Member Spotlight: Hillary Evans, Esq.
Hillary Evans in an Associate Counsel at Perdue Farms, Inc. in Salisbury, Maryland. Prior to serving in her in-house role, Ms. Evans was in private practice at Goldman & Goldman, P.A. We were excited to learn more about Ms. Evans, her legal career, transition from private practice to in-house counsel and her hobbies outside of the office.
Q: What does being an attorney mean to you?
HE: At Perdue, we have four core company values: quality, integrity, teamwork, and stewardship. Coincidentally, I believe these four values also perfectly encapsulate the values we have a duty to uphold as attorneys. I view my role in this company and this profession as one in which I use my legal skills to preserve these values. As an attorney, whether I am drafting agreements, negotiating deals, or generally advising my internal clients, my goals are to: ensure we as a company are living up to the high standards we set for ourselves; to make sure we keep our promises, and do the right things for the right reasons; to work effectively with my coworkers and internal clients to reach our mutual goals; and to protect the well-being and welfare of not only our associates, but also the environment and the animals in our care.
Q: How does being part of the legal profession differ from what you expected?
HE: To be honest, I didn’t have many expectations because I really didn’t know anyone who was an attorney prior to starting law school. I thought when I entered law school that when I graduated, I would be some kind of expert on the law. But the exciting, and sometimes frustrating, thing about the law is that it is constantly changing and evolving. I feel like a perpetual student.
Q: What is your fondest memory of your legal career so far?
HE: Joining Perdue has been the highlight for me. I am the granddaughter of a chicken farmer from the Eastern Shore, so in a way it felt like I came full circle and this is where I was meant to be. Perdue is a 100-year-old, well-respected company with both a national and international presence, so to be able to work for a company of that size in the place where my ancestors have lived for generations has been an honor.
Q: Since 2018, you have served as Associate Counsel at Perdue Farms, what does your typical day look like?
HE: My manager, Drew Getty, Assistant General Counsel, and I joke that no two days are the same at Perdue. Our days are extremely busy and varied. I could be dealing with an HR issue in the morning, reviewing a sales contract at lunch time, and communicating with our outside counsel in Canada regarding a customs issue by the end of the day. It’s exciting, intellectually stimulating, and one of the favorite parts of my job, because not having a “typical” day makes me a more versatile lawyer.
Q: You also worked in private practice before joining Perdue Farms’ legal department, how does working as in-house counsel differ from your work in private practice?
HE: Aside from the obvious lack of billable hours, I would say the biggest difference is that I am now a part of a family-owned company and a high profile brand, and as such I am invested in the growth and innovation of our business. By the same token and because I am now a part of the business, perhaps my biggest challenge thus far in my transition to in-house counsel, is to effectively communicate with and thoroughly understand the strategy of the various business teams, and to know when to take my lawyer hat off and put my business hat on. As in-house counsel, I have had to become much more adept at balancing risk/reward and knowing when to sit back and let the business people do their thing.
Q: What are your goals that you are hoping to accomplish in the upcoming year?
HE: The pandemic has really put a lot of pressure on our legal team due to the constantly evolving regulations and recommendations in the different states in which we operate. As a lean legal team, for the immediate future and until the pandemic is over, my goal is to effectively prioritize and delegate when I can to ensure our team is not spread too thin. I would also ideally like to work on putting procedures in place to ensure we are being more proactive and not just reactive. Finally, Perdue launched our direct-to-consumer Ecommerce business right before the pandemic, which, by virtue of never having tried anything like this before, has brought a new set of challenges to the table. My goal for 2021 is to work with our business team to stay on top of these issues, and apply that knowledge to our virtual presence across all our brands.
Q: What advice do you have for young attorneys looking to pursue careers as in-house counsel?
HE: First, get out there and cultivate relationships with not only people in the legal field, but also people in industries that fascinate you—whether it’s the food and beverage industry, or the construction industry. Relationships are invaluable in any industry and can open doors you didn’t even know existed. Second, don’t despair or feel discouraged if your career path isn’t progressing the way you thought it would. My career path was not linear by any means. I once had an interview in which the hiring partner literally crumpled up my resume and threw it in the trash in front of me, but I kept my options open and eventually found the perfect job for me. Be resilient, be flexible, apply to jobs that interest you, and eventually someone will see your value. Finally, don’t be an automaton. It’s ok to show some personality and warmth because people enjoy working with real people. When you are in-house counsel, the majority of your coworkers are not lawyers, and they don’t want to hear legalese. I find that I’ve had more success when I allow people to get to know me as a person and a lawyer, not just as a lawyer.
A little more about you…
Q: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your career?
HE: I grew up in Baltimore County, so it was an easy decision to stay local and attend University of Maryland for law school. When the opportunity arose for me to work for Perdue, I had no hesitation in making the decision to relocate to Salisbury. Both of my parents are from the Eastern Shore and both sides of my family have resided on the Eastern Shore since the 18th century, so I was quite familiar with and had an affinity for the area. As I mentioned previously, one of my grandfathers was a chicken farmer, and the other was a waterman, so I felt as if I was predestined, or at least uniquely qualified, for this job.
Q: What’s your favorite hobby?
HE: Right now, I am fully immersed in experimenting with and playing around on our seven-acre hobby farm. I grew so many trees and plants this past spring/summer– flower, fruit, vegetable, you name it. I even tried to start a pumpkin patch, and produced one pumpkin that I was very proud of. We also recently brought two rescue horses to our farm, so learning how to take care of horses has been a fun learning experience. Next on my agenda is building our chicken coop and getting some chickens.
Q: What do you do to unwind/de-stress?
HE: I go outside and get some fresh air! The pandemic has been such a stressful time for everyone. Being able to go outside, walk around my farm, and interact with my garden and my animals has truly been a lifesaver for me. I am also lucky because I live so close to the beach—I spend many hours at Assateague Island biking or walking. The ocean always brings me peace.
Q: What’s an interesting fact about you that no one would guess?
HE: I am a country music aficionado and recently co-wrote my own first dance song for my upcoming wedding. I became fascinated with the country music industry back when I attended Vanderbilt University, and I ended up interning for Universal Music Group Nashville and receiving a nomination for the Country Music Association [CMA] Close Up Award of Merit. A few months ago, I was in Nashville for a family event and got the opportunity to write a song with Brett Taylor, who co-wrote one of the songs on Tim McGraw’s most recent album Here on Earth. He is insanely talented so being able to participate in his creative process was an absolute joy.
Q: What’s a cause or charity that you are passionate about?
HE: Some of the causes I am passionate about are environmental conservation, preservation of our national parks, prevention of animal cruelty, and literacy programs. I am currently on the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore, which is another cause that is close to my heart. JAES provides educational programming for grades K-12 on financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. Last year I was able to teach a class of second graders how money flows through a community and I was so impressed with how the curriculum is written. You can tell that the kids really understand and are engaged with the material. I would absolutely encourage anyone looking for a great volunteering opportunity to reach out to the Junior Achievement in your area.
Q: What’s your favorite restaurant?
HE: Petit Louis Bistro in Baltimore.