Rodney Pratt is Assistant General Counsel at NIKE, Inc., the world’s leading provider of athletic footwear, apparel, equipment, and accessories, and Corporate Secretary, NIKE Foundation. Mr. Pratt serves as a lawyer and advisor to many of NIKE’s and its affiliate brands’ internal business teams. He also serves as the Corporate Secretary of, and operates as the general counsel for, the NIKE Foundation. Among his various responsibilities, Mr. Pratt directs the legal operations for NIKE’s Global Community Impact and Investment initiatives, which include the NIKE Foundation, Girl Hub (a United Kingdom nonprofit affiliated with the NIKE Foundation), Girl Effect, Access to Sport, Designed to Move, and NIKE N7.
Q: How did you come to be in your current positions at NIKE?
A: Like most things in life, it was by way of the intersection of opportunity, preparation, talent, and luck. I applied for a position at NIKE as I thought working there would be fun and exciting. A few months after I applied, I received a call from a NIKE recruiter about a different position that was perfectly suited to my skill set. Although I was intrigued by NIKE, my wife and I had serious reservations about uprooting and moving to Oregon from the Washington, D.C., area with our firstborn child only eight months old at the time. In addition, virtually all of our family and friends were on the East Coast and we had no connections to NIKE or Oregon. After visiting the NIKE campus during the recruitment process, I was inspired by the idea of working every day in a college-style corporate environment for an iconic global company. At that point, I assumed I would love NIKE, but not necessarily living in Oregon. After receiving the official offer from NIKE, my wife and I walked out on faith, accepted the offer, and moved to Oregon. NIKE exceeded my expectations and has been a dream opportunity for me, and Oregon has been one of the best places my wife and I have ever lived. Most importantly, from a professional standpoint, my time with NIKE has helped me recapture my passion about the practice of law and becoming a lawyer.
Q: What is a typical day for you?
A: Every day is different. The fact that I get to help NIKE achieve its mission “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world” is motivational to me. NIKE’s co-founder, the legendary track and field coach Bill Bowerman said “if you have a body, you are an athlete.” On a daily basis, I serve as the global legal thought leader for NIKE’s corporate philanthropy, community investments, and commercial co-venture activities. No two days are the same because the needs of my internal clients evolve daily to meet the demands of NIKE’s and the NIKE Foundation’s global operations. Some days, I am focused exclusively on domestic legal issues. Other days, I am trying to formulate global best practices that factor in laws from all of the international legal jurisdictions that require our compliance. For example, I recently traveled to Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Nigeria to conduct legal trainings on U.S. laws governing private foundations for the operations of the NIKE Foundation and Girl Hub in those countries. Meanwhile, throughout the trip, I negotiated a global distribution agreement with a major corporation for my NIKE sales clients in the United States and China.
Q: You participated in the Small Business and Community Economic Development Clinic (SBCED). What was that like?
A: I participated in the SBCED Clinic as a 3L. I had just finished a summer associate program with a D.C. firm and realized that I did not want to be a litigator. The SBCED Clinic enabled me to gain actual experience in, and exposure to, corporate and transactional law, which is hard to obtain in law school. The SBCED Clinic solidified my interest in corporate and transactional law, and exposed me to nonprofit law. I leverage this experience daily in my work for NIKE and the NIKE Foundation.
Q: How have the skills you learned in the SBCED helped in your career? How does that differ from what you learned in your doctrinal courses?
A: Through the SBCED Clinic, I had the privilege of working with Professor Susan Jones, the clinic’s supervising attorney. Professor Jones taught me that being a great lawyer involved more than just knowing the law. Professor Jones stressed the fact that, for certain situations, lawyers need to develop the necessary “legal bedside manner” to deliver legal services in a compassionate way to assist clients that may be at a vulnerable or stressful moment in their lives or businesses. Although doctrinal courses provide the sustenance of a solid and well-rounded legal education, doctrinal courses are not adequately equipped to provide the client service skills you learn from the SBCED Clinic. These skills are essential to being a successful attorney. I continue to use the client service skills nurtured in the SBCED Clinic, which have helped me differentiate myself from my peers and provide valued legal services to my clients.
Q: What advice would you give a current student deciding whether to enroll in a clinic?
A: For any law student, clinical experience is invaluable. Clinics offer the most realistic, hands-on experience you can obtain in law school. Through clinics, you have the opportunity to package what you learned in doctrinal courses into tangible legal services delivered to actual clients dealing with genuine and pressing legal issues.
Q: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were in law school?
A: I would have prioritized my professional happiness and passion for my job more highly than I did in law school. Like many law students, the financial allure of big firm practice ranked disproportionately high on my list of priorities when formulating my definition of professional success.
Q: If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?
A: I would be a stay-at-home dad to my two amazing and precious daughters (my older daughter is three years old and my younger daughter is ten months). Although they are demanding, I can’t think of any better job.