When she was a girl, Megha Parekh’s parents expected her to come home with all A’s on her report card. And she did. Her mother also wanted her to play the flute. And she did … pretty much the exact opposite. Instead, Parekh banged away at a drum set, sometimes while listening to the heavy metal band Metallica, in her New Jersey home. In many ways, she has been both meeting and defying expectations ever since.
“It’s nice to surprise people—but in a good way. In a way that I hope people understand nobody is one-dimensional,” she says.
Parekh ’09 fulfilled the hopes of her immigrant parents from India, who saw academics as a way for their children to better themselves. She finished Harvard College in three years, graduated from HLS, and became a VP and general counsel well before she turned 30. As much as she has been focused on career success, she says that playing guitar, which she took up after the drums, in front of a crowd at a bar rivaled the excitement of anything she’d done professionally (she worked hard at it, though, learning 41 songs before she performed).
She also has achieved professional success in the world of sports, though she says she is the least athletic person she knows. Now senior vice president and chief legal officer of the National Football League’s Jacksonville Jaguars, Parekh oversees all legal aspects of the team, ranging from multimillion-dollar agreements for naming rights and construction projects to workers’ compensation and HIPAA compliance for the players and even permitting for the NFL’s first in-stadium dog park. She handles big deals, like when team owner Shahid Khan acquired an English soccer team, and small, like contracts for proms and weddings held at the stadium. It makes for a variety of responsibilities she finds compelling.
“One thing I love about my job is that it continues to offer opportunities for learning,” says Parekh.
Her job with the Jaguars stemmed from her time as an associate at Proskauer in New York, where she worked on Khan’s acquisition of the Jaguars, as well as on separate ownership deals for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and the Houston Astros baseball team. She went to Proskauer out of law school attracted to the firm’s sports law practice. She first began to consider a career in the field at HLS, where she took a sports law class and got an internship in baseball operations with the Boston Red Sox. Her interest in sports had begun much earlier, when she followed her older brother around and watched sports with him, and then in high school managed the school baseball team. Parekh, a “completely nerdy introvert at heart,” says sports helped her make more friends in school and in general helps bring disparate people together like few other things do.
“If it doesn’t come naturally to you, sports really helps you connect with people,” she says.
She was wearing Jaguars gear on a recent trip back to HLS to moderate a panel at Celebration 65 on navigating career and life. It’s a topic that’s been on her mind lately, in the wake of a childhood friend’s death. She recalls that he said to her when they were kids: “You’re really good at everything besides having fun.” She’s been trying to do better with that. In addition to her music, she started volunteering with Habitat for Humanity building houses. And after living in the Northeast her whole life, she is appreciating spending time on the balmy beaches of Jacksonville.
“I’m realizing I’ll be better at my job if I do things that are not just my job,” she says.
As it turns out, she spent only part of a day at Celebration 65 because she needed to return to her job. But it was not your typical day at the office. She headed back to Jacksonville for a game between the Jaguars and the New England Patriots. During game days, as part of her job, she checks in on sponsors and stadium workers. But you can bet she has fun too.