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Monday, May 19, 2014 12:19 a.m.

Apple general counsel calls on law graduates to push boundaries in the workplace

W. Bruce Sewell J.D., '86, addressed the law school's graduates Sunday. He is the general counsel and senior vice president of legal and government affairs at Apple Inc. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

Bruce Sewell, who graduated with a law degree from GW in 1986, addressed the law school’s graduates Sunday. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Tatiana Cirisano.

Bruce Sewell never wanted to become a lawyer.

Sewell, who spoke at GW’s Law School graduation ceremony Sunday, worked as a fireman in Maryland and tended an M Street bar called “Rumors” before he decided to attend the University. His father was a GW professor and Sewell was able to earn his degree without charge.

Today, he serves as Apple’s general counsel and senior vice president of legal and government affairs. Here are four of “Sewell’s Rules” he shared with graduates.

1. “Define your job broadly.”

Sewell said graduates should toss job descriptions aside and instead focus on one goal: make the company successful, regardless of the work involved. New employees too often limit themselves to the bare minimum, he said, which keeps them from reaching their full potential.

In other words, forget the phrase “that’s not my job.” Bosses will be thankful.

2. “Treat your peers as you would your boss, and treat your boss as you would your peers.”

Treating your boss as a friend doesn’t mean friending him or her on Facebook or inviting him or her bar-hopping.

Instead, Sewell urged graduates to act with the professional maturity of a boss’ peer because eventually that’s what they want to be.

“Be someone [your boss] can talk to, rather than someone she can give orders to,” he said.

3. “Understand the relationship between risk and consequence.”

Sewell gave credit for this tip to his former employer, Steve Jobs, who explained this relationship using a balance beam.

The risk of falling is the same no matter how far the beam is off the ground, but the consequences of the fall will vary.

“Steve’s point was that in business, one should evaluate the risks independently of the consequences,” Sewell said. “No matter how small the penalty, if you are unwilling to commit or believe that you will fail, you should say no. But don’t be intimidated or afraid to try just because the consequences of failure are great.”

4.“Assess [coworkers] as critically as your job itself.”

It’s not enough for Sewell to work in a place where he feels competent. He said he believes that if someones is the best in the business, he or she is working in the wrong place.

“Surround yourself with people who are better at things than you are… and you won’t regret it,” Sewell said.

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