Q&A with Commencement Speaker Bruce Sewell
Apple, Inc. General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs Bruce Sewell, JD '86, will deliver the diZerega Lecture during Sunday's Law School Diploma Ceremony. Mr. Sewell, who serves on Apple's executive team managing all legal matters, answered a series of questions about himself, his career, and GW Law. Read the full interview below:
How did you secure your position at Apple, Inc.? What skills did you take from GW Law to help you secure this position?
Throughout my second and third years at GW Law, I tried to balance academic courses with practical clinics and internships. GW Law is great for this. Learning so early in my studies that the effective practice of law involves blending the intellectual and academic with the practical and pragmatic was a lesson that has served me well throughout my career and certainly contributed toward securing the top legal job at Apple.
Could you tell us about a typical work day?
I wish there were such a thing! Everyday is different. I am on the road (usually Washington, D.C., Brussels or Beijing) about 35 percent of the time. When I am not traveling, I start the day around 6:30 am by responding to overnight emails and alerts from Asia and to late afternoon activity from Europe. I try to divide my office time between the C-suite and our dedicated legal building (they are about 10 minutes apart). I generally eat lunch at my desk on the rare occasions when I am not in a lunch meeting. The afternoon is spent on domestic issues, as it's the only time when Europe and Asia are both offline. I try to get out of the office by around 6 pm and spend an hour in the gym on the way home. I'll usually check in via email one more time at night just in case something has popped up in Asia. The only thing typical about my days is that for some reason we always seem to get sued on Fridays—go figure.
Describe a memorable moment, professor, or course from GW Law.
I had the privilege of studying with several great professors at GW Law. Most influential for me, though, was Professor Glen Weston, who taught antitrust as a second-year course and a special advanced seminar in antitrust as a third-year elective. I enjoyed the basic course so much that I signed up for the seminar, too. In addition to teaching, Professor Weston was also of counsel at Howrey, Simon—at the time the premier antitrust firm in the country. The seminar series was taught by a great line-up of practicing lawyers who gave guest lectures every week. It was a great class and kindled my on-going interest in business, law, and economics.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were in law school?
That the world is a whole lot more complicated than it seems. In the U.S., we are privileged to live in a society governed by the rule of law, but even within the U.S. that concept can be pretty elusive. As law students, we study statutes and we read opinions that, on the surface, seem definitive: here is the law, here is what it means in application. But in reality there is very little black and white in the practice of law. Most of us will spend our time debating shades of grey or, in some cases, realizing that the final legal outcome has absolutely nothing to do with the forces we study in law school.
If you were not working as a General Counsel and Senior VP of Legal and Government Affairs at Apple, what would you be doing?
Spending a lot more time outside. I love to scuba dive and ski—two hobbies that can take you all over the world and to some really spectacular locations. Professionally, I don’t know—it’s pretty hard to top my present job. A lot of what I do is soft advocacy so maybe something in the diplomatic corps.
What are you most looking forward to when you think about coming back to GW Law to deliver the commencement address?
Interacting with students and faculty. It’s great to get different perspectives on where things are headed in the practice of law, particularly from students who see the opportunities through a very different lens than I do now.
Hear more from Mr. Sewell when he delivers the diZerega lecture during the Law Diploma Ceremony on Sunday, May 18. Mr. Sewell's Commencement Address is supported by The Susan N. and Augustus diZerega, Jr., Lectureship Fund. Mr. Thomas diZerega, JD '56, established the fund in 1990 in honor of his parents' interest in education.