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Eric Reicin is vice president and associate general counsel of Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest provider of education financing. Legal Times: Tell us a bit about the mission of Sallie Mae. When was it founded and why? Is it a public or private institution? Eric Reicin: Sallie Mae’s mission is to make education accessible and affordable for all Americans, at all times of their lives. Sallie Mae provides education financing and manages more than $107 billion in student loans for more than 7 million borrowers. Through its specialized subsidiaries and divisions, Sallie Mae also provides debt management services and business and technical products to a range of business clients, including colleges, universities, and loan guarantors. The SLM Corp. — otherwise known as Sallie Mae — is a publicly traded corporation. Congress created Sallie Mae in 1972 as a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to further access to higher education by acting as a secondary market for federally insured student loans. A GSE effectively operates like any other private company except that its charter limits its business activities and it enjoys certain advantages, such as access to the agency debt market. In 1996, Congress enacted privatization legislation that allowed the company to expand beyond its restricted federal charter into other business activities, including loan origination and fee-based services such as debt management and guarantor services. On Dec. 29, Sallie Mae completed its transformation to a fully private, state-chartered company. As far as I am aware, Sallie Mae is the first GSE to successfully conclude such a privatization process. LT: What is the makeup of the law department at Sallie Mae? Who is the general counsel, and who else is in the department besides you? ER: The general counsel’s office has 22 attorneys and roughly the same number of support professionals. Half the team are located in Reston, Va., and the rest are based at our subsidiary locations throughout the country. Marianne Keler, our longtime executive vice president and general counsel, recently moved into a senior business role, and is now an executive vice president at Sallie Mae. The company also promoted Rob Lavet, who had served as senior vice president and deputy general counsel for several years, to senior vice president and general counsel. Lavet also is responsible for corporate compliance, our student loan servicing policy, and an operational unit that handles student loan bankruptcies and collection litigation under the Health Education Assistance Loan program. Three of us are vice presidents and report to Rob Lavet. Mike Sheehan, recently promoted to deputy general counsel, heads our corporate finance, M&A, and securities group. Andy Wachtel leads our core student loan group. My group is responsible for providing legal support to our debt management operations division (which includes Arrow Financial Services, LLC; the General Revenue Corp.; the Student Assistance Corp.; and Pioneer Credit Recovery Inc.), our IT division, and two subsidiaries — the SLM Financial Corp. and Noel-Levitz Inc. We also provide companywide legal support for litigation other than that related to student loans, government contracts, and certain vendor contracts (particularly IT-related). I also serve as the company’s chief labor/employment and intellectual property attorney. My team members are in Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Reston. LT: Tell us about some of the challenges in Sallie Mae’s legal department. ER: For a company our size, we are leanly staffed, and I enjoy working with a group of very talented attorneys and support professionals. Unlike some companies that focus on a handful of big transactions or deals each year, Sallie Mae has millions of customer contacts each month. We strive to get each one right. Helping our clients achieve that goal shapes the way in which we practice law. We focus on the big picture and the important small details at the same time, from both a legal and business adviser perspective. LT: What about outside counsel? Can you talk about some of the firms you use and what kind of work they do for you? ER: Like many Fortune 500 companies, we use multiple law firms throughout the country. I am fond of working with Brian McDermott of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart and Tom Murphy of Hunton & Williams on employment matters, Jon Grossman and Leslie Cohen of Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky on intellectual property and litigation matters, Joe Esposito of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld on major litigation matters, Franklin Blackstone on IT contract matters, David Rogers of McDermott Will & Emery on employee benefits matters, Michael Nemeroff of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood on election law matters, Stephanie Evans of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr on M&A matters, and Scott Hommer of Venable on government contract matters, among others. My colleagues work with McKee Nelson on structured finance matters, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft on corporate finance matters, and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher on securities matters. I also find the Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association and the American Bar Association’s EEO Committee Corporate Counsel Group extremely helpful in obtaining both practical and benchmarking advice from fellow in-house attorneys, especially in the area of employment law. LT: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges for you personally on the job? ER: Many challenges are universal to fellow in-house counsel and attorneys in general. Improved technology has altered the practice of law. When my grandfather first practiced law, he would receive a letter in the mail and “respond in due course.” When my father first started practicing law, he would receive a phone call and it was customary to return it when he became available. When I first started practicing law, the firm had fax machines only in the copy and mail centers. Thus, you had a buffer and more time to think before responding. Today, many attorneys are bombarded with hundreds of e-mails and messages each day, with a need for and expectation of immediate and accurate responses. Memos are becoming an endangered species and multitasking is the normal state. This pace is both a blessing and a curse. Secondly, any manager who does not acknowledge that managing employees is a “challenge” is not a good manager. LT: As president-elect of the Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association, how do you envision the organization changing? ER: I recently became president-elect of WMACCA after serving as vice president and program chair and labor and employment committee chair. Marian Block, vice president and associate general counsel of Lockheed Martin, currently is our president. I am slated to serve as president in 2006 and 2007. Although WMACCA has been around for 25 years, it is an organization that is changing with the needs of our 1,100 in-house counsel members. My sense is that there will be many more in-house counsel over the next couple of decades as certain law firms price themselves out of work and companies either bring the work in-house or outsource it overseas (as we are now starting to see in international patent filings). Given the number of extremely well-credentialed r�sum�s we see whenever we have an attorney opening at Sallie Mae, it appears that an increasing percentage of major law firm attorneys are dissatisfied and would like to go in-house at some point in their careers. We expect that over the next couple of years, WMACCA will continue to provide significant opportunities for CLE, pro bono, and networking (we have eight CLE events this month alone). We also expect that WMACCA will continue to expand into an additional advocacy and public relations role for the growing in-house bar in the area. We need to do a better job educating the public about the roles in-house counsel play. Under Marian Block’s leadership, we also intend to expand our corporate scholars program in 2005. The program provides internships to diverse law students in the legal departments of D.C.-area corporations and nonprofits. As the specialization of in-house counsel has followed the specialization of law firm counsel, we also have begun to expand our forums and specialty committees for in-house counsel (such as corporate and securities, employment, IT/IP, associations, and nonprofits). Moreover, we are proud of our partnerships with most of the major law firms in the D.C. area and expect to provide those firms additional opportunities to work with us over the coming years. LT: What would you say is the best part of the job? ER: There is a positive “can do” customer service attitude at Sallie Mae that comes from being part of a business enterprise that helps millions of people further their education. I also have great colleagues, sophisticated clients, interesting and diverse work, and corporate leaders who encourage us to stretch our goals. Additionally, our company tries to lead as a “best practices” employer. Of course, the fact that our stock has just about tripled since I joined in 1999 does not hurt either. LT: Where are Sallie Mae’s offices? ER: Sallie Mae is headquartered in Reston, Va. We have a presence in most states and have a number of employees located in Reston; Niles, Ill.; Killeen, Texas; Cincinnati; Summerlin, Nev.; Arcade, N.Y.; Novi, Mich.; Panama City, Fla.; Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; and Fishers, Ind. Today, the company has more than 10,000 employees. LT: When you’re not helping to give out loans to college students, where might we find you? ER: With three young daughters, my wife and I have been spending considerable time playing with Barbie and American Girl dolls. Teddy bear tea parties, art projects and puppet shows also are popular in our home. Golf and my old handicap are becoming a fond memory, as I am limited to a few rounds each summer with friends and a handful of “work” events. LT: Read any good books recently? ER: Currently, I am recommending “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins, “The Tipping Point,” by Malcolm Gladwell, and “The Zero Game,” by Brad Meltzer. For the preschool set, I am recommending “Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type,” by Doreen Cronin (never underestimate the mediation skills of a fictional duck).

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