Ask a few lawyers what their most treasured career experiences have been, and some might point to successful negotiations, complex deals, or expanding leadership responsibilities.
For Jennifer Quinn, it was being let go.
“I think it might’ve been the best experience I had in my legal career because it made me really think about what I wanted to do and what was next,” she reflects. “It made me realize that nothing is guaranteed and made me focus on what was important to me.”
Up to that point, she had spent over a decade in a private practice firm before moving in-house at the company that fired her. Quinn’s experience as an associate and a partner at Ungaretti & Harris (now Nixon Peabody) taught her how to navigate challenging legal issues, how to find alternative solutions to problems, and how to look at things from different perspectives. When she went in-house, she paired those skills with a passion for understanding a business and its goals, and helping that business drive strategy towards achieving those goals.
Even with that decorated résumé, it was tempting to play it safe once she was out of work. The attorney could have accepted one of the many jobs offers she received from law firms, reverting to private practice where she had over a decade of experience. So, why didn’t she?
“I opted to choose my happiness and to focus on where my passion was, to wait until I found the next in-house role that made sense for me, and to trust that I’m a good lawyer and a good employee,” she says. “The opportunity was going to come.”
And it did. Today, Quinn is associate general counsel and director of data governance and privacy at Omron Management Center of America Inc., the US regional headquarters of Omron Corporation, an organization that aims to improve lives and contribute to a better society in part through innovations driven by social needs.
In her role, she supports the company’s business development, sales, and supply chain by spearheading legal support of commercial transactions as well as supporting the company’s human resources and labor function, while overseeing support for data privacy and governance, trade compliance, and internal investigations. She is also the board secretary for the US manufacturing entities and is a participant on the management team for the North American automation business.
The AGC also continues to reap the benefits of choosing her passion for helping business—and others—succeed. She is a leader and a mentor who pushes the importance of working for a company that aligns with your purpose.
“When you work for a company that wants to make a difference, you can find your voice,” Quinn says. “It’s the passion of the people within the company that’s going to set the tone for the company as a whole. You can’t be a purpose-driven company when nobody actually cares about their purpose within the company.”
She also stresses the value of not taking “no” for an answer when faced with obstacles between you and what you are meant to do. “If you feel strongly, you need to think about how to work-around the obstacle and make it happen by reshaping your methods or moving to plan B,” the AGC says. “Sometimes, you need to think about whether what you want to do is truly for you, but if you feel strongly, stick with it.”
That wisdom stems from an innate drive for independence and self-reliance that has always lived inside of the lawyer. They are values she got from her father, an entrepreneur who always taught her to control her own destiny, a mantra that drove her towards a career in law. Growing up in Albuquerque, she had dreams of venturing out on her own and succeeding in a big city. She got her chance after getting her bachelor’s in business with a concentration in accounting from the Anderson School of Business at the University of New Mexico. Upon graduation, she enrolled in law school at the University of Illinois Chicago.
Quinn’s law career began at Ungaretti & Harris LLP, where she would go on to work for twelve years. As an associate, she learned to work hard among some of the best and brightest lawyers while gaining experience in various practice areas and providing legal counsel to executives of companies. When she became partner, she represented businesses and private equity sponsors in connection with mergers, stock and asset acquisitions and dispositions, private securities offerings, and venture capital investments.
Quinn realized that her favorite part of her job was building relationships with her business clients, learning their operations, and helping them reach their goals during M&A processes. However, she found herself wanting to know how businesses fared after transactions were completed. “You spend a lot of time building relationships with the business team, but once the acquisition was closed, your relationship was over, so you didn’t get to experience what came next,” she explains.
That’s only one of the reasons that inspired her to make a shift inhouse after serving five years as a partner. Quinn, who was pregnant with her third child at the time, wanted a better work-life balance. The decision was solidified by a conversation she and her husband had about what made them happy. Quinn walked away from the conversation ready for a career change. “I still wanted to work on difficult transactions, but I also wanted more time for my family,” she admits.
She’s found that and more at Omron, which she says is the most ethical company she’s ever worked with or for. Others think so too. Recently the company was awarded for its environmental, social and governance efforts within the electronic equipment, instruments, and components industry for the second time in the row. “Every company has their purpose and vision and sometimes it’s just words on a plaque, but it’s living and breathing at Omron,” she attests.
Quinn has a wealth of advice for young attorneys aspiring to follow a career trajectory like her own. She encourages not to let others define who you are or what you should be doing with your career. “Your greatest weakness can also be your greatest strength,” she says. “You might need to refine how and when you use it, but always think about the situation and how to use some of your natural abilities.”
She also advises young people to be visible at work. “Out of sight out of mind is very true,” the AGC says. “Make sure people know what you’re doing and take opportunities to connect.”
“I’ve worked with Jennifer for over ten years, across various corporate and commercial matters, and have consistently been impressed with her ability to provide practical strategic advice on all aspects of complex legal and business issues.”
—Andrew L. Weil, Partner