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It’s easy to forget that Paul Sharobeem is a highly skilled corporate and securities lawyer as you talk with him, his demeanor can seem almost academic if it was not so focused on creating actual and tangible value. Sharobeem’s thoughts on the role of organizational behavior are the result of a career spanning both law firm as well as in-house roles. During that time, he’s observed what works, what doesn’t, and how to create change from within.
After five-and-a-half years in the law firm world, Sharobeem went in-house at Caterpillar in 2013 as a corporate securities counsel. During his nearly six-year tenure at Caterpillar, Sharobeem’s role in the legal department evolved and grew, including a uniquely challenging opportunity outside of the legal department as the company’s global head of executive compensation which, as Sharobeem later recounts, significantly enhanced his leadership skills and experience. Many of those same skills would be put to the test when Sharobeem accepted an overseas role with Aramco, one that would take him and his family to Dharan, Saudi Arabia, for nearly four years.
“It was an incredibly interesting time at Aramco because the company had announced its intention to IPO, yet it remained a state-run enterprise that wanted to modernize and ‘open up,’” he says. “Much of that process occurred during the pandemic which added a challenging layer to an already complex process.”
When Sharobeem returned to the US in 2022, he assumed his current role as associate general counsel and assistant secretary at Chicago-based Century Aluminum, in part, because of the role the legal department plays within the organization.
“At times legal departments can be seen as more of a ‘check the box’ exercise, or even an obstacle to overcome,” the AGC says. “Maybe it’s because of Century’s smaller size or the flatter management structure, but it was obvious from the beginning that lawyers here are integrally involved in the business.”
But there were also things that Sharobeem knew needed to change. There had been significant turnover within the legal department, and as the company looked to grow, Sharobeem knew the legal department needed to be reimagined with a strong focus on intellectual curiosity, process discipline, and problem-solving as core tenants.
“Ultimately, to be a successful in-house lawyer, you must embrace ambiguity. The whole job basically boils down to confronting new legal and business problems and applying a consistent and rigorous approach to solving those problems,” Sharobeem says. “The further along I’ve gotten in my career, the more impressed I am by young lawyers who really try to understand and solve a novel problem prior to escalating the matter. It’s easy to pass problems along to others, but it’s much harder to dig in, understand the core of the issues, and develop a plan to systematically resolve those issues.
“There are always aspects of any matter that one can’t resolve on their own and that need to be escalated, but the initial ‘wrestling’ with a new issue is a skill on its own and is highly underrated,” he continues. “Once you learn how to do that, you will inspire trust in almost any setting and you’re going to have more confidence to tackle the next problem. To me, that is the foundation of professional growth.”
For Sharobeem, that type thinking applies not only to solving legal problems, but also to the broader impact he hopes to inspire across Century’s entire organization. “Embracing a growth mindset, modeling a healthy skepticism, and aiming for ever higher standards of quality are just as much the mission of the legal department at Century as are its ‘core’ legal and risk management duties,” the AGC explains. “It’s not enough to be a good technical lawyer, you have to build trust, encourage people to set aside preconceived notions, challenge the status quo, and ultimately help colleagues overcome a fear of the unknown if you want to make a real impact.”
This impact has not gone unnoticed by Sharobeem’s colleagues, both in and outside his organization. “Paul and I have partnered over the past five years during which I have seen him excel in his roles at public companies. His ability to expertly manage and guide organizations forward, build consensus, and provide practical and strategic guidance make him an exemplary leader in the legal profession,” says Maia Gez of White & Case LLP. “It is an absolute pleasure to work with such a dedicated and excellent professional.”
It’s still early in Sharobeem’s tenure at Century, and while his legal work is always close at hand, he’s clearly thinking about the bigger picture. Change is hard, but Sharobeem is up to the challenge.