After twelve years of intense litigation, trial work, and firm life, Morgan Gower found herself in Pasadena, California, doing lock checks with a property manager at a Public Storage. She hadn’t fallen on hard times—far from it. The senior corporate and litigation counsel was just learning about the company she would be supporting, a member of the S&P 500 and FT Global 500, at that.
“It was my first week on the job, and I got to shadow one of our property managers,” Gower explains. “It was instrumental in helping me learn about our business [and] was a fantastic crash course in how we run our business.”
That was five years ago, and since then, Public Storage has celebrated its fiftieth anniversary as a company, and Gower has continued to seek out significant institutional knowledge. Many employees’ tenure clocks in at more than thirty years.
“We have people here who have been with Public Storage for decades,” Gower says. “I leaned on individuals with deep institutional knowledge to help me develop as an in-house resource. Listening to and learning from others within my organization helped me take my legal skills and pair them with the business of what we do.”
As an attorney who excelled in the courtroom, there was a significant learning curve for Gower to overcome when going in-house. But there were skills from the courtroom that no doubt came in handy.
“Whether you’re deposing someone or trying to negotiate, you really have to develop a high level of emotional intelligence to get the pulse on what is happening,” the senior counsel explains. “Emotional intelligence is certainly a hot topic today, but it was an imperative skill for me to develop early on in my career.”
Interpersonal skills can often be taken for granted, but Gower says they’re interlinked with virtually every aspect of getting ahead in one’s career and driving positive results for one’s client, whether it be in private practice or internally for a company.
Not Your Average Soccer Mom
Morgan Gower says going in-house at Public Storage has offered her the chance to be the kind of mom she wants to be. Or, in this case, the kind of coach she has to be. Gower coached all three of her kids’ American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) teams last year. Along with coaching, she also sits on the AYSO board of directors, which, the lawyer jokes, manages to always find a way to pull her back in, à la Michael Corleone in the Godfather: Part III.
That dedication probably wouldn’t have been possible in the world of billable hours, and it’s not something the lawyer takes lightly. “I’m fortunate to be at a company that really values their employees having a healthy work/life balance,” Gower explains. “Public Storage really respects personal and family time, and I’m very appreciative of that.”
“While I’ve expanded and enhanced my skill set since coming in-house, there are qualities that I keep coming back to,” Gower explains. “Interpersonal skills make you an effective litigator, but in-house, they help you connect and build trust with your clients and form genuine connections and relationships.”
Gower says turning on a dime, whether it be a new set of facts being introduced or a testimony not going as planned, is also easily applicable to the wide range of responsibilities one has when moving in-house. Working nimbly and creatively is as important in enabling the business from the legal department as it might be in the courtroom. The pace of speed might be slower than a trial, but the stakes are just as high in the long term.
“If you’re considering making the jump in-house, I would encourage it,” Gower says. “Every day is different and filled with new challenges. The transition from litigation and trial work to becoming a trusted advisor and a business partner is incredibly interesting, rewarding, and fun.”
Regardless of where one is in their career, Gower also strongly advocates for mentorship, from whatever perspective that might entail. Whether one is providing mentorship or receiving it, the senior counsel says everyone involved has the opportunity to look at things in a different way, through a different lens, and with a different value perspective.
“It’s always been helpful for me to know that I have an ally and someone who could provide constructive feedback,” Gower explains. “On the mentoring side, it’s definitely helped me develop leadership and communication skills. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Mentorship is especially important for those just leaving law school, and Gower says the law school experience is much more about learning the fundamentals of the law than what it actually means to be a lawyer. Gower says mentorship was how she learned that while being a litigator required her to be tough, she also “didn’t have to be a jerk.”
“And that brings us back to interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence,” Gower adds. “See, I knew we’d get back here.”
It might be old habits of helping a witness get back to the critical point, or a leader seeing the bigger picture above the minutia, but she’s right. That’s what makes Gower a strong litigator, and it’s what’s making her an even better advisor.
Womble Bond Dickinson is a transatlantic law firm with more than 1,100 lawyers based in 30 UK and US office locations serving clients across every business sector. The firm provides core legal services including commercial, corporate, employment, dispute resolution and litigation, finance, banking, restructuring, insolvency, IP, technology and data, private wealth, projects, construction and infrastructure, real estate, and regulatory law. Womble Bond Dickinson applauds Morgan Gower for her accomplishments and work that has led her to be successful at Public Storage. Her commitment to our community and her advice and voice to the younger generation of girls plays a strong role in creating a better place to live, work, and do business.