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As the general counsel of Lost Arrow Corp., a sports apparel and accessories maker, Mona Patel, 32, can catch waves in the morning, wear shorts and flip-flops at the office, and go biking during her lunch break. Patel traded in her time sheets for T-shirts in 2003 after graduating from Harvard Law School and spending four years as an associate at Boston’s Ropes & Gray in its corporate and high-tech practice. She figuratively and literally went outdoors, joining Burton Snowboards in Burlington, Vt., as an in-house attorney before making the cross-country trek two years ago to Ventura, Calif., where Lost Arrow is based. Patel oversees legal affairs at the 900-employee holding company, which owns outdoor clothing maker Patagonia Inc., kayaking gear maker Lotus Designs Inc., women’s surf apparel maker Water Girl USA Inc., and surfboard manufacturer Point Blanks Inc. The GC, a paralegal, and a legal assistant make up the legal department. Q: How did you end up at Lost Arrow? A: It was a whirlwind, really. I was hired, and two weeks later I was living in California. Actually, during my interview, the CEO asked me what mountains I had climbed. I [told him] I climbed [Alaska's] Mount McKinley while I was a lawyer in Boston. I would go ice-climbing on the weekend. I guess I impressed him, because he hired me by the end of the day. Q: What kind of legal issues do you deal with on a daily basis? A: It’s a huge mix of issues — corporate, IP, contract, employee issues. I also deal with environmental issues, since Patagonia does a major environmental campaign every year. [As part of that, last fall] we did a get-out-the-vote campaign, trying to remind our customers how important environmental issues should be when they choose a candidate. Q: How does working in Lost Arrow’s legal department differ from working at a law firm? A: The mix of work and play is major. You could walk around barefoot and in surf shorts and no one would notice. Sometimes after I go biking, I’ll head back to the office for a meeting before I have the chance to change or shower. It’s really conducive to a casual lifestyle. Q: What sports do you do? A: I snowboard, ski, ice climb, snowshoe. Q: Do you travel for your job? A: I go once or twice a year to our distribution center in Reno for meetings. We all travel a lot for sports. You can be in Vail in four hours flying from here. We’re three hours from Joshua Tree, three hours from Yosemite [National Parks]. We also have offices in France and Japan. This year I biked the Alpine stages of the Tour de France while out there [for work]. Q: Do you surf? A: Yeah. If it’s a good surf day, half the company is out. We also own Point Blanks, and they sponsor Gerry Lopez, a great surfer who rides a “gun” [an agile, narrow surfboard]. So they made [one] for me that says “Legal Gun.” I get a lot of comments [on it]. Q: Are there any perks of working at Lost Arrow, besides the discounts and casual lifestyle? A: Patagonia allows employees to take sabbaticals to work on environmental campaigns for up to two months a year. I haven’t taken one yet, but I know one employee who went to Yosemite to track wolves. And Patagonia’s only one block from the beach. On Thursdays, some of us go out for tacos and lemonade on the pier during our lunch break.

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