On Campus: Pixar’s Chief Legal Counsel James Kennedy

Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and the rest of the characters from Disney Pixar’s “Toy Story” took the entertainment industry by storm. In 1995, the creative minds at Pixar Animation Studios successfully developed a feature-length computer animated film. I was five years old when I saw my first Pixar movie and I’ve watched nearly every single Pixar movie after that. These films tend to be universally loved.

Last Monday, the BC Law community welcomed alumnus James Kennedy, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel of Pixar Animation Studios. The Business & Law Society hosted the event in collaboration with Career Services at Boston College Law School.

Pixar VP

Senior Vice President James Kennedy addressing the students at Boston College Law School on Monday September 21, 2015.

Mr. Kennedy shared his experiences as a student at Boston College Law School and as a young associate at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in Century City, CA. As an associate at Gibson Dunn, Mr. Kennedy helped enable the LIVE 8 concerts by negotiating deals with network television, radio, and insurance companies. The things he negotiated, came to life on stage.

Prior to joining Pixar, he served as Executive Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs and Corporate Secretary at THQ Inc., a publicly-held entertainment software company in Agoura Hills, CA. He previously held executive legal and business affairs positions at companies such as Electronic Arts Inc., Mindscape Inc., Lucasfilm, Lucas Digital and LucasArts Entertainment Company. Working within these companies allowed him to have continuity – to understand what each business was trying to achieve, rather than being pulled in for a transaction or dispute.

He had wonderful advice for the students:

  1. Keep an open mind. Opportunities can emerge from industries that don’t even exist right now.
  2. Avoid preconceived notions about what the law is.
  3. Networking can boost your career.
  4. Understand what is important to you and your professional development.

His insights and exciting career path were inspiring and thought-provoking.

Mr. Kennedy joined Pixar in September 2009 as its Senior Vice President, Business Strategy and Chief Legal Counsel. In that position, he is responsible for overseeing Pixar’s Legal and Business Affairs matters, and coordinating with the Legal and Business Affairs groups at Walt Disney Studios. He also serves as a member of Pixar’s senior leadership team.

Student leaders from the Business & Law Society chat with the Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel of Pixar

Student leaders from the Business & Law Society chat with the Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel of Pixar

He holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, a law degree from Boston College School of Law, and an MBA in Strategic Leadership from Dominican University of California.

After the event was over, I caught him on his way out and asked the most pressing question: “What is your favorite Pixar movie?” His response: “the next one that is coming out.”

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