Meredith Fuchs was born to work in law. At least, that’s how she sees it.
“I like to parse arguments and understand the issues. I’m moved by persuasive arguments,” Fuchs says. “I enjoy reading well-written legal briefs where people are persuasive.”
As general counsel of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Fuchs is surrounded by those types of arguments these days. She joined the bureau in 2011 as the next step in an illustrious career in law, including previously serving as the chief investigative counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce as well as a litigation partner at Wiley Rein. She originally was the CFPB’s deputy general counsel before serving as chief of staff and then general counsel.
Fuchs, who joined the CFPB shortly after it was created in 2011 following the Dodd-Frank Act, calls her current job one of the most exhilarating experiences in her legal career.
“There is nothing like starting a federal agency,” Fuchs says. “It is an incredibly exciting experience. … We all had to have this sort of ‘We’re all in this together’ attitude, and that meant pushing up your sleeves and doing whatever work had to be done.”
But she did not get to her current point without facing trials. According to Fuchs, one of her main challenges coming up in the legal industry was simply learning the ropes.
“If you don’t really understand how the marketplace works, it’s hard to make decisions about how to train yourself to be successful,” Fuchs explains. “I had many lawyers in my family, but I hadn’t had any that had done the type of work I was interested in. Finding people who can help you understand what the options are and who can help mentor you and coach you can be challenging.”
When looking at challenges facing women in the legal industry, Fuchs knows the ropes as well as anybody. In fact, a point of pride for her was being named partner at Wiley Rein two weeks into her first maternity leave, which Fuchs says was the first time a partner had been named while on maternity leave in the firm’s history. She says most of the problems she has faced aren’t unique to her situation; they’re the same problems all lawyers face.
“Women still face the problems they used to face, which is, ‘How do you balance being ambitious and successful with the rest of your life?’” Fuchs says. “I don’t think those are particularly women’s problems, I think those are just people’s problems.”
But those problems haven’t gotten in her way. In fact, years of experience in the legal realm have only helped her figure out the best path to put forth what she holds dear: justice and ethics in the toughest of situations.
“I’m a worrier in the way a lot of lawyers are,” Fuchs says. “I think about what are the things that could go wrong, but one of the things as I’ve gotten more experienced is to learn that all the things that could go wrong shouldn’t drive the outcome. They’re just part of your calculation to help make good decisions.”
Would you like to hear Meredith Fuchs and others like her at this year's Women, Influence & Power in Law Conference in Washington D.C. on Oct. 2-4? Make sure to register today!