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Maryanne Lavan, General Counsel, Lockheed Martin

Maryanne Lavan, Lockheed Martin's GC, speaks on being self-driven, the importance of networking, and more

Maryanne Lavan, General Counsel, Lockheed Martin

What led you into the legal profession?

I didn’t come from a family of lawyers. I was the oldest of seven children of a public school teacher. I became interested in writing and research while in college. Those interests led me to law school and learning about legal issues. I came to appreciate the power of law and its potential to shape and impact people’s lives. Some people go to law school and say they can’t imagine anything worse, but I liked it!

How did you come to be in your current role?

I joined Lockheed Martin as the associate general counsel for Litigation Compliance and then served as general counsel for one of our businesses for eight years. Next, I served as vice president for ethics and business conduct. Following that role, I became the vice president for internal audit. So I worked outside the legal department for about seven years before being named the company’s general counsel in 2010.

Were the various moves you made self-driven, or did somebody request that you make the changes?

I asked to be considered for each role, with the exception of the audit role. For that role, I was asked if that was something I was interested in. I definitely put my hand up to be considered for the general counsel position. My approach has always been to volunteer for new opportunities and put my best foot forward.

Is there a time while moving up the ranks here that you viewed as particularly challenging in comparison to the others?

I try to impress upon young professionals a need to be resilient. There are times during one’s career when things may not be going as you’d hoped. And, you have to make the decision — do I stay with the corporation? Am I delivering enough value? Is it providing me with sufficient challenges, or do I need to move on? On two occasions when I interviewed for roles that I didn’t get, I was disappointed and I had to ask myself whether I should move forward at Lockheed Martin or continue to explore other avenues. Each time I choose to stay at Lockheed Martin. Interestingly, each time, the roles eventually came back to me. It’s important to recognize that there may be a greater plan, and you just don’t know it yet. How you handle rejection when these situations arise is important.

You were profiled in Diversity Journal’s “Women Worth Watching, 2011” and you discussed your seven traits or tendencies. Do you recall what they are and why do you think they are important?

In addition to being resilient, I always stress gratitude, humility and appreciation for others. It’s important to recognize that success isn’t just about yourself. It’s teamwork, reaching out and working hard. I tell people to be themselves and find a style that is most comfortable for them. These aren’t just tenets of executive leadership. They are what I try to teach my children too as they enter the workplace, because I know they are the types of traits that leaders want to see in any employee.

How do you network, and how do you see it as a vehicle for women to grow in their careers?

Networking is based on being part of and interacting with the team, showing respect and asking for help when you need it. Through networking, you can form bonds with your colleagues and gain their trust. I think the biggest thing that you need for this position in general is trust and honesty, so networking is quite valuable for a lawyer’s success. Networking is also about offering help to others. Whenever I am asked to speak at events, I try to do so. I participate on panels and talk to young people, whether male or female, and provide suggestions on how to navigate and advance their careers.

What are some of the things you do to connect with your team?

It’s important for my team to know that their opinions matter, and that I don’t know everything. We are faced with challenges and varied responsibilities every day, so I try to create an environment that enables my team to feel comfortable in making suggestions as to how we might solve a problem or how to do something better. I also try to understand each employee and how I can enable their success. I like to tell the story about an attorney who took a position with us in another state. He commutes back and forth because his family is here. When I checked in with him and asked how things were going, he indicated that he felt as if he was not contributing enough to the business nor being at home enough. My response was “welcome to the world of working mothers.” I wanted him to know that he wasn’t alone in feeling that way and that I understood the challenges the new position presented him.

How do you address the issues of diversity in the firms you use?

We developed a survey that we send to our external counsel that seeks to get an idea of how they approach diversity. When people come to pitch new work, I try to get a sense of the diversity in who they bring along, and of course, the diversity in whom will be doing work the for us. This is something that I’ve been trying to work on more. It is more of a diversity and inclusion conversation, which is one that we are having internally as well.

Could you tell me about some of your current leadership roles outside of your GC position?

I serve as executive sponsor for Lockheed Martin’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Forum, which is an opportunity for the LGBT leaders and allies across the corporation to meet once a year. We’ve held forums for other groups inside the company for a number of years, and we started this one three years ago. It has been rewarding to see how both the mindset and dialogue have changed in the company as a result of the forum and our commitment to the LGBT community. Each year the forum has grown, and we reached the maximum number for attendees in 2013. I’m proud of the company for its role and position to make the company’s culture inclusive and one where people come to work and can be true to who they are.

What are key business and legal challenges facing your company? What keeps you up at night?

Our biggest concerns are the unknowns. We are concerned about the potential issues that we don’t know about. Certainly, much of our focus and energy are devoted to regulatory issues. We also spend a lot of time and energy ensuring that we can be responsive to the business’ needs and that we can support these needs in connection with its growth objectives.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Most of the legal work at our company is performed by a team of people. So, I’m proud of the team and the work it does every day. I’m proud of being part of the team, and being able to lead it.

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