makes her a dream candidate for any in-house role.
It’s no wonder that Shencopp wound up at the most famous aerospace and defense manufacturer in the world. The organization has its pick of the very best, and Shencopp is a logical addition to Boeing’s world-class law department.
The daughter of a lawyer and a law professor, Shencopp’s future in law may have been clear from the beginning, but it didn’t start out that way. Shencopp graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics, not because it was easy or familiar to her. “For me, it was a serious challenge,” she explains. “It wasn’t something where I had this natural ability. It was interesting to me, so I committed to just figuring it out.” While Shencopp could have used her economics degree for a career in business, she chose law school at the University of Michigan.
Following school, Shencopp clerked for the Indiana Supreme Court, getting exposure to constitutional law, tort issues, and even death penalty cases straight out of the gate. From there, she pursued an interest in criminal law at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York.
While many junior associates would have been in a basement doing document review (granted, the lawyer says she also did her fair share), Shencopp was involved in criminal investigations regarding economic sanctions. On those matters, she got to work with remarkable senior lawyers at the firm and developed critical legal skills. “I was a junior lawyer, but I was being sent to Europe to conduct witness interviews and got to interact with government officials,” she remembers.
But she wanted to get back to the Midwest and moved to Chicago to join Jones Day, where she worked for over twelve years. The attorney initially focused on commercial litigation, but her work on a “pay for delay” Federal Trade Commission investigation and a monopolization case cemented her passion for antitrust law. It was the perfect combination of economics and the law for Shencopp. “The antitrust team was also an exceptional group of people who I loved working with,” she says.
By 2017, Shencopp made partner and established herself as a highly regarded attorney in the antitrust bar. However, the feeling of completion so many attorneys hope to find upon making partner just wasn’t materializing for Shencopp.
“For a long time, I was driven by outward factors while climbing up the ladder,” she admits. “I wanted that A-plus report card. It felt good at the time, but it came with personal sacrifice. In retrospect, I wish I would have listened more to my inner voice and figured out what was truly right for me. I got to work with amazing colleagues and clients, but I had only really ever worked at a firm. It was time for a change.”
So in 2020, Shencopp left private practice to join the Antitrust Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. The lawyer got to work on the extensive Google search monopolization case for Illinois, and then as a special assistant attorney general for the State of Colorado.
Perhaps because of her own initial trepidation of changing her career path, Shencopp hopes more young lawyers will try new experiences to figure out what is right for them. “Practicing law is so different from what you experience in law school,” the attorney says. “Say ‘yes’ to every new opportunity that you can, even if it’s an area of law you don’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole. It may turn out to be the most fascinating thing you’ve ever done.”
In all of her roles, Shencopp has sought out trusted colleagues. “It’s hard enough to be a lawyer,” the senior counsel explains. “You want to make sure that you feel good about who you’re spending so much time with. You want those people to have your back.”
That has continued for Shencopp since joining Boeing in 2022. She thoroughly enjoys the breadth of antitrust work she gets to do at Boeing given the scope of the company’s operations. Shencopp values interacting with all of Boeing’s business units, from commercial airplanes and services to defense where she provides counseling on antitrust questions, compliance training, and supports Boeing’s M&A activities. Shencopp has also been able to delve into broader regulatory advocacy at a time when the antitrust regulatory environment is more fluid than ever, at least since the lawyer has been practicing.
“Transitioning to an in-house role at Boeing has been a fulfilling experience for me,” Shencopp says. “I feel privileged to work with incredibly smart, kind lawyers and to help support the mission of the company.”
While Shencopp wishes she would have listened to her inner voice sooner, she is grateful for all of the experiences she has had. And they have all helped prepare her for her current role, which is right where she is supposed to be.
“I have had the pleasure of knowing Erin for many years. She is a smart, insightful lawyer and I appreciate opportunities to work with her.”
—Amy Manning, Partner and Chair, Antitrust Practice Group
“Erin is a highly skilled antitrust lawyer with a team-first approach to advocating for Boeing’s strategic priorities. She is also a pleasure to work with because she is smart, business savvy, and very effective.”
–Pam Taylor, Of Counsel