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Corporate Counsel Profile: Farah Esmail

Farah Esmail, seven-year veteran corporate counsel at a growing education-technology company in Baltimore, began her term as treasurer and president-elect of the Association of Corporate Counsel, Baltimore chapter in January. ACC is the largest regional bar association in the nation and in the world for in-house lawyers, serving over 25,000 members in more than 70 countries.

Esmail has been an ACC board member since 2008 and served as secretary in 2010. The organization provides networking events, legal education, and leadership and educational opportunities for in-house counsel.

“ACC is a really great organization,” said Esmail. “When you come in as in-house — I was the only attorney at my company for a long time — you don’t have someone you can go talk to and ask questions.” Esmail said corporate attorneys should be involved in ACC so they can “stay connected, meet other people and get the resources” they would have access to if they worked at large law firm.

Esmail has worked since 2004 at Connections Education LLC, a school management company that provides distance education products and services to schools across the country and in China. She was the first attorney to join the start-up company when it operated under Educate Inc. and was promoted to senior counsel in July 2009. The company’s legal department has since grown to a team of six.

Esmail will leave Connections at the end of its fiscal year in June to relocate to Toronto, where she plans to pursue corporate counsel work. But first, Esmail will take some time off. “This is a natural break for me, so I’m going to do some traveling,” she said. Esmail has considered a Spanish-language immersion experience in Costa Rica or Spain.

Adventure travel is nothing new for this avid runner and East African native. Born and raised in Kenya until she was 16, Esmail said she and her family always wanted to climb Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest free-standing mountain. In November, Esmail, her father and a number of extended family members took on the challenge.

“The most intense day is Day 5. We started climbing at 9:30 p.m. You’re climbing with lights on your head; you want to get to the top at sunrise so you can see everything,” said Esmail. “So we climbed all night long and … four of us made it to Uhuru Peak, the highest peak of the mountain, at 10:30 in the morning. It was pretty grueling, but it was really rewarding and great to have done it with my dad,” she said.

Farah Esmail

Education: B.S., environmental science, University of Toronto (Canada); J.D., Osgoode Hall Law School (Canada); M.B.A., Wilfred Laurier University (Canada)

Born: Nairobi, Kenya

Resides in: Baltimore

Daily commute: 5 minutes!

Most recent vacation: Last summer to Mykonos and Santorini Islands, Greece

Favorite book: “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert

Currently Reading: “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts

Favorite foods: Thai, fusion, sushi

Hobbies: Working out, running, salsa dancing, playing golf, traveling

Favorite quotation: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” — Albert Einstein

What I like best about my current position: The fast pace, variety of work, and ability to use my business hat

Most rewarding extracurricular activity: Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, the world’s highest free standing mountain, with my dad, and reaching Uhuru Peak in November 2010

Hero: Chris Mburu, protagonist of “A Small Act” documentary