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Being Lucy Bassli, Assistant General Counsel at Microsoft

Aug. 17, 2015, 10:14 PM

Editor’s note: The author of this post is a fellow at CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics and is a member of the California bar.

By Monica Bay, Fellow, CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics

The legal profession faces an embarrassing problem: women and people of color aren’t climbing up corporate and Big Law ladders as quickly as white male peers. In the spirit of inspiration, meet lawyer Lucy Bassli, who oversees a new centralized contracting office in Microsoft Corp.'s legal department, specializing in non-revenue contracting processes — and she’s a mom to three children.

Bassli recently spoke at the American Bar Association-Stanford Law School “National Summit on Innovation in Legal Services,” and explained her role managing the team responsible for legal support of Microsoft’s procurement and outsourcing functions, IT functions and commercial operations — and overseeing the corporation’s buy-side contracting tools and processes. Her unit also is responsible for managing Microsoft’s global contract repositories and supporting the process of e-signatures and storage.

Texas to Seattle

[caption id="attachment_3944" align="alignleft” width="293"][Image “Lucy Bassli " (src=]Lucy Bassli[/caption]

Lucy Bassli, 40, was born in Odessa, Ukraine and grew up in Texas. Her family moved to the U.S. when she was five, and after a few years in New Orleans moved to Houston.

She was graduated from the University of Houston, with a double major B.A. in Russian Studies and Political Science in 1996, and then earned her J.D. there in 2000.

After law school, Basli moved to Washington to work at a tiny commercial bankruptcy boutique law firm in Seattle.

One day, the owner of the firm fell ill, and the other two attorneys were unable to substitute for him in a three-party mediation in front of a judge. That’s when Basli stepped up, only eight months after taking the Washington state bar exam. “That experience taught me to not get rattled and stand my ground on the substantive topics I had prepared for,” she said.

Outside to InsideBassli was working at Seattle-based Davis Wright Tremaine, when she learned of an opening at Redmond-based Microsoft, a firm client. After applying for a position at the company two times, she finally obtained a job as an attorney at Microsoft and has worked there for 10 years.

Her title has changed three times, with prior designations of attorney and then senior attorney, before her current moniker, Assistant General Counsel at Microsoft. She now supervises 21 people.

“My duties have stayed largely the same, though my scope of work has greatly grown,” explained Basli.

Bassli also serves on the board of the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management and was named to The National Law Journal’s roster of Outstanding Women Lawyers.

Bassli offered her take on the following topics.

Finding Success in Legal TechKnow the technology you use, said Bassli. “We can’t hide behind ‘I’m the lawyer and only need to know how to use a computer for Word documents.’ Demonstrate genuine interest and desire to learn.”

Advancing Up the Career Ladder“Volunteer to take on challenging projects. Be proactive and vocal. Promotions need to be earned through demonstrated work and open communication with management.”

Get Raises“Don’t be afraid of challenging conversations,” Bassli said. “Stand up for unpopular decisions when it is in the best interest of the company/client. Demonstrate performance above the current pay scale, by delivering at that higher level before asking for a raise.”

What’s been Easy and What has been Difficult?“Decision-making and seeing how to get to the goal is easy,” she said. But “navigating political situations” and deciphering people’s unspoken motives have been stressful.

Say No to Stereotypes“Don’t be passive. Don’t accept the belief that having a family will mean less career growth. Own your personal life choices and make the most of the situation. We all make choices and need to live with the choices we make, in a positive and productive way.”

Call Out Bad Behavior“When confronted with sexist or other inappropriate behavior, I stood my ground based on the facts and substance of the discussion,” said Bassli. “When faced with blatant sexism (only one real case I can recall), I called the guy on it, and he apologized profusely for his ‘joke.’ If it is blatant, you need to call it out. If it is perceived or unclear, just focus on winning on your merits.”

Most Significant Mentor“Honestly, I gain bits and pieces from lots of people, but if I had to pick one person it would be my mom. She is a career woman who succeeded in being both respected by her co-workers and liked by everyone — because she is genuine, kind and hard-working in everything she does,” said Bassli. “She has taught me that being a strong woman requires tough skin, but not a tough fist. I still find myself struggling to not revert to a tough fist, when I feel I need to defend my sometimes still too-thin skin. She taught me that when a woman turns to toughness, her reputation is not positive, unlike when a man does the same and is praised for his ‘tough’ approach.”


Balancing Acts“I love my job and have a very supportive stay-at-home husband who takes the lead in raising our three kids.”

Main balance tips are: 1. Be home for dinner, but check-in on work when the kids are in bed. 2. Shop online during conference calls where you are not actively participating. 3. Have the following extra stuff at home all the time: Paper plates, napkins, utensils for school parties you forgot about and birthday presents for kids of all ages. 4. Volunteer only for things that you will be able to handle without extra stress on your family.”

Teach Your Children“I want my daughter to know there is no alternative to being financially independent in her adulthood — oh, and pick a husband who gets it! I want my sons to support their wives’ career by handling the household responsibilities as a partnership, equally,” she said. “But more basically, I want the kids to know that men and women can do all the same jobs.”

Book that changed your career or lifeI’d sayThe Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary.” That short book by Mark Sanborn has made me look differently at what I perceive as doing a good job at work. It is a simple story of a postman who does an ordinary job in extraordinary way.”

Reset?If you had it to do over again, would you have taken a different path? “No. My path was a combination of planning, luck and hard work. I’m grateful for every experience along the way,” said Bassli.

Favorite Quote“There are tons of brilliant and inspiring quotes, but I find them all too clichéd,” she said. “My career perspective can be summed up by Nike’s great slogan: ‘Just do it.’ People spend too much time debating and pointing fingers or making excuses. If they would just do it, everyone could move on to other better things.”

(UPDATED: This article has been corrected. Basli applied to Microsoft two times before she was hired.)