Carol Morita ’89 Uses Corporate Lawyer Role to Promote Public Safety Mission
As a five-year-old, Carol Morita ‘89 was a fan of the television show Ironsides and Raymond Burr’s indelible lead character of the same name—a disabled lawyer committed to fighting crime and helping those who needed it. “I learned early that lawyers were people who helped other people,” she said.
But a TV character was not the only influence to push her toward law. Her parents were Japanese immigrants who, during their early years in the U.S., were victimized by people looking to exploit newcomers to the country.
“My parents were discriminated against,” Carol said. “They told me stories of unscrupulous vendors, for example, overcharging or shortchanging them, or selling them things they did not need but were bullied into believing they needed to remain in the country or to live in a certain building and so forth.”
There to help was Masuda, Funai, Eifert & Mitchell, Ltd., a Chicago-based firm that represents primarily U.S.-based subsidiaries of Japanese companies. In a bit of serendipity almost pulled right from the TV or movie screen, years later Masuda, Funai would be where Carol would begin her legal career, first as a clerk, then in her first job following graduation from what is now The Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law.
Carol said the career path she’s walked does not quite mirror the one she envisioned in her youth, but she harbors no regrets for where it has taken her. It has allowed her to help people, but in a way she had not thought.
Since 1998, Carol has worked for Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL), a Northbrook, Ill.-based independent, not-for-profit corporation and North America’s leading product safety testing and certification organization.
Carol displays the true color of UL's certification mark
“We’re a not-for-profit with a public safety mission,” she said. “The average U.S. household has more than 120 products bearing the well known ‘UL in a circle’ certification mark.”
Carol was promoted a year ago into one of two assistant general counsel positions in the organization. She oversees the corporate law department which supports UL and all of its subsidiaries worldwide. Among her contributions to UL, she has substantially reduced UL’s outside counsel legal expenses by shifting work from one large firm to smaller, local firms in UL’s more than 30 markets for faster response times; brought UL’s sizeable trademark practice in-house and greatly reduced trademark costs; provided legal training globally; and served as the lead attorney on UL’s largest acquisition in its 113-year history – the acquisition of a Japan-based company - as well as establishing in China UL’s first joint venture company.
Carol travels to China at least once a year; she is pictured here with two Chinese attorneys who are outside counsel to UL.
“I work real time with people around the world 24x7, so I do not sleep much,” she said. “We’re victims of our own success,” Carol added, referring to the attorneys in UL’s legal department, “but it is very rewarding to support a worthy mission.”
Carol credits her success in part to the education she received at OSU and in part to understanding international cultures and languages. She had lived in a suburb of Columbus for a time with her parents, James and Ichiko Morita, who both were professors at OSU. She also has traveled extensively internationally, including to Japan, where she studied for a couple of summers during college and lived briefly while she worked for Masuda, Funai.
She also said that strong writing skills are a key to legal success. “I chose to earn a Bachelor of Science in Journalism (B.S.J.) at Northwestern because it had the No. 1 journalism school, and I thought that knowing how to write well was an indispensable skill to be an attorney.”
Though she opted to get her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University, she jokes that, as part of the deal to get her parents to pay for the high tuition at Northwestern, she had to agree to go to grad school at OSU – a winning deal for her.
Today, she has returned to the suburbs of her birthplace, Chicago, where she resides with her husband, Eldon Kakuda, and her children, Miya and Quentin.
Friends wishing to get in touch with Carol can reach her at Carol.H.Morita@us.ul.com.