We recently caught up with Alice Chen (NY, ’12), Senior Deputy General Counsel at Comcast Corporation. Alice began her career as an associate in Davis Polk’s Capital Markets group in New York before transitioning to in-house practice.
Read on to learn about the range of legal issues Alice faces day-to-day as in-house counsel and the advice that has guided her career moves.
You work as Senior Deputy General Counsel at Comcast. What does your typical day look like? What types of legal issues do you encounter in your current role?
There is no typical day in the life of an in-house lawyer, and that’s what keeps it exciting. On any given day, I could be preparing materials for a board meeting, speaking to one of our top institutional investors, drafting the company’s response to a shareholder proposal for the proxy statement, or getting up to speed on recent EU regulations and California climate bills. My current role in corporate governance and securities is broad, particularly since it also includes ESG reporting (which continues to evolve every day), but I’m enjoying the challenge!
What was it like working in Davis Polk’s New York office? Is there an individual who played an especially important mentoring role for your during your time at the firm?
I started out as a paralegal at Davis Polk right after college. The firm made such an impression on me that I went to law school with the goal of coming back as an associate. There’s nowhere else I would have wanted to cut my teeth than the capital markets group in the New York office – it was an excellent proving ground. The expediency, professionalism and depth of knowledge of the lawyers in the group is unsurpassed. I had the opportunity to work with so many individuals during my time at the firm who guided me but also allowed me to grow and run my own deals – Rich Drucker, Deanna Kirkpatrick, Richard Truesdell and Michael Kaplan, to name a few. One partner I particularly enjoyed working with is John Meade, who provides thoughtful, practical advice and is truly invested in young associates. I’m lucky that I still get to work with him now, as a client, and I’m proud to be an alumnus of this practice.
Do you have a memory of your time at the firm that you would like to share?
A core memory from my time at Davis Polk is actually from my wedding in Italy. A friend from Davis Polk, Ravi Ramchandani, officiated our ceremony in Tuscany. Ravi and another Davis Polk friend, Cheryl Chan, joined us for our mini-moon on the Amalfi Coast. I remember sitting on our hotel balcony in Positano, popping a bottle of champagne and FaceTiming Marcel Fausten to congratulate him on having just made partner. Marcel had graciously agreed to dogsit our rescue pup Izzy while we were off getting married. I’m fortunate to have made so many connections at Davis Polk who have not only been an important part of my career, but who have been part of some of the most important moments of my life. I still count them among my closest friends.
What advice have you received that has served you well in your career?
I’ve received a lot of good advice so far in my career and have distilled it down to two things that I always look for when I’m considering a new position: culture and career progression. For me, the fit – with the company and with my team – is the most important since that affects my day-to-day the most. I’ve been fortunate to work with leaders and colleagues that I both respect and genuinely like, which can make all the difference. Secondly, I always look for roles that I feel I can progress in. This may take different forms, such as a role offering a path to advance to the next level at the organization or enabling me to take on new substantive areas of focus that can expand my base of knowledge and make me a better, more versatile lawyer.
What advice do you have for young lawyers who are interested in transitioning to an in-house role?
Always take a job because you are running toward something, not because you’re running away. We’ve all had tough stretches at the firm where the days blend together – chances are during those times you don’t have time to look for an in-house role anyway. However, if you are looking, make sure that you’re taking a job because it will get you the experience, work/life balance, career progression, etc., that you’re looking for, and not because you’re feeling burned out.
You are the Board Secretary and Governance Committee Chair for Heights and Hills, a nonprofit serving older adults in Brooklyn. How did you become involved with this organization?
Heights and Hills is a wonderful organization that helps older adults in Brooklyn age in place through social services, caregiver support, and volunteer and intergenerational programs. It also operates a senior center in Park Slope. I first learned of the organization through a friend from Davis Polk who also serves on the board. I lived in Brooklyn at the time and wanted to find a way to give back to the community. It’s been three years since I joined the board, and I’ve watched the organization navigate the pandemic – which hit its clients particularly hard – with grace and aplomb. I’m truly in awe of the tremendous staff and all that they do on a daily basis.
What does your typical Saturday or Sunday look like?
Weekends are busy! With two toddlers, two dogs and a cat, it feels like we’re always running around to playdates, birthday parties and the vet. We made the great decision last year to hire a nanny for the weekend who looks after the kids for five hours each day – in that time, my husband and I get to run errands, catch up with friends and enjoy the occasional date night out. Don’t get me wrong, we love spending time with our kids, but it’s nice to enjoy being husband and wife every once in a while, and not just mom and dad.