Lawyer Scott Hampton stays fashionable as Vice President and General Counsel for Forever 21. Take a quick look at what drew him to UCSB and what it’s like being a lawyer for a major global company.
What drew you to study at UC Santa Barbara?
Like many kids, when I was in high school, I had no clear idea of what I wanted to be or what I wanted to do with my life. I just knew I needed a good education. When I was deciding on a college, I went to visit Lisa, my older sister, who was a senior at UCSB at the time. During that trip I was able to wander around the campus, and explore Isla Vista, Goleta and downtown Santa Barbara. I fell in love with the area. My first impressions were the roar of the surf, and the bike paths connecting everything. I mean what’s not to love about a spacious, beautiful, 1,000-acre campus surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and Santa Ynez Mountains?
Describe a typical day at your job. What are challenges you face as a leader at a global company like Forever 21?
There is no such thing as a typical day at my job. Forever 21 is a very nimble, fast-paced company, and it often has me going in many different directions at the same time. I am fortunate to oversee and manage some very talented lawyers and legal teams with specialties including intellectual property, labor and employment, product compliance, marketing and privacy, customs and international trade, etc. As a global fashion retailer, we have over 50,000 employees, and over 800 stores in over 50 countries worldwide, so legal issues can pop up anywhere. For example, we recently had a shipment of goods detained by Customs in Belarus. After some quick research, I found exactly where Belarus was on the map, and confirmed we currently had no stores or operations there. As it turns out, we had goods traveling on a train through Belarus, destined for the Netherlands, when Customs boarded the train and decided to confiscate them with no notice. Long story short, we located and worked with qualified local counsel, developed a plan and got the goods released. These challenges are actually what I love most about my job. No two days are exactly alike. I work with great people, and variety is the spice of life – one day it’s a copyright case, and the next day it’s a product testing issue or an international customs dispute. It keeps my work life interesting and fun.
For students hoping to follow your career path someday, what skills and personality traits do they need to develop while still at UCSB?
It is common sense, but in life you cannot expect that challenging jobs and good things will just get handed to you. You have to be determined and work hard to get them. Find your passions, have an open mind and go with the flow. I believe that you can’t just focus on your academic skills, but you need to work on your people skills too. Be social, network like crazy, collect business cards and talk to everyone. It takes work. It takes effort. But it is worth it. For example, I found out about my initial position at Forever 21 through a lawyer friend of mine while we attended a seminar together — the job was not heavily advertised. Find mentors and watch them in action, listen to them and learn from them. One life lesson I learned at UCSB was that I got my best grades when I was also playing sports and while I also had an active social life. I recommend trying to stay busy (within reason) and try to engage your body, mind and spirit as much as you can. Volunteer. Find what gives your life purpose. It will help to keep things in perspective and keep you balanced. It will help you to focus on the real, important things, and to not sweat the small potatoes in life.
What drew you to your major? What were your ambitions when you first started college?
I originally declared as an Economics Major, primarily due to pressure from my parents. My ambitions were pretty narrow at the time – stay in school and figure things out by keeping an open mind exploring different classes that interested me. It did not take long for me to gravitate to Communications Studies as my major, with many Environmental Studies classes as a minor. With my Communications classes, I was able to study the media and advertising, persuasion, the great speakers and speeches, and hone my skills as a speaker in one-on-one, small group and public settings. Those skills have served me well throughout my academic and professional career.
What was student life like for you during your time at UCSB?
I look back on my college years and fondly reminisce about them as some of the best years of my life. Great friends, interesting classes and professors, newfound independence, fun experiences, road trips, and lots of exercise and exploration. I lived at Francisco Torres my freshman year (8 North!), then Anacapa dorm my sophomore year, and then an apartment on Sabado Tarde for the rest of my time there. My apartment roommates and I raised Halley, a little German Shepherd / Lab mix puppy, and I tell you, he was the best dog ever. I was one of the founding members of the Black Tide, the UCSB Ultimate Frisbee team, and I also played on the Santa Barbara Condors club team. The Black Tide teams were really competitive and improved quickly. We went from no-namers to 3rd in the nation (out of 152 college teams) during my tenure. We traveled all over the state and country to compete (and Halley joined us for most of the trips). We created a great legacy as the Black Tide has won 6 National Championships since then. I still keep in touch with several of my teammates who are life-long friends.
Tell us about your time working for the UCSB TV station - what did you enjoy best about your time behind the camera?
As a Communications major, I was drawn to television production. I worked for 2 years at KCSB-TV, the campus television station, as a cameraman, programmer and handyman. Highlights included: (1) working on an in-studio television program and meeting with guest Bishop Demond Tutu from South Africa, (2) videotaping all of the UCSB Men’s basketball home games (Brian Shaw, 3x NBA champion and current Lakers Associate Head Coach, was our star player back then), and (3) installing audio and video capability to UCSB classrooms in Ventura, Pt. Hueneme and other locations so students could participate in interactive classes remotely. Interestingly enough, I married a professional fine arts photographer, so while I don’t shoot for a living, I still live vicariously through her and assist her with composition and lighting behind the scenes.
Did you always want to go into law? How different was your experience at Loyola Marymount versus the environment at UCSB?
When I was a student at UCSB, I had an interest in the law, but really thought that I would go into television production as a career. However, one month after I signed my second annual contract, I learned that public funding was cut to the station, so my contract was unlikely to get renewed again. So I had 11 months to figure out Plan B for my life. Three additional factors lead me to law school: (1) I evaluated what I had learned as a UCSB Communications major, and I felt like I was developing strong written and verbal skills that would help me succeed in law school, (2) I admired the activism at UCSB and in Santa Barbara and the lawyers who worked as advocates at the time, and (3) I took after my mother, who was a glass-ceiling breaker attorney at the time. I took the LSAT, was accepted at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, and I’ve never looked back. Law school was a harder grind than UCSB, and was a bit of culture shock at first. It was more competitive, and the students were more aggressive. There was more reading and writing. Looking back, I really feel that UCSB planted the seeds of experience, and gave me the tools, fortitude and maturation to succeed in law school.
What drew you to take on your role at Forever 21?
My legal career has been long and varied, and it has been a culmination of all my experiences that have prepared me for my current role as Vice-President and General Counsel at Forever 21. I worked at two litigation law firms for the first 20 years of my legal career. My first firm was a high-volume business/insurance firm where I had many smaller cases. It was an ideal place to learn and practice lawyering skills, since I had great mentors and hundreds of client meetings, court appearances, depositions, etc. My second firm was a business litigation / intellectual property firm where I had fewer cases, but they were each worth significantly more. I transitioned to an in-house at Newegg.com, an Internet-only retailer (much like Amazon.com). There, I was in charge of the Litigation Department, and we had some significant legal victories, especially defending against patent trolls (companies that use older patents as weapons to extort money from other companies by making questionable claims of patent infringement). My current role at Forever 21 allows me to use all of these prior experiences and skills on a daily basis. Instead of advocating for clients in a courtroom like I used to, now I manage outside counsel, and I am advocating on legal and compliance strategies with our business teams and company management.
What inspires you?
The next generation inspires me. I have a 16 year old daughter, and I have had the opportunity to interact with her and her friends and others at her schools and summer programs. The vast majority of these young adults appear to me to be hard-working, smart and articulate, and have big hearts and big ideas. I am so impressed. They are more open and more accepting than my generation of others who may be different from them. With all the troubles we have in the world these days, I am confident that the next generation – including the next generation of Gauchos -- will be up for the task with new and creative solutions.
What makes you proud to be a Gaucho TODAY?
My daughter spent 6 weeks at UCSB this past summer in the Research Mentorship Program where she was able to perform MRIs, and gather and organize data for a presentation on brain function with her study group. I was able to visit the campus several times. I was so impressed and proud of the upgraded facilities, talented professors and varied course offerings. I am proud of the 10 Nobel laureates associated with UCSB, including the 6 currently on its faculty. I am proud that UCSB is consistently ranked in the Top 10 public universities in the United States, and that it continually grows in status and reputation. I am proud that UCSB is an affordable, world-class college that educates tens of thousands of young minds each year in the arts, business, the environment, politics, science and technology, and other important areas. I am very proud to be a Gaucho and to help sustain the university as it moves into the future. We need to support it now, more than ever.