A decades-long career managing people in the legal industry has given Garry Lischin, deputy general counsel for BNY Mellon, the opportunity to mentor women and diverse lawyers, support their success and advocate to other male colleagues to get involved.
Natalie Runyon, of Thomson Reuters’ Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law initiative discussed with Lischin how he mentors women and what drives his desire to be involved in this issue.
Natalie Runyon: Tell us about your career.
Garry Lischin: Currently, I am deputy general counsel for BNY Mellon, and I am responsible for legal services for several of the bank’s business units, including Markets (Global Markets and Capital Markets) and Pershing LLC.
I started my career at two medium-size law firms and then moved in-house in the 1980s. I spent the next 20 years at Prudential Securities and Wachovia Securities in their legal divisions in various roles. From there, I moved to Pershing where I was the General Counsel for eight years. I joined BNY Mellon as the Deputy GC for Markets in 2014.
Natalie Runyon: BNY Mellon has an impressive team of high-profile women leaders. Tell me about your journey to mentoring women attorneys?
Garry Lischin: I have been managing people in-house since the early years of my career, and I have always enjoyed it. I have long understood the challenges that women face within the legal industry, but the time when it really stood out was in 1993. At the time, the job market was soft, and I was leading the work on an intense regulatory project where I needed to hire 150 attorneys to work 15-hour days for months to address it.
Most of the consulting attorneys I hired were women. Because we were working so many long hours together, I got to know them really well and learned about their challenges in advancing within the legal profession. I had a mother, I have a wife, a daughter and granddaughter, and I don’t like an unbalanced playing field. It is important to me to ensure any injustice is addressed.
Natalie Runyon: You were suggested for this interview by someone you have mentored. What do your mentoring relationships usually focus on?
Garry Lischin: My mentoring relationships are very different. In one example, I worked with a woman who knew what she wanted, expressed herself well, and was aggressive without stepping on toes. Another women mentee I worked with needed assistance in gaining visibility so I helped her become a leader in the industry outside of the company by nominating her and approving participation in industry organizations and conferences. In another case, I saw possibilities in a high-potential woman, and I approached her by asking if she was happy and if she wanted more from her career.
The women that I have mentored have appreciated me initiating the conversations because they often were not sure how to ask. If a woman is seeking advancement into leadership, she needs to ask how do I get promoted, how do I get better and how do I get ahead. I also participate in a LEAD (Leadership Education and Development) program for younger associates at law firms where they are paired with in-house counsel to build relationships.
Natalie Runyon: How do you approach the discussion of encouraging your male colleagues to advocate for women?
Garry Lischin: I lead by example. I address immediately situations where peers are condescending to women. Not doing so enables the “cancer” to spread within the team. I also try to call out bias when I see it by handling it directly and quickly.
Natalie Runyon: How do you drive diversity with your outside counsel?
Garry Lischin: I was asking for metrics on women and diverse attorneys at the associate and partnership levels when I was at Prudential more than 20 years ago. We were working with between 2,000 and 3,000 law firms, and we wanted to decrease the number of outside counsel, so I drove a process where we used diversity metrics as part of our process to drive down the number to about 70 firms.
We decided we were not going to work with law firms who were under-represented on women and diverse attorneys. Now that I am at BNY Mellon, we have a formal program to do that.