I am very excited about
this issue of eNews because it features a person who I admire a great deal … a
man who conducts himself at a very high level of consistent excellence. Brandon
Smith became the General Counsel of Fortune 500 tier-one auto supplier
Tenneco at the age of 37 two years ago.
When I met Brandon in
2011, he was already the No. 2 attorney in Tenneco’s law department, and my
main client contact for some Adjunct
Counsel work we did for his company at the time. He was a sponge. Brandon
and I did the occasional lunch and he would soak up whatever insights I could
offer on recruiting and the local law department scene. I just re-read a memo I
sent to him in 2012 with a list of my best general counsel contacts so that he
could pick their brains. It’s the only memo of that kind I’ve written in 20 years.
He will be a CEO down the road if that is what he chooses, or he’ll be a rock
star high performing GC for as long as he finds it fulfilling.
Wish me luck. I spent much of last weekend in RFP hell, but it paid off. I have been invited to pitch Evers Legal in-person for a general counsel search engagement with a financial institution on the East Coast. If we win, you will read the client name when we publicize the opening and start working on it.
Objectively, we might be considered a risky selection. Although we have placed more than 300 attorneys into in-house roles since 1997, the vast majority of those searches have been at other levels of the law department pyramid (from junior corporate counsel up to deputy general counsel).
Dan Clark, a reporter from American Lawyer Media, works the in-house counsel beat for Corporate Counsel and he reaches out to me and other specialists in this space from time to time.
Dan recently posed an interesting question, essentially: “Do
certain industries present particularly difficult recruiting
challenges?” The conventional wisdom likely holds that recruiting for growing
information technology companies is easy, as compared perhaps to smoke stack
industries or socially unpopular sectors such as tobacco.
In my experience, however, in-house lawyers are fairly agnostic on industry and tend to focus on the nature of the opportunity. See Cate Flahardy’s general counsel profile of Verona Dorch for an excellent example. I rarely find industry to be a stumbling block when working on a search. In fact, here in the Midwest where I am based, a solid engine manufacturer such as Cummins, or a healthy medical products company like Baxter, have made for much more successful placements when compared to some sexy names like Groupon. I am defining success by the job satisfaction and longevity of lawyers we have placed.
Congratulations to Brandon Baseman, newly placed with SP+ (the leading provider of parking facilities and related services in the United States).
Brandon was most recently the National Negotiator for the National Treasury Employees Union in Washington, DC. This move to SP+ is a return home to the Chicago area for Brandon, who is licensed to practice law in Illinois and received his JD in 2012 from DePaul.
At SP+, Brandon’s role will expand to include a complete range of union and non-union related employment law responsibilities.
Evers Legal thanks SP+ for retaining our firm to handle this placement.
Congratulations to Julia Pilliod, appointed to the position of Assistant General Counsel with Ubiquiti Networks (UBNT). Ubiquiti Networks is a publicly traded fast growing international company, offering a broad range of internet access and networking products including video security, routers, innovative wi-fi solutions and more.
Julia will focus primarily on managing litigation. She brings best practices experience to bear on that task, after serving as head of litigation for The Warranty Group from 2005 through to that company’s acquisition by Assurant last year. Her experience also includes a heavy dose of compliance and risk management.
Evers Legal is grateful to Ubiquiti Networks for retaining our firm to handle the search for this newly created position.
Speculating on who will succeed Colin Stretch as the next general counsel at Facebook is our idea of fun water cooler talk. Corporate Counsel quoted several law department focused legal recruiters for a public version of just that.
I am so enamored with this topic that I chose to elaborate on my opinion here: The Dream GC job.
We title my eNews column “Culture Fit” with intention. To me, what makes in-house recruiting so much more enjoyable versus law firm recruiting is that each company has truly unique qualities: different products, services, and cultures. And while I love all of it, I find myself particularly interested in companies that are run by their founders. I even pay attention to that dynamic when making personal stock choices. With obvious exceptions (yes, I lost money on Groupon to be sure), my investments in founder operated companies have far outperformed other investments. But I digress.
The takeaway here is that Culture Fit is not the same as Culture Change. Sometimes the latter is needed. But 100% of the time, CEOs want a general counsel (i.e. Consigliere!) who will align with his or her vision for the company. And when the CEO is also the company’s founder, then you can add bold typeface over 100%.
Evers Legal is not handling the Facebook search. It’s my ultimate “I wish,” as one downside of staying small and independent is that we lack the kind of contacts and high profile placement history that would allow us to get in the door and compete for it. So, I will watch this one from the sidelines. But it does motivate me to up our game so to speak. I am going after more GC-level work in 2019. Let’s see how David does versus Goliath. Stay tuned.
Thank you for making 2018 the best year in the history of our firm. We were pleased to serve a variety of outstanding companies from multiple industries this year, including:
Global chemical distribution leader – Univar
For-profit education pioneer – Adtalem
America’s favorite helpful place – Ace Hardware
Food distribution giant – US Foods
The #1 parking company in the United States – SP+
Faster than fast growing Internet platform innovator – Ubiquiti Networks
Our engagements featured traditional direct hire placements with base salaries ranging from $185,000 to more than $300,000. Our most common engagement term was a $10,000 retainer, applied toward a contingency success-only fee equal to 25% of base salary. We find the modest retainer creates a meaningful partnership and commitment, while maintaining a healthy outcome-based model for achieving win-win results. More →
We feature John Albright in this issue’s General Counsel profile. I was in the audience on Sept. 12 when John participated in an “Institute for the Future of Law” panel discussion on law department talent.
The discussion focused on the skills lawyers need to develop for success in-house. Themes included adaptability, personal re-invention, use of technology, project management and working as part of cross functional teams. The program made several references to the distinction between a 20th Century “I” shaped lawyer and a 21st Century “T” shaped lawyer. Essentially, “I” shaped lawyers have deep expertise in one area, whereas “T” shaped lawyers embrace process change and take a broader multi-disciplinary approach to their roles. ABA’s article, “The 21st-Century T-Shaped Lawyer,” does a good job of discussing this topic, one that is very popular among legal consultants.
John embraces innovation, but he also understands the value of expertise when it matters most. With a grin, John said he still goes to the “thousand dollar an hour lawyer” when it comes to broker/dealer advice (mission critical to his business). More →
I’m writing this Culture Fit column on July 3, on a plane to Vegas, on my way to play for the first time in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. I may update with a post-script, but how I finish the tournament is not particularly relevant to the Culture Fit topic it inspires me to write about right now. It is this: Control.
Many of us who went to law school, including yours truly, are control freaks … whether we admit to it or not, we want control of our careers, our future, our lives. There is a lot about the business life I have created for myself that satisfies this craving. I can control my environment for the most part, make choices about how to best use my time, and no one can fire me.
And yet, I continually put myself into positions where the quest for control is consciously made in the face of the uncontrollable. At the poker table, a skilled player is always trying to control the action, control betting patterns, and ultimately control the behaviors of his or her opponents. Indeed, one can have a certain kind of control at a poker table. I can choose to fold, call or raise on any given hand. I have choice and control of my behavior. But, of course, I cannot control the outcome. Even the best players will lose frequently due to multiple factors outside of their control. The best one can do in poker is work toward obtaining a strategic or statistical edge. More →
A note of thanks. For years, I wrote the career advice column for Inside Counsel. American Lawyer Media purchased Inside Counsel a few years back and slowly merged it into Corporate Counsel (an ALM holding), which is now the dominant trade publication for in-house attorneys.
Corporate Counsel kindly invited me to continue in a similar role for them, and you will see links to the most current career advice column at our home page.
Please also look for an upcoming article by Dan Clark in the September issue of Corporate Counsel. Dan is a terrific writer who is taking on the challenge of reporting on the ongoing evolution of the General Counsel role… from back office cop to mission critical business partner in the C-Suite.