Sandra Seville-Jones passed away on March 9, 2019. She was 58. She was the longest-tenured managing partner of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, having served in that position for the last 10 years – fully one-sixth of the firm’s history. From the beginning of her career to the end, Ms. Seville-Jones brought selfless devotion to clients and her colleagues. She loved the firm and her work family, and was woven into our fabric. She will be missed.
Ms. Seville-Jones joined the firm as a corporate lawyer in 1986. A nationally renowned debater when she joined, she quickly made clear she was not interested in scoring points, but in reaching consensus. She listened and she learned. In every case and on every problem, she made herself invaluable by diving in more intensely, learning the facts more deeply and connecting the dots better than anyone else. Her clients, family and friends knew she was always there for them, and even her adversaries found her practical and, ultimately, wise. She possessed an abiding love of competitive professional sports from tennis to basketball, an unshakable sense of humor and an appreciation for life’s ironies. No one cheered more passionately, listened more seriously, took matters more to heart or laughed harder than she did.
In 2009, when Ms. Seville-Jones became the firm’s second female managing partner, she was one of a small but growing percentage of female managing attorneys at Am Law 200 law firms. Throughout her tenure, she promoted women attorneys and attorneys of color in the firm and the larger community. During her tenure, more than 60 percent of the firm’s newly elected partners were women and/or attorneys of color. Under her leadership, the firm became one of the first to garner Mansfield Certification Plus, recognizing the significant representation of women and attorneys of color in leadership positions at the firm. She helped revamp the MTO Fellows Program, an initiative aimed at increasing the diversity of the legal profession by helping first generation minority college graduates find their way to and through law school. She spoke frequently at conferences focused on women in law. She showed the same devotion to the betterment of the careers of the firm’s non-lawyer employees as she did for her lawyer colleagues. She was always looking out for others.
Ms. Seville-Jones was a stalwart guardian of the firm’s culture, rooted in a commitment to extraordinary excellence in legal service and to the value of each individual’s contribution. She was deeply committed to hiring and promoting only the best attorneys, and ensuring that they felt supported in both their work and personal endeavors. Ms. Seville-Jones cared about the development and professional satisfaction of young attorneys and staff because she firmly believed their wellbeing was important in its own right and that it would help the firm deliver on its promise to lawyers and clients of superior service. She oversaw the firm’s 2010 founding of Hope Street Friends, an on-site child care center in downtown Los Angeles and the only on-site child care center for any law firm on the West Coast. During her 10 years in leadership, the firm was recognized five times as No. 1 and twice as No. 2 on Am Law’s A-List, a respected designation of excellence. In 2016, she oversaw the firm’s expansion to the East Coast with the opening of our office in Washington, D.C. The following year, she oversaw the move of our Los Angeles office.
Ms. Seville-Jones did none of these things alone and sought no personal credit for them. She took her pride in the accolades for the firm. She believed in the firm’s democratic culture and looked always to have the firm governed not by fiat, but by consensus. She had definite views, but when she was the other side of the consensus, she more than graciously accepted it and implemented it without rancor. She was always attending to the firm’s needs, large and small, and still had an open door to any attorney or staff member with a concern to discuss. She served quietly and selflessly.
Ms. Seville-Jones gave back passionately to her community. She co-founded the Los Angeles Metropolitan Debate Commission, which supports academic debate teams in Los Angeles public schools. For more than a decade, she was deeply involved with her local community through the Manhattan Beach City Commissions, including the Manhattan Beach Planning Commission, where she was serving as chair, the Leadership Manhattan Beach (LMB) – a community’s leadership training program – and the Hometown Fair Board and biennial City Council candidate forums. Ms. Seville-Jones was well-known for being prepared, thoughtful, and respectful to all those who appeared before the Commission. She said little about her personal efforts; credit or community standing were never the point. She was all about service. She did what she did because it struck her as needing to get done.
Ms. Seville-Jones earned her B.A. from Harvard University and her J.D. from the UCLA School of Law, which highlighted her career in a “Women in Leadership” feature in the school’s Fall 2017 magazine.
Ms. Seville-Jones is survived by her father Cliff, to whom she was devoted, and by her three siblings, Peter, Dawn and Dyan, and her nephew Derek, with whom she loved to spend time. And she is mourned by her colleagues and many dear friends who know they will find no one like her.
Click here to read an obituary of Ms. Seville-Jones published by the Daily Journal quoting several of her colleagues.