50 Women to Watch

50 Women to Watch: Shawn White

Shawn White, General Counsel, Smith Family Circle

Shawn Ray White is an experienced corporate executive and a dedicated public servant with a proven record of success in both corporate and nonprofit settings. She utilizes her extensive financial, legal, and business acumen to build and design family office and foundation infrastructure for high-net-worth families, particularly those most interested in building their legacy supporting innovative founders and philanthropic causes.

She previously served as General Counsel to the Smith Family Circle (SFC), the family office that manages the assets, business enterprises, and foundations of Will Smith’s family based on the principle of improving lives. Before joining SFC, she served as a member of the executive team of The Barack Obama Foundation, responsible for leading the legal team and the provision of all legal services, including those related to the design and construction of the Obama Presidential Center and family office issues impacting the Foundation’s archives and collections. Before joining the Obama Foundation, and before the passing of Los Angeles billionaire investor and contemporary art titan Eli Broad, Shawn served as General Counsel and a member of the leadership team for the Eli & Edythe Broad family office, The Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation, the Broad Museum, The Broad Center, and The Broad Art Foundation.

Shawn started her career as a financial analyst on Wall Street and spent many years after law school working in mergers and acquisitions in the New York offices of an AM100 law firm and a Fortune 50 company and as Chief Counsel to a large private foundation.

Shawn holds a bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in Spanish and a concentration in Latin American studies from Barnard College, Columbia University, and a juris doctorate from Stanford Law School, Stanford University.

In addition to being named one of Corporate Counsel Business Journal’s 50 Women to Watch this past August, she was awarded the 2023 Sankofa Award by the National Bar Association and joined a long list of distinguished prior recipients, including Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley, Julius Chambers, Justin Greenberg, and Elaine Jones. In recent years, Shawn has received the Black Women’s Lawyers of Los Angeles’ Corporate Excellence Award, the National Association of Women Lawyer’s Public Service Award, the National Congress of Black Women’s Shirley Chisholm Award, and the National Bar Association Women Lawyers Division Outstanding In-House Counsel Award. In 2023, Ms. White was a finalist for the Association of Corporate Counsel of Southern California’s Diversity Award, the Los Angeles Times Inspirational Women Award, and the Los Angeles Business Journal’s Women’s Leadership Award.

She is a frequent speaker and coach on financial literacy, community economic justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion matters. She is a zealous advocate for the advancement of diverse founders and small business owners. Having obtained success in various financial and legal roles, she can often be found charting a course for their career advancement with her mentees, other women, and people of color.

She currently resides in her hometown of Los Angeles, California.

What is your proudest achievement?

I will be most proud when I die to have my creator acknowledge that I have used every skill, gift, and advantage I was given to its fullest, highest, and best purpose.

What is the most influential piece of advice (professional or personal) you have received?

My mother taught me that the meaning of the Maya Angelou quote that "if you are going to live, live a legacy, a mark on the world that cannot be erased" is that if use our talents and gifts in service to the greater good, we will achieve the deepest significance possible in the universe whether our names are in the history books. Because of my mother, I have always felt powerful beyond measure when I am making a difference in a single life. As a lifelong primary school teacher, my mother will never be forgotten as long as there is breadth in my body and a person whose life I or one of her former student's lives can touch. She made a deep impact on my life and those of her students. She is a titan!

Where do you see the legal profession in 10+ years?

The legal profession must be a true reflection of the demographic diversity of this country at the highest levels and all levels or we will have failed the oaths we take to zealously advocate for clients and defend the integrity of this nation's constitutional ideas.

What is/are your favorite extracurricular activity/activities?

Listening to and playing music, exercise, meditation and meaningful connections with friends and family.

What is one thing people should know about you but don't?

I collect local art in every location I visit, and I stay connected with the artist to send them pictures of their works in my home.

Name your hometown/where you were born/where you grew up and where you live now.

I am in love California and NY. I am a Los Angeles native, but I spent college and my early career in New York. I like to say I was raised in LA and New York in equal measure.

If you were not a legal professional, what other line of work would you pursue?

Art historian

Anything else you'd like to share?

If you are an avid traveler and/or diversity champion, check me out at Let's change the world together!

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