2021 Awards Gala Co-Chairs

James Ford
Senior Vice President and Group General Counsel

James Ford is Senior Vice President and Group General Counsel for GlaxoSmithKline and a member of the Corporate Executive Team. He is responsible for supporting GSK’s strategy by leading its Legal and Compliance department in matters such as protecting the company’s intellectual property; managing litigation; supporting business development transactions; and supporting business compliance, investigations, corporate security and risk management.

Ford joined GSK in August 1995 and has held several roles in the company, including General Counsel Consumer Healthcare, General Counsel Global Pharmaceuticals, Vice President of Corporate Legal and Acting Head of Governance, Ethics and Compliance. He assumed his current role in August 2018.

Ford was President of ACC Singapore 2016-17, and is currently a Co-Chair of the Civil Justice Reform Group in the US and a director of the European General Counsel Association. 

He is a member of the US Association of General Counsel. During his career at GSK, he has been based in London, the US and Singapore. Prior to GSK, he was a solicitor at Clifford Chance and DLA, in London and Hong Kong.

Ford holds a law degree from the University of East Anglia and a Diploma in Competition Law from Kings College, London. He is qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales, and is an attorney at the New York State Bar.

About GSK Legal Pro Bono
GSK defines pro bono legal services as “providing volunteer legal services at no fee to a person of limited means or to public service and/or charitable groups/organizations.” These services may include direct representation of clients or representation of groups and organizations that help the less fortunate. Pro bono aligns with GSK’s broader goals of building trust and investing in the communities where they live, work, and operate. Legal professionals working for GSK believe they can use their unique skills to give back to their communities through pro bono legal service.

Background information on GSK’s Pro Bono Program
The GSK pro bono program was originally established in 2005 by a small group of lawyers. In 2015, GSK Legal began to record and report metrics for the US program. Over the last several years, under the leadership of General Counsel, James Ford, GSK Legal expanded the program globally and funded the purchase of global malpractice insurance. The key to the program’s global reach was the formation of the Global Pro Bono Committee, which meets quarterly with members from around the world. Colleagues in London and Singapore took the lead in initiating GSK’s first non-US pro bono projects. The program is now open to all members of the GSK Legal department (lawyers, paralegals, specialists, and support staff) and all qualified lawyers employed by GSK.

GSK Legal reports on annual metrics related to pro bono within the legal department. Between 2015 and 2020, GSK donated over 2987 hours of legal services and served more than 538 clients. In April 2021, GSK’s US Legal Department signed on to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiative, which includes a commitment of encouraging at least one-half of US-based attorneys and staff in the Legal Department to participate in pro bono.

GSK Legal’s pro bono projects in 2021 include:

  • “Anti-Child Marriage Legal Guide” created in partnership with Baker McKenzie and participants from GSK in Australia, Singapore, and Thailand
    • Volunteer attorneys provided legal research on anti-child marriage laws
  • US-based Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) birth certificate project
    • Aid homeless clients in obtaining key identification papers to qualify for housing, benefits, etc.
  • Innocence Project – includes volunteers from UK, Europe, and US
    • Legal research project to help vet clients for possible release from penal institutions due to actual innocence

PBI is grateful to James and GSK for their pro bono leadership!


Sharon Ryan
Senior Vice President General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
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!