As the general counsel for AVX Corporation, Evan Slavitt keeps very busy. Working for the leading international manufacturer and supplier of electronic passive components and interconnect solutions, Slavitt finds a constant stream of challenging and interesting work, as he interacts with every aspect of the business. But the biggest misconception about corporate law, he explains, is that it’s boring. “Think about a guy running a store,” Slavitt says. “He’s hiring people, he’s buying merchandise, and he’s dealing with real estate. He’s doing all kinds of stuff every day. And corporate lawyers deal with that same stuff every day.”
Slavitt may be in corporate law now, but he didn’t start there. After graduating from Yale University and Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, he served as an attorney in the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice, and then as an assistant US attorney for the District of Massachusetts. He next spent twenty years in private practice as a trial attorney in Boston. Ten years ago, however, he sensed it was time for a change and joined AVX as its general counsel.
Slavitt describes the differences between his time as a trial attorney and in-house counsel with an analogy. “With trial attorneys, we all walk into the room, and there is a dead body on the floor, and our job is to figure what happened and who is responsible—but no matter how we work it, someone is already dead,” he says. “As an in-house counsel, my job is figuring out how to avoid these problems and fix things before there is a dead body on the floor and teach people inside the company what they need to know to understand the legal implications of their decisions.”
After transitioning to AVX, Slavitt was surprised by the variety that his new position offered. The organization operates in twelve countries and serves a broad range of markets including: computer, telecommunications infrastructure, cellular, industrial, automotive, consumer, military, and medical sectors—and Slavitt is involved in all of it. “My role is basically anything that walks in the door,” he says. “I have responsibilities everywhere the company could interact with the laws and the statutes of any country, which is spectacularly broad. My job is to navigate these waters, translate legal jargon to businesses and businesspeople so they can understand it, minimize the risk by reviewing contracts and other legal documents, assist people when it’s time to think about acquisitions, and do basically all the block and tackling work you have to do for a company that operates around the world.”
In addition to his legal work, he oversees the health and safety department for the company. Slavitt had previously worked in environmental law at a private practice, which, he explains, made him a natural fit to supervise the department. He now conducts health and safety inspections for some AVX plants every year and oversees the environmental health and safety efforts for the company. Slavitt credits his team for helping him manage the initial learning curve as he made the transition from the legal side to the policy side.
Slavitt knows he’s not always right, and a key part of what he looks for when hiring is people who are willing to ask smart questions and point out places where he might have missed something. “Historically, my management style is: I hire people to do their job. It is not my job to do their job. If I were going to do their job, I wouldn’t hire them,” Slavitt says. “So I have to find the right people for the job and give them the tools to do it well, but I see myself as much as a facilitator as someone to whom they report.” When working with teams, Slavitt tries to avoid giving out answers and instead guides team members to make their own decisions. He believes that the benefits are twofold: the team might come up with a better solution than what he had in mind, and they are also challenged to think more like leaders.
“My role is basically anything that walks in the door. I have responsibilities everywhere the company could interact with the laws and the statutes of any country, which is spectacularly broad.”
Recently, Slavitt’s team has been working to get the company in line with the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act, which seeks to prevent slavery and trafficking within the United Kingdom and associated businesses. His team had to ensure that every company within the international AVX group had completed the necessary notices, implemented the required rules, and revised the contracts with vendors so that they were legitimately monitoring the labor of their supply chain. AVX is now fully compliant with the law.
One resource Slavitt has found invaluable since his transition to in-house counsel is the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), a global, in-house bar association for professional corporate counsel. Over the past three years he has turned his focus to cybersecurity issues and how they relate to law firms. “A lot of the time, we get cybersecurity information that is about how our company should deal with vendors or customers, but lawyers hire a lot of law firms,” Slavitt says. “And until recently, no one was really paying attention to the cybersecurity issues of law firms and telling in-house counsel, or helping in-house counsel, understand what they needed to know to evaluate the quality of the cybersecurity of the firms they were hiring.”
This new focus has led him to flexing his writing muscles for the ACC blog. No stranger to writing—in 2012 he published a novel called Death of a Prosecutor—Slavitt says the blog presented a unique challenge. “The blog is like the old days when I was in high school, where you have to write a one-page essay on something interesting and do it within five hundred words,” Slavitt says. “And particularly for lawyers, trying to do that is not as easy as it sounds. I have been guest blogging to see what it was like to have one particular point and then explain it in a short period of time. So if someone is
scanning through the blog, they can say, ‘Oh, that’s interesting. Now I know this.’”
While he has given up predicting his career path, Slavitt says that one thing that has become clear is the importance of truly listening to those around him. “The best piece of advice, both for lawyers and businesspeople, is to listen,” he says. “Too many people—particularly in the legal
business—are thinking about what they want to say while the other person is talking and they are not actually hearing any of the important stuff. And as I have gotten older, it has become clearer to me that I know a lot, but it is important to listen to others because they might know something I don’t, and I need to know what their real question is, not just what they seem to be saying.”
Mintz Levin is proud to recognize Profile magazine’s honoree, AVX Corporation’s Evan Slavitt. With a versatile set of talents, Evan is capable of handling diverse matters, from mergers and acquisitions to complex patent litigation. His breadth of knowledge, strong analytical skills, and business-orientated approach enable him to find practical solutions to the most complex legal problems. He is a pleasure to work with and a true friend. Congratulations, Evan!
“Nutter holds Evan Slavitt in the highest regard as a very savvy legal counselor with an extraordinary breadth of knowledge, and we greatly value our long-standing partnership with AVX.” —Mary Ryan, Partner, Litigation, Nutter
“Nutter is honored to work with Evan Slavitt and others at AVX. We are pleased to be a part of his team and congratulate him on this well-deserved recognition.” —Ronald Cahill, Partner, IP Litigation Chair, Nutter
Congratulations to Evan Slavitt on his well-deserved recognition. Parker Poe values our relationship with AVX Corporation and we thank Evan for sharing his talents with our firm. It is our mission to provide the highest quality of professional service to meet the needs of our diverse client base.