Yale Law School

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Rhonda Joy McLean, JD '83

Deputy General Counsel—Law Department
Time Inc.
New York, NY

I am deputy general counsel for Time Inc., a Time Warner company that publishes more than 21 magazines in the United States and Canada that are read in print, online and on tablets around the world and also produces a wide variety of other products, including books, calendars, television shows and digital applications for multiple platforms. I am an advertising and consumer marketing attorney and am primarily responsible for: 1) managing one third of our law department; 2) evaluating new business development concepts and conducting legal risk analyses; 3) helping to establish domestic and international company standards and policies for consumer marketing materials and methodologies, focusing on electronic marketing matrixes; 4) identifying and resolving consumer data privacy promotional issues; 5) keeping clients informed regarding the status of federal, state and municipal legislation that might apply to their business practices; 6) assisting our in-house litigators as appropriate when our company’s marketing procedures and/or promotions are challenged; 7) recruiting and overseeing our summer legal interns; and 8) hiring and working with outside counsel as needed. My clients are the 200 plus consumer marketing personnel who sell Time Inc. products in the United States and Canada, but I also regularly advise many other clients, including our advertising and sales personnel as well as our editorial staff. I love what I do, as there’s never a dull moment and I never know what I will face next! In January, 2009 I added additional responsibilities to my portfolio and am now managing all of the non-lawyer staff in our law department and arranging for professional development opportunities for our entire department. I am also entering my second annual term as chair of the board of the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York and represent Time Inc. on that Board. The BBB handles nearly 600,000 complaints from consumers each year.

In March of 2010 my first book, “The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women,” was published by Random House/One World Press. Written with my long-time friends Elaine Meryl Brown, an Emmy–award winning producer and director from HBO and Marsha Haygood, a former senior executive at New Line Cinema and now the owner of her own career and life coaching business Stepwise Associates, our “Little Black Book” has consistently been ranked in the top three books on Amazon.com’s best seller list for leadership and management and is now in its sixth printing. We are already hoping to complete our second book by the end of this year. To learn more about us and our work, please visit our site, www.littleblackbookofsuccess.com, our Facebook page (“little black book of success”) and our Twitter account (“@Blkbooksuccess”). My co-authors and I have also formed a company, LEADS LLC, which stands for Leadership Excellence and Development Strategies. We continue to market our consulting services to private and public sector businesses and look forward to growing that business together.

I have been at Time Inc. for nearly fourteen years. Prior to coming to Time, I ran the Northeast Regional Office of the Federal Trade Commission (located in Manhattan) for nine years. I greatly appreciate my government experience, since I worked as a senior litigator for nearly two years before being promoted into management there, where I supervised more than thirty people, including staff attorneys, investigators, administrative staff and volunteers. My colleagues and I prosecuted individuals and companies engaged in consumer fraud and/or anti-competitive conduct throughout the United States, shutting down fraudulent businesses and clawing back illegally gained profits to return to consumers wherever possible.

During my tenure as a federal prosecutor (and later as manager of a pool of such prosecutors) I learned about many different industries and gained valuable experience. Our staff was small and we conducted our own investigations, largely based upon consumer complaints and our own undercover work. We also established wide-ranging consumer education programs to deliver valuable information to underserved consumer communities (e.g., ethnically diverse neighborhoods, new immigrants and others for whom English is not the first language, working poor families, etc.). I established a law student internship program, and eventually hired more than 150 law students from schools throughout the metropolitan New York area to help us. We all worked very closely with other federal, state and city law enforcement officials as well as various media to reach our goals, and I remain close to the many friends I made during this eleven-year period.

Prior to joining the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), I was a corporate litigator for three years in the New York office of Morrison and Foerster, a San Francisco-based law firm. As a young associate I participated in every aspect of pre-trial preparation and arbitrated over 100 cases under a new state statute. This was an excellent learning experience and helped to make me a suitable candidate for the FTC when it was recruiting attorneys with significant trial experience. The fact that I had clerked in federal district court for two years before coming to New York also added to my marketability. My judge, Anna Diggs Taylor (also a Yale Law School graduate and the author of the opinion ruling against President Bush’s domestic spying program in 2006), was appointed by President Carter in 1979 to the Eastern District of Michigan (located in Detroit), and has recently retired from the bench. My clerkship was wonderful in that I learned the “ins and outs” of the federal judicial system from an extraordinarily intimate vantage point.

My approach to my career has been a very flexible one, and I believe that you need to remain open to and/or be willing to create many different possibilities for yourself and your leadership trajectory. There will likely be areas of legal practice developing in the next few years that don’t exist now, so you shouldn’t feel that you must know now exactly what you want to do, or begin your practice in a particular substantive area. I encourage law students and young lawyers (more experienced ones, too) not to project in two or five or 10 year cycles, but to keep their antennae up and their networks fresh so that they can learn about diverse job possibilities from many sources. Reach out to attorneys (especially Yale Law School alumni, who are amazing and often quite open to being contacted) who are working in the areas you are interested in and try to find out what they actually do and how they feel about it. Seek out different kinds of legal practitioners to be mentors for you. Lawyering is a very personal experience, and who you are has a lot to do with how you engage in the practice of law. I also do a great deal of volunteer and community work, and believe that this commitment to civic duty enriches me in every way. I believe that you must be true to yourself in order to move forward. Oh yes, and I still sing. I am a mezzo soprano and have been performing sacred choral music in the metropolitan New York area for more than twenty years! It all works, somehow.

I’m happy to report that I also have a rich and full personal life. I’m engaged to a wonderful man who has two amazing children who have generously enfolded me into their lives. We now have a delightful grandson who is five years old. You, too, can do all this and more.
-2013