The possibilities are endless for the curious mind. Megann McManus has spent hours scouring an expansive online platform learning more about banking and capital markets, storytelling, insurance, and the history of artificial intelligence (AI). It’s a luxury the senior counsel and labor law expert at Genpact knows she would never have had time for when she was billing hours in a firm, but at her present employer, gaining that knowledge is incumbent on her being a better business partner and a better attorney.
Take McManus’s interest in AI. She doesn’t claim to be an expert by any means, but she’s gone further in her studies than most. As soon as she learned about ChatGPT, she installed it on her phone and has since used it to organize her thoughts and experimented with how it might influence her work in the future.
“I’m always looking for the next new thing,” McManus admits. “I like being around teenagers and kids to see what they’re interested in and how they’re using it. I like to be an early adopter, whether it’s a new band or a new piece of technology. I just like to embrace the future.”
This is the curious mind: one that might be overwhelmed by the possibilities of the future but is still willing to engage with an open heart.
An Authentic Practitioner
McManus leads with heart. It was something that worried her when the Arkansas-native moved from her home state to New York City to pursue a career in theatre, which led to a job in human resources for the labor union Actors’ Equity Association. That exposure to labor and employment law, particularly collective bargaining, eventually gave way to a labor law practice at both labor and management firms before going in-house at Genpact in 2022.
“I’ve always been most interested in people,” the attorney says. “It’s probably why I’m a labor and employment lawyer. The issues are always human-centered. And I think I had that stereotypical idea of what New Yorkers were like in my head. But then you find out they are kind and personable, and experiencing that correction was an important lesson for me.”
That isn’t to say McManus didn’t wind up across the negotiating table from the occasional prickly personality, but it didn’t alter her approach to her own practice. Her theater background meant she could occasionally play another version of herself if she needed to, and she took solace from Jackson Lewis partner Philip B. Rosen, a highly successful leader at the firm who is known for his people-first approach.
“Phil is probably one of the kindest people I’ve ever met,” McManus explains. “He never said a negative word about anyone, and he had that corner office. That was formative for me to see that you can accomplish more if you take the time to plan ahead, practice self-control, and treat people how they should be treated.”
There’s also a matter of practicality because, in many cases, the person you might be negotiating against today will be right back at the table with you a few years down the line.
“Those contract terms are going to come up again, and I just don’t see the value to your client by approaching a negotiation with an artificial, adversarial approach,” McManus says. “We’re going to have to work together again, so at the bare minimum, we should be treating each other with respect and, I hope, kindness.”
The Next Challenge
When asked about her transition in-house in 2022, McManus wonders aloud if other in-house attorneys have felt as abrupt a shift as she did, from being a profit-driver in a firm to a support function in a larger organization.
“There is a realization that what you do might not be understood or immediately felt by the rest of the company,” the senior counsel explains. “But in this role, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to learn the inner workings of a very large and highly effective organization and get to the heart of how I can help people accomplish their goals.”
This role shift is where McManus’s natural curiosity comes in most valuable. The metrics of what makes a successful lawyer dramatically changes when going in-house. There is more value in enabling business, fostering relationships, and translating difficult concepts for a broader audience.
It was also time for McManus to reconfigure her own personal metrics for what success meant to her. She and her wife returned to her hometown in Arkansas to be close to both of their parents. They’re raising a toddler and restoring an old house, which is, in many ways, the exact opposite lifestyle of the fast New York City life McManus initially sought out.
“It’s been wonderful to come full circle,” she says. “Our family has had the opportunity to put down roots and invest in the community that gave us the foundation to go off into the world and do what we did. I’m so excited for what’s next.”