Reid Whitten is the Managing Partner of Sheppard Mullin’s London office and also serves clients out of the Washington, D.C. office.
What experiences do you think prepared you for a legal practice in international trade law and business transactions? Did you know going into law school that you would pursue these areas?
After graduating from the College of William and Mary, I moved to the South of France where I worked as a teacher and bartender. This experience was a defining point in my career goals, and the experience of living and working in Europe helped me select law school as the next step and that I wanted to focus on international law.
After a year clerking in the Western District of Virginia, I interviewed with Scott Maberry, a Partner at a small D.C. firm that focused on international trade and business transactions. I knew that I found my professional calling. Scott would become my mentor and would provide the support and direction that I needed as a young Associate to excel in the competitive field of international trade.
Can you tell us about your experience in Europe and how it compares to working with U.S.-based clients?
London and Brussels have been amazing cities to work in and provided a tremendous amount of new professional colleagues all over Europe that I can collaborate with as I assist my clients in making decisions. The primary difference with Europe-based clients vs U.S. is that EU regulations can be interpreted differently from country to country, including the same regulation, so I try to help my clients adjust to new policies and help them recognize the changes in law as an opportunity to expand their business.
What are some recent developments in international trade law that excite you?
The Trump Administration’s foreign policies have created many challenges and opportunities for my clients. This will continue to be a work in progress and requires me to stay on my toes on the changing laws and policies and how best to advise. This is one of the areas that my great network of Section contacts is very useful when I need the advice and guidance of a legal expert in another jurisdiction.
You have been active in the Section’s mentoring program and outreach to law students in the United States and Europe about careers in international law. You also are teaching international law as a Visiting Professor at the Université Catholique de Lille in France. What advice will you be giving this year’s graduates?
I tell my students the best thing they can do is go out and make contacts, get involved in the Section, and volunteer on a committee. There are innumerable opportunities to raise your profile, publish, and make connections that you can reach out to over the course of your career. I also highly recommend finding a mentor that can help you evaluate different paths that you can take as you establish yourself as a lawyer.
You’ve challenged law students and early career lawyers to consider the foreign policy events shaping our world, from the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, to new regional trade agreements, to the conflicts in the Middle East, and more. What topics do you see emerging?
Sanctions and foreign investment regulations, such as CFIUS reviews in the U.S., are the very hot areas right now, as are emerging markets. The legal landscape changes daily as policies, regulations, and trade agreements across borders have to be monitored and the advantages and disadvantages have to be explained in detail on the potential legal impact they may have on businesses. It’s a really exciting time, and my role is to help my clients make the best decisions they can in an ever-changing global marketplace.
Do you have an example of how being a member of the Section of International Law influenced or helped your professional career?
Being active in the Section of International Law has been instrumental in helping me build up my network of professional contacts. I have met so many colleagues from speaking on Pathways to Employment in International Law programs, organizing young lawyer programming for past Spring Meetings, and serving as a Committee Vice-Chair.
What would you tell someone about becoming a member?
Membership in the Section is a terrific way to learn about new emerging areas of international law, speak on legal topics important to me, and a great way to network and make lifelong friends.