The Yes Department
BY DAVID SCHWARTZ
PetSmart’s Emily D. Dickinson uses her love of
learning to expand her role as a legal leader
Emily D. Dickinson is on a mission. The
PetSmart Inc. general counsel wants her
in-house attorneys to be more than just
outlets for legal advice. She wants them
to be leaders.
“These are smart people,” says Dickinson,
who also serves as a senior vice president
and secretary at the Phoenix-based
company. “They can be strategic. They can
solve problems. They just need permission
to do so. And the businesspeople need to
understand that they can help.”
The 51-year-old executive says that begins
with her efforts to create a legal department
that’s known for making things happen.
“We need to be the ‘yes’ department,”
says Dickinson. “The question is, what do
you want to do and how can I help you do
this—not that you can’t do this.
“And it’s an opportunity for lawyers to
view themselves as something other than
just being lawyers. They are so much more
than that—or can be. That’s where we need
to get to.”
WHILE BOTH OF HER PARENTS WERE
educators, Dickinson decided early on to
pursue a different career. A good student
and a quick study, she went to an all-girls school in the early 1970s and credits
that experience with freeing her from the
distractions of the day and helping build
self-confidence. It was also there that she
decided on a career.
“I really love animals and thought that I
might want to be a veterinarian,” she recalls.
“But my first observation of an operation as
a teenager put me squarely on the floor, and
I decided that perhaps pursuing a veterinary
career might not be in my best interests.”
Her interests turned to the legal field
and, while a junior at Bowdoin College
in Brunswick, Maine, Dickinson got an
internship with the U.S. Department of
Justice in Washington, D.C. She spent a
semester working with murder witnesses
and on drug cases. She loved it. At the
same time, her experience made her think
twice about pursuing criminal law.
AT TORNEYS SELECTED TO SUPER LAW YERS WERE CHOSEN IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROCESS ON PAGE 9.