Whether navigating a legal emergency at the office or a snafu in his personal life, Patrick Kennell takes a level-headed approach to problem-solving: “Don’t panic,” he says. “From my point of view, it’s all about slowing down and not letting the situation define how you react.”
Such pragmatism is a perfect fit for his current role as assistant general counsel and assistant corporate secretary at Mitsubishi Electric U.S., which manufactures and sells energy-efficient products and technologies across a wide range of industries. There, he handles an array of matters, from product liability, cybersecurity, and data privacy, to warranty law, insurance, contracts, and corporate law. He says the company is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2021, which is “an amazing testament to its durability, great people, and dynamism. Being at Mitsubishi Electric has been an amazing next step in my career. I’ve been blessed with a team of great attorneys and friends around me who have helped me grow from a litigator to a well-rounded in-house counsel.”
With his legal background in crisis management and strategic response — which he honed as a law clerk at a firm in Philadelphia and then in summer associate and associate roles at Sidley from 2006 to 2015 — Kennell helped guide Mitsubishi Electric through issues that have impacted its business during the pandemic, from securely handling the data generated by employee COVID-19 tests, to addressing semiconductor supply chain shortages. On how he has managed the challenges COVID-19 presented, Kennell says, “The key is, try to take things out of crisis mode. It’s only truly a catastrophe if you let it become one.”
This strategy served him well throughout his career at Sidley, where he worked as a commercial litigation associate in the firm’s New York office from 2007 to 2010. Most of his cases were a “race to the courthouse. We needed to get our filings done as quickly as possible and also ensure that we were one hundred percent correct. We had some of the most prestigious clients in the world.” It was an experience, he says, that prepared him for the rest of his career: “Pretty much everything has been an emergency,” he jokes.
Kennell recalls one memorable case at Sidley during the height of the real estate crash in 2008. His team obtained a down-to-the-wire temporary restraining order in New York Supreme Court minutes ahead of the opposition, the developer of a Texas mall, who had stolen millions of dollars from Sidley’s client. “I handled all of the day-to-day matters on that case with a group of amazing partners and senior associates, which was a great learning experience.”
When the West Coast beckoned, Kennell moved to Sidley’s Los Angeles office from 2010 to 2015. It was there that he expanded his practice into high-stakes white collar cases and handled one of his most personally meaningful matters. Working on a pro bono basis with a small team of passionate associates, Kennell represented a 19-year-old transgender person who was deported to Mexico after living in the U.S. since the age of two. “During the three weeks of his deportation, he was severely beaten. If he was ordered to return to Mexico, it would have been a death sentence for him,” Kennell says. The Sidley team litigated the case for two years and ultimately won, allowing the client to stay in the country.
Given his inclination for handling high-stakes matters, Kennell’s favorite hobby is a perfect fit: performing the eternally perilous stand-up comedy. When he’s not spending time with his family, Kennell braves the unpredictability of a live audience to test out his material and see which of his jokes pack a punch.
“I think the best advice I heard early on was to accept the fact that all comedians bomb, and be okay with that if you’re going to do this,” he says. “There have been times where I’ve gotten great laughs, but the bombing comes with the territory.” When it comes to crisis management and protecting your client, he admits: “You really don’t have that flexibility.”
Kennell noted that he remains indebted to all of the great partners and associates he worked with at Sidley, both in the New York and Los Angeles offices, who remain some of his closest friends, regular contributors to his financial well-being at poker games, and enduring mentors.
Published December 2021
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