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Mary Anne Gibbons, U.S. Postal Service Title: General counsel and vice president Age: 50 The agency: The U.S. Postal Service, a semi-independent government agency run by a board appointed by the president, employs 800,000 people, had 1999 net revenues of $62.7 billion, and delivers more than 200 billion letters and packages a year. Besides delivering mail and selling postage, the Postal Service is vying to be a player in Internet commerce. Route to the top: Apart from her first law-related job, at the United Mine Workers of America Health and Retirement Funds, Gibbons has spent her legal career at the Postal Service. In 1985, she joined its Labor Law Section, jumped to management to head the law department’s mid-Atlantic office, then moved to its Washington, D.C., headquarters as managing counsel of the Civil Practice Section. She held the deputy general counsel position for 11 months before being named general counsel in January. She earned a law degree from Catholic University of America in 1980 and has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in counseling, which she says are useful when breaking bad news to an employee or resolving a tough dispute. No ‘going postal’: “If you work for the Postal Service, you get it all the time,” Gibbons says of ribbing about “going postal” — a phrase coined in the 1980s after violent employee outbursts. But a recent national panel found that Postal Service employees are less homicidal than other workers and that a mediation program called Redress has helped ease frayed nerves. Designed by the Law Department as part of a class action settlement, Redress uses 3,000 outside mediators to resolve racial discrimination and sexual harassment claims before they become formal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints. Since its 1997 launch, the service has seen a 20 percent decline in formal complaints, says Gibbons. The department: The legal department has 175 career attorneys in the Postal Service’s Washington, D.C., headquarters and in its 11 field offices. Lawyers in the field offices advise postal managers on day-to-day matters and handle local litigation, she says. Lawyers at headquarters work in five sections, each consisting of about 15 staffers. Gibbons says she is planning a reorganization, but for now, the five are: rates/international (lawyers prepare rate increase proposals and in a litigation-like setting, argue for their passage, such as a 34-cent proposal now pending); employment/labor (lawyers negotiate with three of the Postal Service’s four major unions); civil practice (lawyers defend against tort claims that arise from accidents involving the Postal Service’s 200,000 vehicles); legal policy; and corporate. E-business gamble: Legal policy and corporate are immersed in the Postal Service’s e-commerce initiatives, says Gibbons. Among its Internet-based ventures are a bill-paying service called eBillPay and one called PosteCS, which transmits large business documents. About a half dozen others are in the works, but Gibbons declined to elaborate. The legal policy group, which examines the legal feasibility of Postal Service activities, is busy answering General Accounting Office queries about the Postal Service’s e-commerce activities. How far the service can go in business is controversial. Some members of the Postal Rate Commission, and some Postal Service competitors, complain that a government-authorized monopoly shouldn’t be competing in the private sector. The GAO investigation concluded that the Postal Service’s planning for its Internet services has been haphazard and, although many millions of dollars have been spent, no one knows just how much because financial recordkeeping has been unreliable. Gibbons acknowledges that there has been “a bit of chaos” but does not expect the criticism to prompt Congress to rewrite the postal statute to ban Internet commerce. Meanwhile, business is booming in the Postal Service’s corporate unit, which is scrambling to keep up with new e-commerce deals, Gibbons says. “There are companies knocking at our door trying to work with us,” she says. When they are not negotiating deals over yet-unannounced Internet-based services, corporate lawyers are negotiating such things as a contract for buying rubber bands to maintenance of the Postal Service’s 38,000 facilities. Marshaling resources: Gibbons says her main function is to make sure she has the right lawyers on the job, both in-house and out. She spends much of her time in committee meetings and, as new ventures and services are proposed, she asks section heads to assign staff. Occasionally she’ll negotiate a deal, as she did recently, although she would not elaborate. As often as possible, she attends biweekly conferences with field office managers and her two deputies, and a separate biweekly meeting of her section heads. Lately, the department’s reorganization has prompted much discussion among these groups, as has a possible Postal Service alliance with competitor Federal Express. Gibbons says she spends three-fourths of her time shepherding legal issues that go before the board monthly, making sure research and reports are moving along. Among the latter was an analysis of whether to spend millions cleaning up a contaminated site slated for construction of a postal facility. She also gets called on to settle internal disputes. For example, when two vice presidents clashed over the interpretation of a new policy, which she would not identify, both hoped the law department backed their views. After her staff analyzed the issue, she met with the VPs to “broker some consensus.” She also keeps the law department staffers talking to each other. While the Internet bill-paying service was under development, she made sure the lead in-house corporate attorney relied on a colleague who was a privacy policy expert. Outside counsel: The Postal Service regularly relies on Washington, D.C.’s Arnold & Porter and its partner Scott B. Schreiber for assistance with Internet commerce deals and other corporate law issues. Kenneth S. Geller of the D.C. office of Chicago’s Mayer, Brown & Platt helps out with analysis of the postal statute. Two attorneys share intellectual property work — Robert E. Converse Jr. of D.C.’s Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner and Rosemarie Christofolo of Phoenix’s Lewis and Roca. Litigation: Among the many cases it has pending, the Postal Service is defending its trademark in U.S. district court in Portland, Ore. The suit alleges that Zipee Corp.’s use of the service’s name for a Web site address infringes on its trademark. A trial is set for January. Family: Gibbons and her husband, Michael Healy, an engineer at the National Academy of Science, have a 21-month-old daughter, Kathleen Healy. Last books read: “Final Gifts,” by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley; “From Mind to Market,” by Roger Blackwell; and “What to Expect in the Toddler Years,” by Eisenberg, Murkoff and Hathaway.

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