Monday Morning Message 4.20.2020 Who's the Busiest and Most Important Lawyer in the World? Hint: She Came to CSU Last Week

Posted 2020-04-20 9:50am

“Make sure that the statements you are making are things that you can live by and stand behind… true to your principles… those times where there's just so much information coming at you from all angles….. go back to your core values and your core principles…” – Aparna Bawa, Chief Legal Officer of Zoom 

During this public health crisis, one company, in particular, has become an overnight global phenomenon and has become the virtual lifeline for most of us.

That company, Zoom, is being used today by our faculty to teach, by physicians to diagnose, by mental health professionals to counsel, by lawyers to advise, and most importantly, by everyday citizens to communicate, console, comfort, and collaborate, bringing us together virtually in the midst of our physical isolation.

Zoom is working with 90,000 schools across 20 countries to help children continue their education remotely. To put this growth in context, in December last year, the number of daily meeting participants conducted on Zoom was approximately 10 million. Now there are 250 million daily meeting participants. Zoom is now the largest and most important video-conferencing platform in the world.  

Several weeks ago, I was watching a CNN interview of Eric Yuan, the Founder and CEO of Zoom. I was taken aback by something he said. He uttered the words that too few leaders ever say, particularly on global television.

He said. “I’m sorry.”

He went on to paraphrase his recent Zoom blog, “we did not design the product with the foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying, and socializing from home….We recognize that we have fallen short of the community's — and our own — privacy and security expectations. For that, I am deeply sorry, and I want to share what we are doing about it." He then outlined the many steps Zoom is taking to enhance the privacy and security of Zoom users.

Immediately, he earned my trust and respect. He was honest, vulnerable, and transparent.

Every year, I teach a course, The Habits of Highly Effective Lawyer-Leaders, as part of our CSU C|M|LAW P. Kelly Tompkins Leadership and Law Program. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, we pivoted and focused exclusively on crisis leadership.

In our crisis leadership class, we discuss how important it is for leaders in a crisis not only to take charge, but also to take responsibility. That’s what Eric Yuan did at the most critical moment in his company’s history.

It was at that moment that I decided to reach out to Zoom to ask an executive to speak to my class. But as the Dean of a law school, I didn’t reach out to Eric Yuan. Rather, I reached out to the person upon whom Eric Yuan most depends to provide the best possible legal and business advice on how to effectively develop and communicate their policies on the privacy and security of users’ personal data - his Chief Legal Officer. 

So I contacted Aparna Bawa, the Chief Legal Officer of Zoom, who may very well be the busiest and most important lawyer in the world right now. To my pleasant surprise, she answered my email within 24 hours, and after a conversation, she very graciously agreed to speak to our students.

Obviously, this was too important of a guest to speak only to my class, so I asked CSU President Harlan Sands if we could open up the call to the entire CSU community. Given the rapidly expanding use of Zoom and our remote teaching and learning experience at CSU, he immediately agreed.

Last Friday, I had the great pleasure and privilege to interview Aparna Bawa on, of course, Zoom. President Sands welcomed her to Cleveland State University, and then she and I had a 40 minute conversation. Over 200 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests throughout the country joined us on the call.

Aparna, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has a special expertise in building infrastructure for rapidly growing technology companies as they scale, and no company has scaled more quickly in the past 8 weeks than Zoom. During our conversation, she was warm, open, and engaging and gave some great behind the scenes insights into Zoom’s explosive growth. She emphasized that transparency and trust are core parts of Zoom’s culture.

During this unprecedented crisis, more than ever, we are looking for leaders who are transparent, inspire trust, and take responsibility. Aparna Bawa, the Chief Legal Officer of Zoom, like her CEO, is such a leader.

Below is a link to the recording of our conversation. It’s well worth watching. (The recording of our conversation starts slowly, so you may need to move the cursor to the right to about the 1 minute mark. For the first 4 minutes, there’s some informal chit chat as we waited to start the call.) The interview begins at 00:04:37. It’s about 40 minutes. Please find the recording here:

CSU Cleveland-Marshall Dean Lee Fisher Interview with Aparna Bawa, Chief Legal Officer of Zoom

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Monday Morning Moment: Tips for Using Zoom

We’re in this together.  # ItTCMLAW  #CSUTogetheratHome

A complete listing of all CSU campus services, their status, and hours of remote operations can be found here.

If you missed CSU President Harlan Sands’ 5th virtual Town Hall on Wednesday, April 15, you can see it here.

Please email questions, comments, concerns to: Dean Lee Fisher (,

Associate Dean Carolyn Broering-Jacobs (, Associate Dean Jonathan Witmer-Rich (, or Sarah Beznoska, Assistant Dean of Student and Career Services (

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My best,


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