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Alumnae on the rise

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alumnae on the rise
Five alumnae advancing in a range of careers around the globe: Sharon Crane, Mhairi Immermann, Yuko Masunaga, Catheryn O’Rourke and Judith Vale

In conjunction with Davis Polk’s 2023 Alumnae Reception, we reached out to five female alums who are on the rise in careers spanning industry, government and the nonprofit sphere. 

From cities across the United States and around the globe, these alumnae shared their thoughts on their time at Davis Polk, the best career advice they have received and their favorite parts of their current roles.


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Sharon L. Crane (NY, ’02)

President
Practising Law Institute
New York

Since 2021, Sharon has been the head of PLI, a nonprofit organization that provides educational training to lawyers, including preparing them to fulfill their pro bono responsibilities. Sharon started her career as a corporate associate at Davis Polk, before deciding to move into recruiting and firm administration. As Davis Polk’s Executive Director from 2014 to 2021, she oversaw firm operations and the global talent function.

What is one (or a few) word(s) that best describes your time at Davis Polk and why?

Varied. Demanding. Energizing. I worked at Davis Polk for almost 20 (!) years in three different roles (summer associate/associate, Director of Legal Recruiting and Executive Director). Each role helped me become a better lawyer, businessperson and leader. I have fond memories of my time working with and learning from the lawyers and business services professionals across the firm’s global offices.

What advice have you received that has served you well in your career?

Appreciate, and invest in, your relationships with colleagues. Whether they’re a sponsor, peer, mentee or friend – or some combination of these! – your network can and will help you professionally and personally throughout your career.

What is your favorite part of your current job?

The focus on innovation. PLI is nearly 100 years old, created well before CLE mandates. We’re constantly producing new programs, publications, research tools, immersive learning modules, podcasts and more to meet the needs of our members. We’re also developing and delivering new ways to access this content. I find my current role exciting and inspiring, and I begin each day eager to collaborate with our staff, esteemed faculty, authors and trustees as we serve the legal community.


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Mhairi C. Immermann (NY, ’11)

Director
Warner Bros. Discovery
New York

Mhairi is a Director in the Distribution & Commercial Partnerships group of Warner Bros. Discovery, a role that includes securing the distribution of the Max and D+ apps, HBO, Cinemax and various Turner and Discovery networks. Prior to joining WBD, she was a finance associate at Davis Polk and a counsel at WilmerHale.

What is one (or a few) word(s) that best describes your time at Davis Polk and why?

Two words to describe my Davis Polk experience are “breadth” and “depth.” As a corporate associate, I was encouraged to rotate through different practices – in my case, Capital Markets and Finance – and work on a variety of matters to gain a big-picture view of the broad issues facing our clients. Then within each practice, and on each matter, I was consistently challenged to develop a deeper expertise on those issues.

What advice have you received that has served you well in your career?

It’s important to like not only the work, but also the people you work with. I am grateful for the smart, kind and collaborative people I worked with during my time at Davis Polk, and the mentors who generously showed me the ropes. Seeking out that type of community has undoubtedly helped me grow as an attorney and made the journey more rewarding.

What is your favorite part of your current job?

As in-house counsel at a leading global media and entertainment company, and specifically in my role to negotiate our distribution deals, my work directly contributes to the economic success of the business. As a big fan of HBO programming, it’s also fun that this success leads to more seasons of my favorite shows! 


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Yuko C. Masunaga (NY, ’11)

Managing Director
Investor Relations and Sustainability Department ORIX Corporation
Tokyo, Japan

Yuko leads the sustainability initiative at ORIX, a diversified multinational financial group active around the work in leasing, financing, investment, real estate, asset management, renewable energy and more. The role includes working to improve the company’s sustainability disclosure and ESG ratings. Earlier, she was a corporate counsel at ORIX working on cross-border transactions. At Davis Polk, Yuko worked as a capital markets associate in Tokyo and an environmental associate in New York.

What is one (or a few) word(s) that best describes your time at Davis Polk and why?

Stimulating and expanding. I was working alongside some of the smartest, most hardworking and most client-oriented people in the world. I felt it at the time, but I have felt it even more keenly since I left. And my world really expanded. I got to live and work in a different country and also to experience two practice groups. I think I tend to make fewer assumptions about what works or makes sense because of that exposure to two very different work environments during my time at Davis Polk.

What advice have you received that has served you well in your career?

I was told that when I go in-house, my first year or so should be spent learning the organization. Without that, you can miss catching risks but also opportunities. The other piece of advice is to adjust what you say and how you say it so that the message gets through most effectively. That is really the only way organizational change gets made.

What is your favorite part of your current job?

As someone with a short attention span, the variety is really what keeps me going. As a bilingual/bicultural person, being able to fully utilize those skills to bridge the gap between different cultures and mindsets is also very gratifying.


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Catheryn O’Rourke (NY, ’02)

General Counsel and Company Secretary
Reckitt
Slough, United Kingdom

In February 2022, Cathy joined Reckitt, a global consumer products company with a portfolio of well-known hygiene, health and nutrition brands. Cathy was previously Chief Legal and Compliance Officer at Smith & Nephew, a global medical device company. Earlier, she spent 11 years at Davis Polk, leaving as a litigation counsel in New York.

What is one (or a few) word(s) that best describes your time at Davis Polk and why?

Incredible people – During my time at Davis Polk, I had the pleasure of working with great lawyers who were also great people. We obviously worked hard, but learned from each other and we laughed with each other. I will always be grateful to Davis Polk for introducing me to many of my closest friends and favorite people.

What advice have you received that has served you well in your career?

Make sure to ask for help when you need it, take the time to accept help when it is offered and offer to help others whenever you can.

What is your favorite part of your current job?

I continue to learn something new every day and I enjoy finding ways to help my team do the same.


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Judith Vale (NY, ’08)

Deputy Solicitor General
Office of the New York State Attorney General
New York

Judy has been with the New York State AG’s Office since 2014 and was named to her current role last year. In March 2023, she appeared in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, as New York State opposed a bid by New Jersey to dissolve the bistate Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. Earlier in her career, Judy was a Davis Polk litigation associate and clerked for two federal judges.

What is one (or a few) word(s) that best describes your time at Davis Polk and why?

Responsibility. I was given a lot of responsibility early on, often working on relatively small teams that were figuring out the factual narrative from the ground up, preparing for interviews and depositions, and drafting briefs or other filings. It was a lot of hard work, but I learned a lot both about putting together a case and about being a lawyer.

What advice have you received that has served you well in your career?

Do not pass on opportunities to jump into random projects or assignments when there is an urgent need, and show what you can do. When a team needs help, it is often because there is an urgent issue or a problem that needs to be solved quickly and creatively. When you jump in and help, you will gain a lot of trust and experience that may otherwise take quite a lot of time to build.

What is your favorite part of your current job?

I work on a truly wide variety of appeals, and I am thus constantly learning about new areas of law and new topics. I never know what the next appeal might be about! There are certain kinds of appeals that we see a lot, but there is also always something new coming down the pike. That variety is something that I also enjoyed immensely as a judicial clerk.