PALO ALTO – The way into a legal career in public interest service can start in the commercial sector, Sasha Abrams, general counsel and secretary to the board for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, said during a recent interview with the Northern California Record.
"I would encourage people who are seeking public interest careers to consider law firm and corporate positions as well," Abrams told the Record. "These positions can provide strong training and transferable knowledge and experience. My experience at large firms like Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, and before law school at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, provided valuable development opportunities and carried over to my work with nonprofits and the philanthropic sector."
Before joining the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation approximately 10 years ago, Abrams was a public finance attorney at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, according to a press release issued by the foundation. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Stanford University and her law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Before law school, she worked at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and the San Mateo County Own-Recognizance Program.
Abrams also is board chair for Silicon Valley Shakespeare.
"I always encourage people who are considering career options to set goals for themselves, ask lots of questions, find a variety of mentors, and don’t be afraid to aim high!" she said.
The foundation recently announced Abrams' formal appointment as general counsel and secretary to the board.
“Sasha is the ideal candidate for this role," Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation President Harvey V. Fineberg said in the press release. "Not only does she bring the legal acumen required, she has a deep understanding of the foundation’s governance, programs, and grantmaking systems and processes. We will benefit from her demonstrated ability to work across the organization, with our grantees and with our board of trustees.”
Established in September 2000 by Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore and his wife Betty I. Moore, the private foundation works to foster path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the San Francisco Bay Area. The foundation has provided generous grants in the areas of astronomy, biology and data science.
In less than two decades, the foundation has awarded more than $3 billion in grants.
In July 2007, the foundation provided $100 million to launch the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at the University of California, Davis.
During her time with the foundation, Abrams has been instrumental in building the legal function for the foundation, in addition to working closely with grantmakers and grantee organizations and managing matters of great complexity, according to the press release. Along with lawyers at several peer foundations, Abrams is co-creator of LearnFoundationLaw.org, and has been the foundation's acting general counsel and secretary since February.
"Having been with the foundation for more than a decade, I had a good sense of what the role would involve," Abrams said. "I’m particularly excited about being part of a relatively newly formed executive committee. It’s a great opportunity to be part of a team working together to shape the future of the foundation."
There also are rewards in working in an area where she feels so much passion, Abrams said.
"I have always been passionate about the mission of the Moore Foundation and love serving the organization as an in-house counselor," she said. "I greatly admire Gordon and Betty Moore and the path they set out for the foundation, which they outlined in their founders’ intent. In this new role, I will have more of an opportunity to work with the board and senior management to help deliver on the foundation’s mission and our founders’ intent."