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The Black General Counsel Project: Discovery’s Savalle Sims

Dec. 15, 2020, 11:01 AM

There is still a lot of room for improvement despite recent growth of diversity at the general counsel level, according to Savalle Sims, the general counsel of entertainment and media company Discovery Communications, Inc.

“We need the representation of general counsel to better represent the diversity of our country as a whole,” Sims said in a recent Bloomberg Law survey.

Black general counsel now make up over 5% of all general counsel in the Fortune 1000, a significant milestone tracked by the Black General Counsel 2025 Initiative and first reported by Bloomberg Law. We reached out to over 50 Black legal chiefs whose companies were in the Fortune 1000 in 2019 or 2020 to learn more about their careers and diversity at the top of the legal industry and heard from 39 of them.

Sims joined New York-based Discovery in 2011 and became general counsel in 2017. Prior to that, she was a partner with Arent Fox.

These responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Bloomberg Law: What are some key matters you and your team are working on right now?

Savalle Sims: Discovery is the leader in real-life entertainment—we reach more than 200 countries in nearly 50 languages, with thousands of hours of new content every year. So we’re always active in trademark, copyright, and patent work, along with litigation and negotiating deals with partners. The company is also getting ready to launch a new aggregated streaming service.

BL: What’s the best leadership advice you’ve gotten, from mentors or others?

SS: Early in my career, I worked at a small firm in D.C., for a partner named Rita Bank. She was instrumental in encouraging me. She taught me to never be satisfied. Watching her in action encouraged me to always improve and strive for more than just being a junior associate. She showed me what was possible, and I try to do the same for my team.

BL: What advice would you give you lawyers who want to go in-house?

SS: It is very helpful to come into an in-house role with solid experience in either the private or public sector. It is also important to learn as much as you can about the industry you want to join.

BL: What do you wish you knew at the beginning of your career that you know now?

SS: I wish that I knew that a career is a marathon not a sprint and to take more time to enjoy the early years of one’s career.

BL: Why do you think the number of Black general counsel has been on the rise? Have you observed any changes in the past few years that have contributed to recent increases in representation?

SS: The increase is a step in the right direction and it’s encouraging. But the legal profession has to do more to continue to elevate people of color and female lawyers. We need the representation of general counsel to better represent the diversity of our country as a whole.

BL: When you’re looking to hire outside counsel, how does diversity come into play in your evaluation of law firms?

SS: Legal representation is improved when there are diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and voices that are part of the discussion and representation. Discovery is very fortunate to be represented by a number of firms that bring a diverse group of lawyers to our representation. The vast majority of our outside counsel representations consist of diverse teams.

BL: What opportunities or changes has the pandemic brought to your job and your team?

SS: Discovery is in a unique position in that our stars and brands can produce new content from home, so it’s been a good opportunity to continue to reach viewers—and it’s kept us busy. I have daily check-ins with my team and offer as much support and time as possible. That’s crucial since we now have to manage our jobs with other responsibilities at home, including home-schooling.

Questions by Ruiqi Chen and Lisa Helem.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ruiqi Chen in Washington, D.C. at rchen@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com;
Lisa Helem at lhelem@bloombergindustry.com

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