Nancy Nord’s visit to Penn law with The Leo Model Foundation as the Fall 2017 Distinguished Policy Fellow.
By Jordan Andrews C’20
On October 18, the Leo Model Foundation hosted former U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Nancy Nord as a part of their Distinguished Policy Fellows initiative. Nord joined Penn Law students and faculty to discuss her extensive legal career across the public and private sectors and offer tips to students interested in regulatory law and policy.
Nord, whose federal government experience includes work as counsel to the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and General Counsel of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, reflected on her law school days and how few women followed her same path at that time. Nord also addressed how her interests shifted early in her career from communications to consumer law.
On orienting herself to this latter field, Nord highlighted the importance of developing an expertise and being able to take advantage of resources in a variety of work settings. As an in-house lawyer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Nord was able to hone skills while simultaneously getting her first introduction to consumer product safety.
Nord stressed to students that they should seek out opportunities on the Hill early in their careers because being an emissary to a seasoned politician affords perspective. She also mentioned how often her work on the Hill and in the public sector informed her work in the private sector. As few of her colleagues had worked with people who would be affected by various regulations they were discussing, for example, her understanding enriched conversations.
When asked about the differences between the private and public sectors, Nord cited the tradeoffs, such as being able to do more varied work in the private sector but having to account for one’s time and client list. She offered the idea that in both sectors, effective work is about “understanding what your client needs and what your role is in fulfilling that need.”
For Nord, moving from the Council on Environmental Quality to the Association of Corporate Counsel was a deliberate risk that allowed her to grow a powerful idea into an international chapter organization. She reminded the room that while her same opportunities might not always be available to others, her journey reflects an important principle.
“If you have a career goal in mind, stick to it,” Nord explained, “but don’t be reticent to think more expansively.”