Deepa Damre '00 in San Francisco. Photo by Alison Yin.
Read the full article in the Spring-Summer 2014 issue of Carolina Law.
When Deepa Damre started law school at Carolina in the late 1990s, she knew she wanted to go into corporate law (she had already earned a bachelor’s degree in business at UNC). But she didn’t really know what that meant.
“I’ve known I wanted to be a lawyer since ninth grade,” she says. “Big business, I just thought was kind of cool and exciting.”
Exactly how exciting she couldn’t have guessed, in ninth grade or in law school. Damre is now managing director, legal and compliance, for BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, with more than $4.3 trillion in assets under management. She spends most of her time supporting the company’s iShares exchange traded fund (ETF) business, which manages some $900 billion in assets globally. But her role touches several areas of business law, from securities regulations to intellectual property.
That means that her days can include 5 a.m. calls with colleagues overseas, discussions with federal securities regulators and meetings with BlackRock colleagues in the product, marketing or capital markets teams, among other things.
“I see myself very much as a business counselor,” she says.
Damre graduated Carolina at the peak of the dot-com boom, which helped her land a job at a San Francisco law firm whose clients included Internet start-ups, as well as larger more established businesses. She knew that she wanted to eventually become an in-house counsel, but went to the firm to get training and experience.
“[We] had a great group of associates and partners,” she says. But seeing firsthand how draining that big-firm lifestyle could be, she listened when she started hearing about corporate jobs. That led to a job with Barclays Global Investors (BGI) in 2004, after four years of working as an associate at the law firm.
“I chose BGI because I Ioved everybody I met,” she says. “The people were exciting, dynamic.”
And so was the company. In 2009, BGI was acquired by BlackRock.
Though companies like BlackRock are primarily regulated by the countries they operate in, changes in financial regulations around the world the last few years have made the business much more complex. Financial services firms now must comply with multiple regulatory schemes — and multiple regulators — across borders and across different products.
BlackRock wasn’t the first place Damre, a Wilmington, N.C., native, had been exposed to international business and law.
“I spent a semester of law school in the Netherlands, which was highly unusual,” she says. “I took international law courses and a lot of that was business focused and (European Union) focused.”
The study abroad experience was “an eye opener” for her perspective on the law, she says, and an opportunity to build friendships that persist to this day.
Another thing that persists is Damre’s involvement in other interests and activities, including community service. Though the corporate environment does not put as much emphasis on pro bono work as her time at a law firm, she still finds herself in the community applying her skills and experience to non-business matters.
“I’ve been involved in a variety of panels on career development, ranging from inner-city youth to adults seeking a career change,” she says. “I’m also helping a group of women in the financial services start a nonprofit aimed at ETFs.” That group aims to provide a forum for women working in the ETF industry or those women interested in entering the industry.
Also, last year, she led the team in BlackRock’s legal and compliance division that was part of a company-wide effort to raise more than $1 million for the 49ers Foundation, which funds a variety of community service organizations.
Though she works with many attorneys who have Ivy League diplomas, she never regrets choosing Carolina.
“Carolina provided me an outstanding education and experience, and I would hope that people, if they go to Carolina, know they have opportunities anywhere.”
-May 1, 2014