Kovach ’85: Vice President of Toledo’s Libbey Inc.
Susan Kovach ’85 did not go to law school expecting to practice law. “I decided to go to law school because I wanted to learn the analytical process it teaches,” she said.
Kovach said that those skills continue to show their value each day in her current job. She is vice president, general counsel, and secretary for Libbey Inc. in Toledo. Libbey is the country’s leading and the world’s second largest manufacturer of glass tableware. The Toledo-based company has been continuously doing business for the past 120 years. It has operations in five countries: U.S., Mexico, Portugal, The Netherlands, and China. It distributes to over 100 companies in foodservice, retail, industrial, and business-to-business channels.
Kovach did not begin working for the multinational company following law school, but rather at the Detroit law firm of Dykema, where she practiced commercial real estate law. In 1997 she began work as general counsel for Omega Healthcare Investors, Inc., later returning to Dykema in 2001. She joined Libbey in late 2003.
Although she had plans of earning a master’s or doctorate degree in public policy after law school, she decided against it in the end. “It was time for me to start living my life,” she said. “I was the perpetual student.”
Kovach started her higher education at Wittenberg University, majoring in political science. When it came down to selecting a law school, she had it narrowed down to a few schools. “At the end of the day going in significant debt for a big name law school did not make sense for me because I didn’t intend to actually practice law,” she said.
She said she chose Moritz because of its good reputation and because it was the best of the Ohio law schools.
Kovach says she is grateful for the education she received at Moritz. “I am really glad I landed at Moritz,” she said. “Unlike some other schools that are cut throat, it was never like that. Students wanted to help out and professors were great.”
She recalls her days at Moritz with fondness and remembers specific professors. “Morgan Shipman was my hero and my favorite professor,” she said. “He left a great impact.”
Kovach said that she came across a posting for her current position quite unexpectedly. “Libbey recruited in a very unusual way,” she said. “They put a classified in The Wall Street Journal.”
She commuted to Toledo from Ann Arbor, Mich., before moving back to Ohio. “John Cooper was the football coach for much of the time that I lived in Ann Arbor,” she said. “It was a lonely time for a Buckeye in Ann Arbor.”
As someone who has both worked at a large law firm and as general counsel of public companies, Kovach says she prefers working as general counsel of a public company. “It’s a dramatic difference. When you work for a private law firm the ability to impact your clients’ business is very limited. You can give advice, but you don’t know everything that is going on. You don’t know what they did with your advice,” she said. “As general counsel, I know everything that is going on. I also function in a business role, so I have a real ability to impact to the business.”
Her job at Libbey is to handle all the legal needs for the international company with the help of one other lawyer and two paralegals. Kovach regularly handles issues related to corporate governance; mergers and acquisitions; securities law; general corporate law; real estate law; environmental law; and international law. “There is a reason why the word “general” is in the title,” she said.
“What I do is very satisfying,” she said. “I love my job; I really love my job.”