Apple has hired former U.S. Supreme Court law clerk Katherine Adams to replace retiring Bruce Sewell as General Counsel. In addition to her work as a law clerk at the highest court in the land, Ms. Adams is currently General Counsel for electronics firm Honeywell.
Early in her career, Ms. Adams served as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She also served as a law clerk for Stephen Breyer when he was chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Mr. Breyer currently sits on the Supreme Court. But she also has experience on the prosecutorial side, having served as a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice, Appellate Section, Environment and Natural Resources division.
It’s an impressive resume, which is important for a company like Apple, whose legal needs span the gamut of regulatory frameworks around the world, IP protection, and operating a global fleet of retail stores and manufacturing operations, each subject to local laws. Apple is also the frequent target of both frivolous and meritorious lawsuits, especially in the U.S.
“We are thrilled to welcome Kate to our team. She’s a seasoned leader with outstanding judgment and that has worked on a wide variety of legal cases globally. Throughout her career she’s also been an advocate on many of the values we at Apple hold dear,” Apple Tim Cook said in a statement.
Bruce Sewell has been front and center for Apple for eight years as General Counsel. He has represented the company at Congressional hearings, led Apple’s once-aggressive patent infringement efforts, MC’d Apple annual shareholder meetings, and that’s just the somewhat public-facing side of that job.
Apple’s press release announcing Ms. Adams’ hiring was part welcome for her and part tribute to Mr. Sewell. The most likely unstated message in that approach is that Mr. Sewell wasn’t being forced out or asked to step down. As noted above, the position of General Counsel is extremely important to multinationals like Apple—especially rich multinationals. Wall Street would get cranky as all get out if there was a hint of scandal or problem involving its General Counsel.
“Bruce has our best wishes for his retirement, after eight years of dedicated service to Apple and a tremendously successful career,” Mr. Cook said. “He has tirelessly defended our IP, our customers’ right to privacy and our values. Bruce has set a new standard for general counsels, and I am proud to have worked with him and proud to call him a friend.”