Profiles in Practice: Eddie Ocampo

THL Profiles7
He may be freshly-minted as General Counsel of Litigation of Koch Companies, but Eddie Ocampo has levels of strategy and leadership experience a typical lawyer could only dream of. 

Ocampo grew up in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. His mother knew from when he was only six or seven that he was going to be a lawyer, “Because I just wouldn’t shut up on behalf of other people,” said Ocampo. He is a creative problem solver and enjoys helping parties look at problems from different viewpoints to achieve a workable solution. 

Before graduating from high school, Ocampo enlisted in the United States Marine Corps without knowing how his military service would be of value in the practice of law. He later completed several anti-terrorism schools and courses months before the September 11 terrorist attacks. His training and acumen launched him on a growth trajectory, resulting in a Department of Defense Level 2 Anti-Terrorism Instructor certification. 

He found himself engaged with leadership and strategy for some of the highest-level operations in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. This included: Operation Swift Freedom—a southern front in Afghanistan resulting in the seizure of Camp Rhino, which was the first strategic foothold in Afghanistan; and Operation Enduring Freedom—the establishment of an Enemy Combatant Compound at the Kandahar International Airport, where he and his Marines interrogated over 300 
Al-Qaeda and Taliban enemy combatants. 

Ocampo attributes much of his formative personal growth and leadership skills to his time in the military. Not only did he benefit from extensive formal leadership training but he also saw many leadership styles in action in the military. Ocampo had the opportunity to learn how leaders effectively motivate people by responding to different personality types and understanding what resonates best with the individuals.
He explained that he has an “Ask – Tell – Make” policy. First, he “asks,” giving a person latitude to work independently. Most people will work effectively when given latitude and opportunities. If that does not work, he implements the “tell” step, where he intervenes with more specific guidance and direction. Finally, if and when all else fails, he goes to “make,” because in his experience there are inevitably a small percentage of people who still require more direct instruction. “It is important to note that just because someone is a ‘make’ individual, it doesn’t mean they are any less capable or less efficient; it may just be their style of communication,” said Ocampo. 

Leadership through respect, rather than fear is his style. Ocampo is a model leader because of his ability to see a team objectively rather than taking failures personally. As a leader, he firmly believes it is his job to protect his direct reports and advocate for their best interests. He strives to build personal connections with his team to better understand them and build a level of trust and respect. His understanding of what motivates people and his willingness to be flexible in response to different communication styles has made Ocampo a highly successful leader. 

Similar to the experience of most veterans, the transition out of the military was rocky for Ocampo. He struggled with PTSD and reentrance into the civilian world. Ocampo recalls that facing this reality was not easy, and it was not until Ken Snyder (a Vietnam Combat Marine) recognized he was struggling and worked not only to call him out but also one day essentially to dupe him into seeking help. “[Ken] said he was going to take me to lunch, [but instead] he brought me to the VA cafeteria.” Ocampo continues, “In the military we have this metaphorical uniform, which is what really prohibits a lot of us from actually seeking the mental health help that we want and need. So the fact that he took me down, that was a huge hinge pin in my trajectory and in the direction that I was going.”

Ocampo started bartending because he liked the late nights and was motivated by the energy of the job. Not satisfied as a bartender, he eventually regionally managed a chain of restaurants and further transitioned into consulting in the hospitality, hotel, and music industry. He later went on to manage liquor sales and security teams for large high-profile multi-million-dollar national music festivals.

In 2015, Ocampo began law school at the University of St. Thomas. He graduated in 2018 and started working at Fredrikson & Byron. What he valued the most there was the opportunity to build real, substantive connections with amazing colleagues and clients.

Ocampo recalls that some of the best mentors he has had are the people who surprised him with their willingness to invest in him and in his career, for example, helping him prepare his legal resume and refine his interview style.

Following his work in the law firm environment, former law school classmate Jessica Siakel recruited Ocampo to collaborate with her as in-house counsel at Koch Companies. Siakel was supportive of Ocampo’s daily balance of substantive learning and his continued efforts to address his post-military adjustment. “From day one she was someone I could easily talk to about anything, really,” he said. Koch Companies’ overall culture—an inclusive family-owned business—was appealing to Ocampo. Drawn in by personal connections, he was thrilled at the opportunity to work with a team of real professionals. For Ocampo, the signing bonus was Koch Companies’ enthusiasm in tangibly supporting his commitment to community service and pro bono work on behalf of veterans and children, as well as his service on the board of the Institute for Lawful, Safe, and Effective Policing.

His current duties include managing litigation across the United States. Ocampo recognizes the immense work that goes into learning not only the company but also a new substantive area of law. He is inspired to embrace this challenge because of the trust his colleagues have in him, his background and his values, and feels a strong sense of mutual commitment. Ocampo’s story is one of resilience, and he hopes to inspire others to take opportunities as they come, to build strong relationships, and to invest in themselves and follow their own path.

Ocampo’s diversity of experience in life has given him a thoughtful philosophy on life, which he summed up in a quote from the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, “So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view; and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.”

by Lariss Maldonado

Lariss Maldonado is an attorney practicing in business litigation and investigations at Stinson. She has been recognized as a Top Hispanic Lawyer Under 40 by the Hispanic National Bar Association. She is engaged in a number of community organizations, currently serving as Secretary of the Board of the ACLU of MN and Co-Chair of the Judicial Endorsements Committee of the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association.  

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