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Q&A with Ben Abell and Michelle Shepston

August 13, 2021

Ben Abell is the Co-Founder of Goodr, a sunglass company that, in just six years, has expanded to 1,500+ stores in 30+ countries. Michelle Shepston is the Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer of DMC Global.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

Ben: At this point, I'm mostly just our de facto general counsel though I do still have a bit of responsibility on the finance side of things. I would love to say that I plan out my days in advance and methodically check off items on my to-do list. In actuality, I'm usually running (digitally speaking) from one issue to another, trying to put out fires and keep our teams moving while also protecting the business. It's organized chaos at its finest.
Michelle: There really is no typical day. I wear a lot of hats, and we have a streamlined management structure, so each day is different and involves a wide range of topics and issues. There is a steady hum of discussions on business and operational issues, HR and employment matters, IP and technology development, IP litigation strategy, compliance programs and ESG matters, among other things.

How has the coronavirus pandemic/return to work impacted your business?

Ben: It's certainly been interesting. We only required people to come into work two days a week pre-pandemic, so we were pretty well set-up for the remote working situation. That said, we do run our own distribution center, so keeping all the folks there safe became our top priority. We've slowly been asking people to start coming back to work and are hoping to have a relatively normal work week by September or so.
Michelle: Since we are an essential business with global manufacturing, we have generally been at work the entire year. It has been an ongoing challenge to keep up with the ever-changing guidance and mandates in each jurisdiction and to ensure that employees feel safe and cared for. Sara Francavilla (also a DGS alumna) has been a key member of the team handling these issues. I feel health and operational risks have been managed well, and we have engaged with local management in decision-making and implementation of policies and practices to encourage buy-in and support. We are hopeful that coronavirus impacts will lessen in the near future, but we know we can manage risks as they appear.

What is your favorite memory of working at the firm?

Ben: From a professional standpoint, it was closing the first acquisition I worked on. It was so satisfying to have all that work pay off and to see how pleased our client was. I also really enjoyed the Christmas parties.
Michelle: I have years of good memories at the firm, but my strongest feelings about the firm are of pride and gratitude. I was always proud of the standard of excellence that was followed by everyone in the firm. Attorneys and staff have always been committed to doing outstanding work and providing efficient service to DGS clients. It is special to have been a part of that culture, and this commitment gives me great confidence as a current client of the firm. I am probably most proud of the relationships I had with fellow associates in the corporate group during my early days at the firm, many of which have continued to this day. There were many much-needed and entertaining lunches and coffee runs (thank you Kristin Lentz and Brian Boonstra) that were vital to keeping perspective about the challenges of deals, projects and work-life balance. We all consulted on difficult legal issues and offered help where needed. As we became more senior and looked with some angst toward partnership, many of us elected to work together on building business development skills and opportunities rather than worry about competitive concerns.

Who are some of the people at DGS that had the greatest impact on you?

Ben: I have so many people that I owe a debt of gratitude to for teaching and mentoring me in my years at DGS. I’d like to give a special shout out to the tech team of Trent Martinet, Matt Perkins, Zach Detra, and fellow DGS alum Ryan Arney. Pantea Garroussi and Peter Schwartz were also amazing and generous with their time and expertise.
Michelle: There are so many people who had meaningful impacts on my career and on me personally. Deborah Friedman has been a long-time mentor and has taught me so much about life and the practice of law. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude. I also learned so much from Patricia Peterson, Larry Nemirow, Chris Richardson, Kristin Lentz, John Elofson and Brian Boonstra, and fellow DGS alum Ron Levine, among many, many others.

What do you like to do for fun?

Ben: When it's possible, traveling (especially internationally) is at the top of my list. While at home, it's mostly just the basic Colorado stuff (hiking, snowboarding, etc.) with a healthy dose of reading and movie watching thrown in.
Michelle: We spend a lot of time in the mountains and enjoy hiking, skiing/snowboarding and just relaxing. We hope to spend a bit more time travelling in the future.

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