Running to the Fire As global head of litigation for 3M, Courtney Enloe ‘97L is never bored. And that’s the way she likes it.
Courtney Enloe ’97L does not shy away from a challenge.
“I lean pretty competitive,” said Enloe, a litigator for more than two decades. “There are many things you can do as a lawyer, and I suspect that personality plays into where you land. There are people who run to the fire and people who run away from the fire. You need both, but I think litigators run to the fire.”
Throughout her career, Enloe has fought plenty of fires in her role, perhaps none more widely publicized as her recent work as global head of litigation for The 3M Company.
Shortly after Enloe was recruited to 3M in 2017, the company became embroiled in the largest multi-district litigation in U.S. history over Combat Arms earplugs.
When COVID hit in 2020, the pandemic led to the sudden, urgent demand for 3M’s N95 respirators, generally considered to be the gold standard for protection against coronavirus. Predictably, that demand produced an outbreak of counterfeiters and scammers, which led, in turn, to litigation.
Enloe said that in the early days of the pandemic 3M began hearing about fraudulent schemes in which, for instance, a hospital procurement director might be offered millions of 3M respirators at exorbitant rates. The trouble was, the masks didn’t yet exist in the quantities that scammers were offering.
“We reached out to all the governors and all the state procurement officers to tell them how to spot fraud,” said Enloe, noting that some counterfeits, like those labeled “3N,” were easier to detect than others. But counterfeiters became more sophisticated and brazen as the pandemic progressed.
“It was absolutely appalling,” said Enloe. “Early on when nobody knew exactly what COVID was, health care workers were using respirators and assuming that they had the protection they needed. Absolute scoundrels were taking advantage of the situation. These people should be in jail.”
As Enloe told the New York Times, “The typical scheme is somebody will reach out and say we need $X million up front for Y stash of respirators, and they just never had them. I have been solicited. The head of 3M’s litigation has been solicited.”
Although N95 litigation began tapering off by early 2022, Enloe’s plate remained full. Indeed, she picked up additional responsibilities as reflected in her current title: Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, and Chief Antitrust, Environmental Health and Safety, Labor and Employment, Litigation, and Mergers and Acquisitions Counsel.
Clearly, she’s not going to be bored, which is a good thing since it’s why she chose the law in the first place. As a high school student in Nashville, Tennessee, she began to consider a career in law because she thought the fast pace would suit her.
“More than anything,” she said, “I hate to be bored. I hate it.”
She majored in political science and English literature at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and was trying to choose between law school or working on Capitol Hill when she spent a summer working on the Hill. That experience caused her to give politics “a hard pass.” She chose W&L Law over multiple other schools.
“Like a lot of people, I just fell in love with the place. I loved the setting. I loved the people. I loved the low student-faculty ratio. I loved everything,” she said. “I thought the smaller size would mean I’d get more focus, which turned out to be true.”
When she started at W&L, Enloe thought she might want to be a corporate lawyer. Competing in the Davis Moot Court Competition as a 2L was a turning point. The Moot Court case that year was based on the ongoing U.S. suit to force VMI to admit women. One of four finalists, she was assigned to argue in favor of allowing women. A sizeable number of VMI students were in attendance for the final argument.
“It was a little intimidating,” Enloe admitted.
Enloe won the competition. The win came with a bonus: a classmate who knew Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy arranged for the Moot Court winners to hear the VMI case argued at the court.
“It was an amazing experience. We listened to the argument and had lunch with Justice Kennedy in his chambers,” said Enloe. “To the extent that I hadn’t already solidified my view that I wanted to be a litigator, that experience locked it in.”
Enloe, who served as chair of the Moot Court Board as a 3L, can’t choose a single class that stands out during her W&L career.
“My husband, Chris ’93L (currently in compliance for Pentair) and I were talking about this recently and agreed that more than any one class, the overall quality of faculty is what stood out,” she said. She had special praise for healthcare classes she took with Emerita Professor Ann Massie, whom she considered a mentor. She loved a bankruptcy class because it was “part litigation, part transactional,” and applied for clerkships with bankruptcy judges thinking that might be her ultimate direction.
Enloe clerked for Judge James E. Massey on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Atlanta before joining Holland & Knight in Atlanta, where she had the rare opportunity as a junior attorney to first-chair a pro bono product liability case. She credits the trial advocacy class she took at W&L with helping prepare her.
“To get up in front of random people you don’t know is one thing; doing that in front of your peers who are taking notes and critiquing you is really scary,” she said. “At the lunch we had with Justice Kennedy, he recommended to pour a glass of water before every presentation. He said if you can do that, you’ll be OK. I always pour a glass of water.”
After three years with Holland & Knight and three more with Alston & Bird, she was recruited for an in-house position, something she had never planned. In 2004, she joined EarthLink Internet as senior counsel and went to Georgia-Pacific LLC as senior litigation counsel in 2006. At Georgia-Pacific, she led the company’s successful appeal of an adverse decision by the Ninth Circuit to the Supreme Court. She has vivid memories of that experience, partly because the case was unfolding while she was pregnant with her second child.
“He was six weeks old when we went for oral arguments, and I had to go in an ill-fitting suit. But I wasn’t going to miss it,” she said, adding that winning the appeal in Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center was one of the best moments of her legal career.
From Georgia-Pacific, Enloe went to San Francisco to join McKesson Corporation, the largest healthcare company in the nation. She hadn’t considered another move when 3M called. Plus, she had no intention of living in Minnesota.
“It seemed cold. It is cold,” she said.
But the lure of such an iconic company like 3M was strong, and weather notwithstanding, she has not regretted the decision.
“3M has a little of everything. You’re never more than three feet away from any product we make, and I’ve come to love all the science that’s involved. I’m surrounded by science here,” she said. “I’m meeting with engineers and with scientists, and Nobel Prize winners are walking around the office. It’s incredible.”
In March, Enloe received recognition for her accomplishments as a leader in 3M when she was named a finalist in the Legal category for the WeQual Awards, which celebrate the achievements of women globally and tackle the need for diversity and equality in leadership positions in the world’s largest companies.
Enloe oversees a 50 to 60-person in-house team, and one of her goals is not to be “the office of no” and not always providing the most conservative answers while helping find the best path forward so the business can reach its goals.
“There’s risk with everything,” she said, “but if you don’t take some risk, you’ll never leave your house, and you won’t grow as a company.”
Enloe knows about risk. Litigation is a high-risk, high-reward job, she said. And she loves it.
“One thing I always ask my team is this — ‘What excites you?’” said Enloe. “In the end I think you find yourself. You should do what you love.”
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