Before her time as a student at University of Arizona Law Ann Miller (’99) was apprehensive— and quite frankly scared—of the idea of law school. She imagined her time would be spent in a grueling, endless slog of research and dissertations but once she started, she realized that showing up was half the battle.
“Leaning in, being diligent and deliberate, controlling what I could—these are the ‘soft’ skills that no one can teach you but are required to do well,” says Miller, who currently serves as Executive Vice President (EVP) and Chief Legal Officer at NIKE, Inc.
Now, with more than 20 years of corporate governance, capital markets, mergers & acquisitions and securities law expertise, Miller’s career began as a corporate lawyer at the law firms of Paul Hastings and Sullivan & Cromwell, before serving as General Counsel at Converse—a Nike brand. Prior to taking over as EVP and Chief Legal Officer, she served in a variety of roles at Nike including as Vice President, Corporate Secretary and Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer.
“My path was not linear and it’s unlikely yours will be either,” says Miller. “You’ve got to be willing to try new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone.”
University of Arizona Law taught her to be an active thinker, be endlessly curious and open to learning new things. Challenging her and prompting deeper thinking without always reconciling or answering the questions for her.
“All of these teachings have served me well as I am often dealing with issues that have no simple solution, where innovative and creative thinking are at a premium and really listening is critical to solving challenging situations,” says Miller.
As a law student, Miller served on Arizona Law Review, was a member of the Order of the Coif and fondly remembers her time in Dean Emerita Toni Massaro’s Civil Procedure and Constitutional Law class.
“Dean Massaro communicated ideas with clarity and depth, delivered with a wicked sense of humor and always in a thoughtful manner,” says Miller. “Not only did she teach me the fundamentals of law, but also how to touch the heart to teach the mind.”
If given the chance to do anything different during her time at University of Arizona Law, Miller says she would be more deliberate in selecting courses that would help her develop a stronger idea around her post-graduation path and to be more comfortable with not knowing it all.
“In the real world, you’re expected to try and find answers on your own, however, no one wants to see anyone struggle. I would have saved myself countless hours and alleviated a lot of stress had I embraced reaching out for help,” she says.
Miller says that although future lawyers will need to constantly refine their digital literacy to be able to communicate and collaborate with your business and clients, the fundamentals should continue to be a focus throughout their legal career.
“In today’s world, technology is rapidly changing how we approach every aspect of business—legal included. And though the tools are radically different from even two years ago, the fundamentals are still there. You’ve got to be a lifelong learner, a true communicator and approach all things with an increased level of emotional intelligence.”