Extended Interview: Steven Zipperstein, GC of Verizon

Steven Zipperstein has never given less than 110 percent to any job he's done. Originally bound for a PhD in political science, he changed course when a professor and mentor at UCLA suggested that he consider a professional degree instead. Having worked at law firms during the summer to pay for school, Zipperstein found his natural niche in the law.

After graduating from college young and early at 19, Zipperstein took a year off before law school to backpack across Europe and get more firsthand experience working in a law firm setting. By the time he started law school at UC Davis, he was rested and ready to work hard - a plan that paid off when he landed a coveted summer associate position with Hufstedler, Miller, Carlson & Beardsley that eventually lead to his first job.

What was your path after law school?

I went to the Hufstedler, Miller, Carlson & Beardsley firm in Los Angeles. I worked there my second summer, between my second and third years of law school. They came up, at that time they recruited at Harvard, Yale and Stanford and they decided to come to UC Davis and recruit, which is the first time they had ever come. I had very good first year grades and I had spent my first summer at a big New York firm, Donovan Leisure, at their LA office and my interview went well and they offered me a summer associate job. That was 1982, which was the first big recession before the one that we're just coming out of now. So there were 12 summer associates and I was the only one that received an offer. So the kids from Harvard and Yale and Stanford and Michigan didn't get offers, but I did. I loved the people there. The firm was kind of a boutique litigation firm, very diverse, very powerful in the courtroom, devoted to pro bono work and public service. It was a perfect fit for me and I stayed for four years and loved every second of it.

How have the job you do and the industry you work in changed since you've been general counsel?

Verizon Wireless, in the seven years I've been general counsel, has more than tripled in size. It's been an amazing success story in the history of American business. And also during that time, the technology and the products and services that the entire wireless industry has been delivering to customers has changed dramatically. Seven years ago, text messaging and flip phones were the state of the art. Now, we have the most incredible smartphones operating on the Android operating system and tablets and air cards and 4G super fast wireless technology. All of that has happened in such a short period of time. It's been revolutionary and I've had a front row seat, as the general counsel, to these amazing changes and this amazing growth in our company and keeping up with the legal and regulatory and public policy challenges that have occurred as we've grown so much and as the technology has changed so much, has been an incredibly interesting and intellectually rewarding experience for me.

Do you have a proudest moment that you'd like to share from your career?

My proudest moment occurred in the summer of 1995. After the Oklahoma City bombing, Congress decided to hold hearings on the Waco events. Attorney General Reno called me, I was back in LA, and said, "I need you back here to represent me and to represent the Justice Department in this Congressional investigation." I spent six weeks in DC and worked literally around the clock, basically sleeping three or four hours a night.

Kayleigh Roberts

Bio and more articles

Join the Conversation

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.