Jane C. Luxton, Partner, Pepper Hamilton LLP
How long have you been working for your current company?
Almost three years
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I began as an attorney advisor to a Federal Trade Commissioner, then served as a trial counsel at the US Department of Justice, and since then have worked as an associate in a private law firm, in a corporate legal department, then as a partner (part-time) at a small firm, and later as a full-time partner in a large firm. In 2007 I was appointed General Counsel of a federal agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). After leaving NOAA, I joined Pepper Hamilton’s DC office (where I had been a summer associate years earlier) almost three years ago.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
I think it’s a tie between serving as General Counsel of NOAA and the work I’ve done on death penalty pro bono cases. At NOAA, I led more than 100 outstanding attorneys, many of them unionized (a new experience for me), on matters involving a very broad range of issues, and I had the chance to help shape the major legal and regulatory policies of the agency. In many ways it was a stretch for me, and I am proud of what I accomplished. As for the three death penalty habeas cases in which I have played a role, I feel that my contributions on these exceptionally high-stakes cases have been among the most important legal work of my career.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
While my background is in regulatory law, particularly environmental, since rejoining the private sector I have branched into the broader area of sustainability, clean tech, and climate change. It is a challenge to stay on top of all the developments in this evolving, wide-ranging area and find creative ways to connect clients with solutions. Having a high energy level, being willing to take risks, and working hard seem to be the best ways to manage these kinds of challenges.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
Now that my children are grown and on their own, it is easier, but when my children were young, I worked part-time and at a small firm to allow for a better work-life balance. That may have cost me more rapid career development, but it made me more open to unconventional career moves and ultimately more interesting work. It also taught me that part-time work arrangements can be win-win, and I instituted a part-time work policy as NOAA General Counsel.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
I had several mentors, all males senior to me, who taught me the importance of listening, thinking about the problem from the client’s perspective, offering creative alternatives, and keeping my analysis and recommendations as simple and clear as possible.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
Client-driven diversity expectations are a very powerful change agent, and law firms have been noticeably responding.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
When I was a young Justice Department trial attorney doing grand jury work, it was a great advantage when witnesses underestimated me.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
The increasing numbers of women who are partners and in leadership positions.