Home » Events » 2021 Annual Awards Gala » 2021 Annual Gala Co-Chair Spotlight: Sharon Ryan, International Paper

2021 Annual Gala Co-Chair Spotlight: Sharon Ryan, International Paper

Sharon Ryan, Senior Vice President General Counsel and Corporate Secretary since November 2011, has 33 years of service with International Paper.

She joined International Paper in 1988 as an attorney in the Land and Timber/Forest Products Division, and in 1992, she was named Vice President and General Counsel of Masonite Corporation, an International Paper subsidiary. In 1997, Ryan was named General Counsel – Building Materials Group, adding Wood Products and Decorative Products to her Masonite responsibilities. She then became General Counsel of Consumer Packaging and Corporate Sales & Marketing in 2000, and in 2005, expanded her responsibilities to include IP’s Papers businesses and Wood Products business. She was promoted to Associate General Counsel – Corporate Law in 2006, in 2009 assumed the additional role of Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer. She was appointed Vice President in February 2011 and, in May 2011, was also named acting General Counsel and Corporate Secretary.

Ryan serves on the Board of Directors for Equal Justice Works, and the Executive Committee of the Association of General Counsel. In 2019, she joined the Leaders Council and the Disaster Taskforce for Legal Services Corporation. The Tennessee Supreme Court appointed Ryan to the Tennessee Access to Justice Commission where she proudly served from 2011-2020. She is a member of the Memphis Bar Association, Tennessee Bar Association, Association of Corporate Counsel, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis Board of Directors, National Association State Courts and has been appointed to the Tennessee Access to Justice Commission.

Prior to joining International Paper, Ryan was an attorney with Baker, Smith & Mills in Dallas, Texas. She received her undergraduate degree from George Washington University in 1981. In 1985, she received her JD degree from Boston College Law School where she was an editor for the Boston College Law Review.

International Paper Signature Pro Bono Initiative
International Paper’s legal department has long supported pro bono, becoming a signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiative in 2010. For many years, members of the legal team staffed pro bono clinics, including programs of the local bar association, the ABA Free Legal Answers virtual pro bono clinic, and the Community Legal Center (CLC) divorce clinic. International Paper also supported a host of nonprofits and legal services organizations in the community.

In 2019, at the direction of Ryan, the Pro Bono Committee began exploring new ideas to strengthen and highlight the commitment of the department to pro bono. In 2020, the IP legal team worked closely with PBI’s Corporate Pro Bono project to develop what would become IP’s signature legal initiative. IP invested deeply into developing this program, by thoughtfully surveying legal department members as to their pro bono interests, analyzing the survey data, cultivating relationships with law firms, legal services organizations, and community partners, creating a multi-phase structure to launch the program, and building a well-researched attorney toolkit.

Based on the passion of the team for supporting access to justice, IP developed a multi-phase signature pro bono initiative, that seeks to identify and address root causes of inequality and build sustained solutions.

Phase I includes:

  • Expungement of criminal records
  • Lobbying/Legislative Efforts
  • Driver ’s License Renewal
  • Voting Rights Reinstated

Phase II includes:

  • Economic Empowerment
  • Education
  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Housing and Homelessness

In May of this year, under Ryan’s leadership, International Paper, with its partners Butler Snow LLP, Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, Memphis Area Legal Services and Just City, launched the IP Signature Pro Bono Initiative. Under this Tennessee Pro Bono Services Alliance, the Initiative will help deliver equal justice to Tennessee residents through expungements, voter rights restorations, and driver’s license reinstatements. Volunteer lawyers and paraprofessionals across Tennessee will advocate on behalf of individuals in the criminal justice system while addressing the root causes that prevent equal justice for all Tennesseans.

PBI is grateful to Sharon and International Paper for their pro bono leadership!

Click here to read about PBI’s other Annual Gala Co-Chair, James Ford.