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In-House Counsel: Don Liu

Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., Don Liu initially envisioned a career as a civil rights lawyer. He thought that joining a law firm to do corporate law after completing his studies at Columbia University School of Law would be just a temporary stop allowing him to pay his educational debts.
“Along the way, though, I came to love corporate law,” he recalls. “And so I stayed.”
That was the 1980s and marked the beginning of Liu’s professional ascent, which would culminate in his appointment three years ago as chief legal and risk officer of Target Corp. For Liu, then executive vice president and general counsel at Xerox Corp., it was his first job in the retail industry.
Much of his work since then has focused on the integration of multiple functions — risk and compliance, labor relations and law — into a single, more efficient, unit.
In addition to the completion of that task, Liu also points to another accomplishment he’s proud of: pro bono work. More than half of the lawyers and paralegals on Liu’s team lend their time and talent to Target’s pro bono efforts. “We’re proud of our legacy of giving and service,” he says. “It’s an important way that we can give back to our guests and our communities.”
Liu emigrated to the U.S. and Philadelphia from South Korea with his family at age 10 and helped out his family by working in his father’s corner grocery store and jokes that he’s carrying that initial retail experience into broader application at Target.
“I am a business executive first who happens to be a lawyer,” he says. “The philosophy behind that is: Learn your business, understand your business, and conquer the business knowledge first, so that you can help your business people with your legal knowledge.”

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